It's too hard to spend a penny these days. Let's follow Canada and scrap them

All the penny serves for is an unwanted reminder of our financial mess

Share
Fact File
  • 1984 Year the 1/2p was abolished
Related Topics

Pennies. Look after them, it was once clucked, and the pounds will look after themselves. Of the proverbs whose truthfulness has waned most drastically in post-1950s Britain (“manners often make fortunes”, anyone?) this is a Class A example. Look after 1p and 2p pieces today and you announce yourself as a kind of lunatic. A copper-fiddler. The time and space these coins take up is, to any stable person, worth more than the thing itself. And so the moment has come to set our purses free.

Or at least - to follow in the footsteps of the Commonwealth. Canada ditched the penny piece last month. Australia did the same in 1992. Neither country’s industry shows any sign of collapse. When a shop hits the apparently impossible total of $13.61, Canucks and Aussies simply round it to the nearest 5 cents. Citizens, it can be presumed, are as a result marginally happier, spared the daily finger-rustle through a pocket of change only to come out – like a useless archaeologist - with a copper.

Outside of penny pusher arcades in forgotten seaside towns these coins are simply defunct. You can’t afford a piss with one. The gelatinous crud they used to swap for – cola bottles etc – now consorts with more upmarket coinage. Vending machines act like nothing below the 20 pence exists.

It’s pretty well accepted that, in the next half century or so, plastic payment will usurp cash altogether. Why wait when it comes to the penny?  The ½ p was scrapped in 1984, to account for inflation. President Obama suggested last month that the US penny is, as one wag put it, no longer “change he can believe in”.

My own grievance is less practical and more symbolic. As prices have raced away from pennies at the bottom end of the market, so too the purchasing power of larger sums has diminished at the top. Figures released on the weekend show home ownership in steep decline. Ninety per cent of 16 to 24-year-olds now rent, an increase of 13 per cent over the last decade. It seems that saving up to buy something useful with your pennies is now almost as elongated and potentially-futile a process as putting away wages for a house.

So here’s another proverb for the discard pile: “An Englishman’s home is his castle”. Not anymore it isn't. Now an Englishman’s home is most likely a turret in somebody else’s castle. That issue will take political effort to solve; the penny problem won’t. If I was a politician looking for an easy win – the abolition of a time-wasting reminder of our current financial mess - I know which one I’d choose to tackle.

React Now

  • Get to the point
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Senior Digital Marketing Consultant

£28000 - £45000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A Senior Digital Marketing Cons...

Recruitment Genius: Assistant Stores Keeper

£16640 - £18500 per annum: Recruitment Genius: An Assistant Stores Keeper is r...

Recruitment Genius: Claims Administrator

£16000 - £18500 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is an excellent opportunit...

Recruitment Genius: Software Developer - C# / ASP.NET / SQL

£17000 - £30000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Developer required to join a bu...

Day In a Page

 

General Election 2015: The SNP and an SMC (Salmond-Murdoch Conspiracy)

Matthew Norman
'It was first time I had ever tasted chocolate. I kept a piece, and when Amsterdam was liberated, I gave it to the first Allied soldier I saw'

Bread from heaven

Dutch survivors thank RAF for World War II drop that saved millions
Britain will be 'run for the wealthy and powerful' if Tories retain power - Labour

How 'the Axe' helped Labour

UK will be 'run for the wealthy and powerful' if Tories retain power
Rare and exclusive video shows the horrific price paid by activists for challenging the rule of jihadist extremists in Syria

The price to be paid for challenging the rule of extremists

A revolution now 'consuming its own children'
Welcome to the world of Megagames

Welcome to the world of Megagames

300 players take part in Watch the Skies! board game in London
'Nymphomaniac' actress reveals what it was really like to star in one of the most explicit films ever

Charlotte Gainsbourg on 'Nymphomaniac'

Starring in one of the most explicit films ever
Robert Fisk in Abu Dhabi: The Emirates' out-of-sight migrant workers helping to build the dream projects of its rulers

Robert Fisk in Abu Dhabi

The Emirates' out-of-sight migrant workers helping to build the dream projects of its rulers
Vince Cable interview: Charging fees for employment tribunals was 'a very bad move'

Vince Cable exclusive interview

Charging fees for employment tribunals was 'a very bad move'
Iwan Rheon interview: Game of Thrones star returns to his Welsh roots to record debut album

Iwan Rheon is returning to his Welsh roots

Rheon is best known for his role as the Bastard of Bolton. It's gruelling playing a sadistic torturer, he tells Craig McLean, but it hasn't stopped him recording an album of Welsh psychedelia
Russell Brand's interview with Ed Miliband has got everyone talking about The Trews

Everyone is talking about The Trews

Russell Brand's 'true news' videos attract millions of viewers. But today's 'Milibrand' interview introduced his resolutely amateurish style to a whole new crowd
Morne Hardenberg interview: Cameraman for BBC's upcoming show Shark on filming the ocean's most dangerous predator

It's time for my close-up

Meet the man who films great whites for a living
Increasing numbers of homeless people in America keep their mobile phones on the streets

Homeless people keep mobile phones

A homeless person with a smartphone is a common sight in the US. And that's creating a network where the 'hobo' community can share information - and fight stigma - like never before
'Queer saint' Peter Watson left his mark on British culture by bankrolling artworld giants

'Queer saint' who bankrolled artworld giants

British culture owes a huge debt to Peter Watson, says Michael Prodger
Pushkin Prizes: Unusual exchange programme aims to bring countries together through culture

Pushkin Prizes brings countries together

Ten Scottish schoolchildren and their Russian peers attended a creative writing workshop in the Highlands this week
14 best kids' hoodies

14 best kids' hoodies

Don't get caught out by that wind on the beach. Zip them up in a lightweight top to see them through summer to autumn
Robert Fisk in Abu Dhabi: The acceptable face of the Emirates

The acceptable face of the Emirates

Has Abu Dhabi found a way to blend petrodollars with principles, asks Robert Fisk