Thursday, October 23, 2014

Creative minds preserving penny

TORONTO—The phasing-out of the penny lurched ahead today with the Royal Canadian Mint officially ending its distribution of one-cent coins to Canada’s financial institutions.
The move comes nearly a year after Finance minister Jim Flaherty announced the demise of the penny, whose production cost came to exceed its monetary value.

But as it faces extinction in the pockets and tills of most Canadians, the humble penny still is in demand in some artistic circles, where it retains significant value.
Renee Gruszecki, a Halifax-based academic and archivist, has spent the past year making a living through a jewellery business devoted primarily to preserving the country’s stray cents.
About 30,000 strategically sorted pennies fill Gruszecki’s home and eventually find their way into the accessories produced at Coin Coin Designs and Co.
Gruszecki, a long-time collector of lucky pennies, believes her pieces will help preserve a symbol that is both an object of superstition and a Canadian icon.
“The maple leaf is synonymous with everything Canadian. We all identify with it,” she said in a telephone interview.
“Now it’s just no longer going to be present among us, so I’m saddened by that.”
The Bank of Canada’s Currency Museum already has taken steps to preserve the penny’s place in Canadian culture.
A mural consisting of nearly 16,000 one-cent pieces has been assembled at the museum to commemorate the coin’s history, said assistant curator Raewyn Passmore.
The mosaic, which depicts a giant penny measuring about two square metres, is comprised of coins ranging from the lustrous to the tarnished.
Passmore said the design was meant to honour a coin which, while lacking buying power now, enjoyed many years of prominence since its first minting in 1858.
“It was probably the most common coin in circulation at one point and probably the most useful for ordinary people,” she noted.
“We wanted to make a tribute to a sometimes overlooked coin.”
Retailers will be among the first to phase out the coin—and Canadians will see the effects almost immediately.
The federal government has issued guidelines urging store owners to start rounding prices up, or down, to the nearest nickel for cash transactions.
Electronic purchases still will be billed to the nearest cent.
And while some may lament the one cent coin’s end of days, it’s been a bit of a boon for penny-wise entrepreneurs like Gruszecki.
Sales of her jewellery spiked as the coin’s demise drew nearer, she said, adding Canadians’ disregard for the coin as a form of legal tender has not diminished their sense of its value.
“I hope my jewellery will serve as a means for them to save a penny and keep the penny in circulation,” she remarked.
“If you’re wearing it on a ring or you’re wearing it around your neck, you keep its visual presence certainly alive,” Gruszecki added.
“If there can be an additional layer of meaning to it, all the better.”

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