THIS week marked the beginning of the end for the Canadian penny. But few shop owners were feeling sentimental along Lonsdale Avenue for a coin most said has outlived its usefulness.
"It's probably overdue," said Jess Potter, manager of Bean Around the World on Lonsdale, about the decision by the federal government to stop circulating pennies.
"They usually end up in the tip jar anyway."
As part of the plan to phase out the penny, the Royal Canadian Mint stopped producing the one-cent coins last May. This week, the mint stopped handing the pennies out to banks, a move that will eventually see the penny slip out of circulation.
The government decided to discontinue the penny because it costs more to make the coins than they are worth - each penny costs 1.6 cents to produce. The government
has estimated it costs about $11 million a year just to supply pennies, which most people don't find very useful.
Alex Morabi, of Looney World on Lonsdale, said he's been in Canada 27 years and still can't remember a time you could actually buy something for a penny. When he first arrived in North Vancouver, "You could buy something for 15 cents, but not a penny," he said.
Morabi said if phasing out the penny saves the government money it can spend on other programs, it makes sense.
Morabi said between 60 and 70 per cent of the transactions at his dollar store are paid with cash. While the penny is still circulating, Morabi said he's still giving out and accepting the coins rather than rounding up or down - but in practical terms, he doesn't worry if customers are short a couple of cents.
Pennies can still be used indefinitely in transactions. But as the supply of pennies dwindles, the government is encouraging businesses to round cash transactions up or down to the nearest five or 10-cent increment. Electronic payments and payments made with cheques won't be affected.
Potter said she's planning to wait until April when the province switches from the HST back to the PST to make the change.
Juan Carlos Paez of La Zuppa restaurant said he doesn't think the rounding will make much difference to his business.
Most people will probably be glad to see the penny go, he said, if only because the heft of the coins in people's wallets generally outweighs their usefulness.
A number of local groups collecting for charity are still happy to take the pennies off people's hands.
Reg Marrinier of North Shore Credit Union said pennies don't even have to be rolled to hand in there. "They can just bring them in in bulk," he said. "We'll take care of the counting."