TORONTO – Canada started phasing out its penny, the nuisance coins that clutter dressers and cost more than their one-cent value to produce.
The Royal Canadian Mint on Monday officially ended its distribution of pennies to financial institutions. Canadian Finance Minister Jim Flaherty announced last year they were a nuisance and have outlived their purpose.
While people may still use pennies, the government has issued guidelines urging store owners to start rounding prices to the nearest nickel for cash transactions. Electronic purchases will still be billed to the nearest cent.
The government has said the cost of the penny exceeds its monetary value. Production is $11 million a year. The coins, which feature two maple leaves and Queen Elizabeth II in profile, will remain legal tender until they eventually disappear from circulation.
New Zealand, Australia, the Netherlands, Norway, Finland, Sweden and others have also dropped the penny.
The U.S. Treasury Department has said the Obama administration has looked at possibly using cheaper materials to make the penny, which is now made of zinc.
Two bills calling for the end of the U.S. penny, introduced in 2002 and 2006 by Republican Rep. Jim Kolbe, failed to advance in the House of Representatives.
The U.S. zinc lobby has been a major opponent to suggestions that the penny be eliminated.