JOHN REGITKO’S NUMISMATIC EH-BULLETIN
A free electronic publication about the weird, unusual, entertaining and funny stuff about coin collecting and money generally. Most of the articles will be funny, some might make you think…but above all, most will be a complete waste of your time.

Volume 1, Number 2 – April 15, 2008

SPOTLIGHT ON THE LOWLY CENT - PART ONE
I have so much material on hand on the Canadian cent, as well as the American penny, that I thought I would sneak in this special issue on purely that subject.


MY OPENING SHOT
Much has been written about the phasing out of the lowest denomination of currency we have in North America. What would happen when the lowly cent/penny is discontinued? For one thing, we would have to revise some phrases and titles. For example:

- A nickel for your thoughts
- Nickel wise, euro foolish
- Nickels from Heaven
- A nickel saved is a nickel earned
- If you save nickels, the dollars will save themselves
- My two nickels worth
- Let’s play nickel-ante
- Spend a nickel
- You are like a bad nickel
- Nickel pincher
- Haven’t got a nickel to my name
- In for a nickel, in for a euro
- Pretty nickel
- Lucky nickel

Until hyper-inflation kicks in, “a buck stops here,” “a quick (or fast) buck,” “a fool and his money are soon parted,” “can you spare a dime,” “sound as a dollar,” “you look like a million dollars” and “million dollar baby” are safe, to coin a phrase. How about buck naked (Toonie naked?). I wonder if I will have more money than I know what to do with?

Until they discontinue money entirely, “cash cow,” “making money hand over fist,” “time is money,” “another day another dollar,” “bet your bottom dollar,” “blood money,” “broke the bank” “raking in the money,“ “not worth a plug nickel,” “dime a dozen” and “laugh all the way to the bank” are also safe. But then we might have to “buy something for a song.” Or use a “non-cash cow.” You won’t be able to “cash in your chips.” You won’t have “two nickels to rub together.” I wonder what a “king’s ransom” will consist of? Maybe you will be able to “lose your shirt” after all. Money won’t “burn a hole in your pocket,” or “buy you happiness.” I wonder what will grow on trees? There will be no money grubbing people around that are money hungry. We will have to find something else to be the root of all evil. And what will make the world go round? What will you put where your mouth is? What will you roll in if not the dough? What will you “sell out” with? What will you show if not the money? Maybe small potatoes? What will you stretch if not a dollar? What will you sweeten the pot with? You will have to be a tight wad with something else. I would buy into that.

You won’t be able to turn on a dime. What will time be if not money? That’s the $64,000 question! I just hope there will be no hell to pay. But it doesn’t matter, because money can’t buy you happiness, I am told. And you can bank on that. You might have to take wooden nickels whether people tell you to take them or not. And I’ll bet you even money on that (who is this guy named Even Stevens anyway?). Maybe the silver lining on every dark cloud will be worth something. Or fool’s gold. I wonder what I won’t have if I go to the poor house with only my heart of gold. And highway robbery has pretty well stopped. I’ll bet dollars to a donut on that.

The phrase “drop a dime” has been outdated for a long time. “Drop a quarter” doesn’t work any more either, with “drop six bits” the norm these days, thanks to Ma Bell.

Maybe we will revert back to the gold standard and actually use gold. You know, the stuff that is in them thar hills. That idea might be worth its weight in gold. Then we will have actual gold diggers. By the same token, there is no such thing as a free lunch. I just hope it won’t be too rich for my blood. I don’t want to up the ante too much. It might be the best thing since sliced bread. You can bet your bottom dollar on that. You might actually bring home the bacon. Or buy something for a song. You might want to buy the farm. Dirt cheap might take on a more meaningful meaning. I wonder what it would be that you need to be considered being filthy rich? Maybe the dirt on the farm you bought. Just don’t be a day late and a dollar short.

But one thing we can be sure of: the times they are a changing – especially the change in your pocket if they discontinue the cent.

I know this is just the tip of the iceberg as far as expressions go. So if you can add to the above list, drop me a dime…sorry, drop me a line… at coinman@look.ca.

And I bet that the above sayings wind up in a bunch of club bulletins. Feel free, but please credit its source. If you could also send me a copy of the bulletin, it would be appreciated, but not mandatory.


SPOTLIGHT ON ELIMINATING THE CENT
The Toronto Star published the following article on April 3:

A Winnipeg MP says the penny is an “expensive nuisance” and should be scrapped this year.

“The penny is of no commercial value, it does not circulate and costs more to produce than it’s actually worth,” said New Democrat MP Pat Martin (Winnipeg Centre), who introduced a private member’s bill yesterday calling for the penny’s demise by 2009. “There is no business case for continuing to produce the penny. Making cents, in fact, makes no sense at all,” he told a press conference. He said his bill includes a formula to round off prices to the nearest nickel, which he insists will be revenue neutral.

Getting rid of the penny - there are an estimated 20 billion of them, or about 60,000 tonnes, in circulation in Canada - has been talked about before, but Martin said recent studies suggest the penny has outlived its usefulness.

Although the Royal Canadian Mint says it costs 0.8 cents to make a penny, Martin said that just covers the metal. Add in labour and the cost of hauling the coins around and it comes to more like 4.5 cents each.

A study done in 2007 by the Desjardins Group, a Quebec finance company, estimated keeping the penny was costing $130 million a year in production, storage, transportation and other expenses. Of the estimated 1.2 billion pennies minted each year, Martin says most end up in drawers, jars and tins.

The penny, at one time almost pure copper, is now 94 percent steel, 1.5 percent nickel and 4.5 percent copper-plated zinc.

Other countries have already moved to eliminate the one-cent piece, including Australia and New Zealand. “They managed to cope quite well and, in fact, they have introduced a rounding formula and my bill will also recommend to take care of what we do with the odd number pricing,” he said.

Martin said this year marks the 100th anniversary of the domestic production of the Canadian penny and “we believe at the same time we have a birthday party for the penny we should have a funeral.” Before 1908, all Canadian coins were minted in Britain.

Premier Dalton McGuinty added his voice to Martin’s private member’s bill. He said Canadians want change by getting less change in their pockets. “I just think…a penny ain’t what it used to be,” he said yesterday. “I think that we’ve got so many retail sectors now there are opportunities, the ‘take-a-penny, leave-a-penny’ type of thing,” noting the coins are so worthless people give them away. “Go talk to cashiers and ask people how eager they are to receive and to deal with pennies. I just think a nickel is more practical.”

Federal Finance Minister Jim Flaherty said getting rid of the penny is not on his agenda. “It’s not a priority for us now. We do review that. We look at the penny and see whether something ought to be done. But not right now,” he said.


SPOTLIGHT ON SURVEYS
The Toronto Star asked readers recently to respond to the questionnaire: A Winnipeg MP says we should scrap the penny. Is this a good idea?” Fifty-six percent of the responders said yes, while 40 percent said no. This leads me to wonder why the other four percent bothered responding if they didn’t have an opinion one way or the other. Also, why is an MP from Winnipeg proposing this? I thought one of his responsibilities was to try to keep employment up in his area, not to cause huge production declines that would, without doubt, see layoffs.

It is ironic that the illustration accompanying a recent survey by the Toronto Star that asks if scrapping the “penny” is a good idea actually shows a penny, dated 1902. Surely this could not have been coincidence, showing an actual large “penny” that was discontinued in nearly a century ago, and not a “cent” that Canada has used since 1920.


SPOTLIGHT ON ALL THINGS SMALL
The “Rhymes With Orange” cartoon, under the heading of “The Penny Debate,” states the following:

“People say the Penny should go, that it takes too much time and money to make something no one uses.”

Ignoring the inaccuracy of the statement that no one used the more than a billion cents that are manufactured each year, I like the last frame that shows a woman looking at an egg-timer and saying: “Nothing takes a second anymore – should we get rid of the second?


SPOTLIGHT ON STATISTICS
The Toronto Star published the following bits of information recently under the heading “Making Cents:”

- A four-litre pickle jar can hold 4,992 pennies ($49.92).
- More than 60 percent of coins processed at counting machines are pennies.
- Canada issued 30.5 billion pennies between 1908 and 2005.
- Keeping pennies in circulation costs Canadians $130 million a year, according to the Desjardins Group.
- The United States says it costs 1.4 cents to produce an American penny.
- The Royal Canadian Mint told the Star in February that the cost remains less than one cent in Canada.
- Australia and New Zealand are penniless.


SPOTLIGHT ON COUNTING YOUR CHANGE
The following commentary by correspondent Andy Rooney on “60 Minutes” on CBS originally aired way back on Nov. 28, 2004:

Like just about everyone else, I save my change. At night, I empty my pockets. In the morning, I take a few quarters, but I dump the rest of the change in coffee cans. I just came from the bank, and I feel great. These cans are all empty now.

There is nothing more annoying than going to the checkout counter in a store and getting four pennies change from a dollar for something that costs 96 cents.

The U.S. Mint ought to stop making pennies. Last year, they made almost 7 billion of them. For what? You can’t buy anything with a penny, and they’re a pain in the pocket.

This week, I took cans filled with change to the Commerce Bank in New York. Commerce was the only bank I found that has a machine that converts change into real money free. Some companies charge almost nine cents for every dollar of change you convert to paper. Seems like a rip-off.

The change-counting machine was cuter than necessary: "You win. Press button to make your selection." It did the job in a hurry, though. And it took me about 10 minutes to feed in the seven cans of change. There were a few glitches: one metal washer in a batch. When I finished, the machine spit back a handful of coins, too. It turns out it doesn’t like French francs, English pence or Euros. The machine then gives you a receipt. I had six silver dollars, just one 50-cent piece, 171 quarters, 1,745 dimes, 1,010 nickels, and 3,594 pennies. It came to $310.19.

I took that receipt to the cashier and she gave me the cash with four pennies change. Anyway, it was the best money I’ve made all year -- and no deductions. Now, if the Mint would just stop making those useless damn pennies. I’d only need about two of these cans for change.

SPOTLIGHT ON BREATHALYZERS
On a recent “Manswers” program on Spike TV, the producers wondered if you can beat a breathalyzer by doing various things like chew gum or rinse with mouthwash. One of the things that one dude thought might work was to suck on pennies. So they made him drink 5 beers in 30 minutes, then suck on pennies for 5 minutes. His reading: After drinking 5 beers it was .091; after sucking on pennies, .090. See, it works! The only problem is that you would have to have a lot of time…and a lot of pennies…to get it down to below .07 or whatever it is in your province/state.

Solution: save that spare change. If you get caught drinking and driving, you will need every penny you have for the fine or bail. You might also need a pretty penny to pay for your hospital stay from sucking on the pennies, which contain zinc and other metals that can’t be too good for your digestive system.


SPOTLIGHT ON LUNCH MONEY
Close to 6,000 pennies were recently used to pay for lunch by students. But someone at the school doesn’t like them, based on the following report:

Twenty-nine grade 7 and 8 students at a school in New Jersey paid for their $2 lunches in pennies recently as a protest after their lunch period was cut.

For their trouble, they received a 2-day suspension for holding up their peers and disrespecting lunch aides. But several parents complained the punishment was too harsh, while others thought it wasn’t enough. The bottom line was that the detentions were rescinded… unless parents ask that their children serve them.

I did not find out how many parents thought it was so terrible that their kid deserved a 2-day detention. I suspect that would have been welcomed by some of the students so that they would have more time to spend with their friends or play video games at home.

Or start sorting their remaining pennies for the start of a coin collection.

SPOTLIGHT ON URBAN LEGENDS
I happened to search the urban legend website the other day and came across one entitled “Copper Pennies and Bee Stings.” Although the site states that there is no scientific basis for it, the site quotes a letter from David Emery that is good enough for me to vote in favour of keeping the penny:

“Just wanted to share a bit of information for school. A couple of weeks ago I was unfortunate enough to get stung by both a bee and hornet while working in the garden. My arm swelled up so off to the doctor I went. The clinic gave me cream and an antihistamine. The next day, the swelling was getting progressively worse so off to my regular doctor I went. Infected arm - needed an antibiotic. What was interesting is what Dr. Mike told me. The next time you get stung put a penny on the bite for 15 minutes. I thought, wow next time (if there ever is one) I will try it. Well that night Suzy's niece got stung by two bees. When she came over to swim I looked at the bite and it had already started to swell. So off I went to get my money. Taped a penny to her arm for 15 minutes. The next morning, there was no sign of a bite. Wow were we surprised. Her niece we decided just wasn't allergic to the sting. Well guess what happened again on Saturday night. I was helping Suzy dead head her flowers and guess what, you are right, I got bit again two times by a hornet on my left hand. Was I ticked! I thought here I go again having to go to the doctor for yet another antibiotic. Well I promptly went into the house, again got my money out and taped two pennies to my bites and then sat and sulked for 15 minutes. The penny took the sting out of the bite immediately. I still wasn't sure what was going to happen. In the meantime the hornets were attacking Suzy and she got bit on the thumb. Again the penny. The next morning I would only see the spot where he had got me. No redness, no swelling. Went over to the see Suzy and hers was the same. Couldn't even tell where she got bit. Then Suzy got stung again on Monday night on her back cutting the grass. This penny thing is going to make us money at school. Again it worked. Just wanted to share the marvelous information in case any of you are experiencing the same problem at home. We need to have a stock of pennies on hand at school. Dr. Mike said somehow the copper in the penny counteracts the bite. I would never have believed it. But it definitely does work. (end of article.)

To the MP who proposed the elimination of the cent, to the government, to the Mint, I say: please don’t discontinue the cent. Think of our children. Don’t do it for us - do it for the kids that might get stung by bees!

SPOTLIGHT ON STAR READER’S COMMENTS
Some comments were published in the Toronto Star recently, and I like to comment on each one, including correcting some mis-information.

Don Mercer, Southampton, Ont. wrote: “Please stop using pennies and round them out to the nearest 5 cents. Or better still, get rid of the nickels, too, and round out to the nearest dime! Australia and New Zealand already do this.” (I could respond by saying that we stopped using pennies many, many years and switched to cents, but that’s just semantics. I could also ask why the use of pennies should be discontinued because two countries have eliminated them. What about the 300 countries around the world that are still using them?)

Penni Chalk, Oshawa, Ont. Wrote: “I do not agree with scrapping the penny! It will just be another way for the government to increase our taxes.” (Would someone please explain to me how this would increase taxes?)

Mike Naklowych, Courtice, Ont. wrote: “Scrap the penny, save the money, and move on. Politicians need to realize it’s pointless to debate this. Stop arguing simply for the sake of arguing and do something that makes sense for once.” (How is it going to save money since it costs us less than one cent to make a penny, there is obviously a demand for them at 1 billion a year and even more last year, and I don’t see how it is going to save Canadians billions as the Desjardins report seems to indicate. It is pointless to debate this since Mr. Naklowych has made up his mind.)

Roy Murray, Toronto, Ont. wrote: “The penny should go the way of its Australian and New Zealand counterparts. Retailers will simply adjust their prices to the nearest nickel. Productivity will increase as banks and retailers have fewer coin categories while the mint will save money; the cost of minting pennies is higher than their face value.” (Just how will productivity increase, since it takes a few seconds to count the pennies during a transaction? Surely, no employer can lay off people because it makes a difference in time. Also, Mr. Murray will have to stop listening to the American news that states it costs the U.S. Mint more than a penny to make a penny, not the Canadian Mint.)

Elizabeth McNamara, Toronto, Ont. wrote: “No. How about we scrap Pat Martin and Dalton McGuintry instead?” (I didn’t realize this was a political issue and the discontinuance of the penny depended on which party you favour.)

Larry MacKinnon, Ajax, Ont. wrote: “If the penny is obsolete why are people not simply refusing to use it? Companies could easily price products so pennies simply aren’t needed and people could refuse to accept them or throw them in a “penny dish.” I don’t think the penny is obsolete. It just isn’t worth anything.” (Until people stop believing that a price of, say, $1,999.88 is considerably lower than $2000, we will have that. Business has the ability to set the price that, after adding taxes, will come out to an even amount, but I don’t know of any that does it.)

“It might be a good idea if provcial (sic) and federal sales taxes weren’t added to almost everything. This gives us odd amounts. We’d all end up paying more as the amount to be paid would probably be rounded up and not down.” (If he is proposing to eliminate taxes, good luck. If he is suggesting that stores should show pricing that includes all taxes, businesses would be against it because it would appear to increase the price they are charging. As for a merchant rounding up all the time, refuse to buy the item unless it is rounded to the nearest nickel.)

Okay, now that I have had my say, it’s your turn. What do you think? Send comments to coinman@look.ca.

SPOTLIGHT ON DREAMS
A non-numismatic friend of mine called me a couple of weeks ago saying that he wanted me to be the first to hear about his good fortune. He heard that 301 pennies were auctioned off for $10.7 million by Heritage Auctions and that he has counted out the pennies in his piggy bank. Wouldn’t you know it, he told me, he had more than that. He wanted Heritage Auctions’ address so he could mail his pennies to them. I gave him the address of the local hospital for mentally challenged instead.


SPOTLIGHT ON COMPANY NAME CHANGE
With the possible imminent demise of the U.S. penny, a name change has been proposed to rename one of America’s best known companies to J.C. Nickel.


MY CLOSING COMMENT
One week from now, I will publish Part Two dealing exclusively with the Cent. At that time, I would like your take on the elimination or continuance of the penny, both from a numismatic point of view as well as for commerce.

Until the next time…

John Regitko
Your Eh-Mail Bulletin Editor

For submissions of material for publication or to be removed from this Eh-Bulletin: coinman@look.ca. These Eh-Bulletins may be copied, in whole or in part, in club bulletins, either in print or on their Internet websites, if proper credit is given, including my e-mail address.