Penny
Overview
 
A penny is a coin
Coin
A coin is a piece of hard material that is standardized in weight, is produced in large quantities in order to facilitate trade, and primarily can be used as a legal tender token for commerce in the designated country, region, or territory....

 (pl. pennies) or a type of currency
Currency
In economics, currency refers to a generally accepted medium of exchange. These are usually the coins and banknotes of a particular government, which comprise the physical aspects of a nation's money supply...

 (pl. pence) used in several English
English language
English is a West Germanic language that arose in the Anglo-Saxon kingdoms of England and spread into what was to become south-east Scotland under the influence of the Anglian medieval kingdom of Northumbria...

-speaking countries. It is often the smallest denomination within a currency system.
Old English
English language
English is a West Germanic language that arose in the Anglo-Saxon kingdoms of England and spread into what was to become south-east Scotland under the influence of the Anglian medieval kingdom of Northumbria...

 versions of the word penny are penig, pening, penning and pending; the word appears in German
German language
German is a West Germanic language, related to and classified alongside English and Dutch. With an estimated 90 – 98 million native speakers, German is one of the world's major languages and is the most widely-spoken first language in the European Union....

 as Pfennig, in Dutch
Dutch language
Dutch is a West Germanic language and the native language of the majority of the population of the Netherlands, Belgium, and Suriname, the three member states of the Dutch Language Union. Most speakers live in the European Union, where it is a first language for about 23 million and a second...

 as penning. and in West Frisian
West Frisian language
West Frisian is a language spoken mostly in the province of Friesland in the north of the Netherlands. West Frisian is the name by which this language is usually known outside the Netherlands, to distinguish it from the closely related Frisian languages of Saterland Frisian and North Frisian,...

 as peinje or penje.
Encyclopedia
A penny is a coin
Coin
A coin is a piece of hard material that is standardized in weight, is produced in large quantities in order to facilitate trade, and primarily can be used as a legal tender token for commerce in the designated country, region, or territory....

 (pl. pennies) or a type of currency
Currency
In economics, currency refers to a generally accepted medium of exchange. These are usually the coins and banknotes of a particular government, which comprise the physical aspects of a nation's money supply...

 (pl. pence) used in several English
English language
English is a West Germanic language that arose in the Anglo-Saxon kingdoms of England and spread into what was to become south-east Scotland under the influence of the Anglian medieval kingdom of Northumbria...

-speaking countries. It is often the smallest denomination within a currency system.

Etymology

Old English
English language
English is a West Germanic language that arose in the Anglo-Saxon kingdoms of England and spread into what was to become south-east Scotland under the influence of the Anglian medieval kingdom of Northumbria...

 versions of the word penny are penig, pening, penning and pending; the word appears in German
German language
German is a West Germanic language, related to and classified alongside English and Dutch. With an estimated 90 – 98 million native speakers, German is one of the world's major languages and is the most widely-spoken first language in the European Union....

 as Pfennig, in Dutch
Dutch language
Dutch is a West Germanic language and the native language of the majority of the population of the Netherlands, Belgium, and Suriname, the three member states of the Dutch Language Union. Most speakers live in the European Union, where it is a first language for about 23 million and a second...

 as penning. and in West Frisian
West Frisian language
West Frisian is a language spoken mostly in the province of Friesland in the north of the Netherlands. West Frisian is the name by which this language is usually known outside the Netherlands, to distinguish it from the closely related Frisian languages of Saterland Frisian and North Frisian,...

 as peinje or penje. These words are thought by some to have common roots with the English word "pawn", German , and Dutch , words which mean "a pledge or token".

Origin and history of development

An equivalent to the penny in ancient times was the Greek drachma
Greek drachma
Drachma, pl. drachmas or drachmae was the currency used in Greece during several periods in its history:...

. Later came the Roman Denarius, a silver coin.

When Britain was under Roman rule, most of Britain used the coin-based monetary system that was used by the Roman Empire, but their system of coinage soon changed after the Romans left. As the invading Anglo-Saxon
Anglo-Saxon
Anglo-Saxon may refer to:* Anglo-Saxons, a group that invaded Britain** Old English, their language** Anglo-Saxon England, their history, one of various ships* White Anglo-Saxon Protestant, an ethnicity* Anglo-Saxon economy, modern macroeconomic term...

s began to settle and establish their own kingdoms, some started to make gold coins based on the old Roman designs or designs copied from the coins used in the Frankish kingdoms. Their monetary system had several serious flaws: first, gold was so valuable, that even the smallest coins were very valuable, thus, these gold coins would only be used in large transactions. Further, gold was very rare, and this rarity prevented such coins from being common enough to use for even large transactions.

Between the years 641 and 670 AD, there seems to have been a movement by the Anglo-Saxons to use less pure gold in coins. This made the coins appear paler, decreased their value, and may have increased the number that could be made, but it still did not solve the problems of value and scarcity of coins made mostly of gold.

First pennies

Up to this time, no Anglo-Saxon coins had been minted in any metal besides gold. However, around the year 680
680
Year 680 was a leap year starting on Sunday of the Julian calendar. The denomination 680 for this year has been used since the early medieval period, when the Anno Domini calendar era became the prevalent method in Europe for naming years.- Europe :* The Bulgars subjugate the country of...

 a new type of small silver coin appeared which some have identified as "sceattas" or "sceat
Sceat
Sceattas were small, thick silver coins minted in England, Frisia and Jutland during the Anglo-Saxon period.-History:Their name derives from an Old English word meaning 'wealth', which has been applied to these coins since the seventeenth century, based on interpretations of the law-code of King...

", though this is probably an error. More likely sceatta was a specific measurement of a precious metal. These new coins were actually called pennies when they should really be called jets.

In Northumbria
Northumbria
Northumbria was a medieval kingdom of the Angles, in what is now Northern England and South-East Scotland, becoming subsequently an earldom in a united Anglo-Saxon kingdom of England. The name reflects the approximate southern limit to the kingdom's territory, the Humber Estuary.Northumbria was...

, pennies made of silver were being minted in the name of Bishop
Bishop
A bishop is an ordained or consecrated member of the Christian clergy who is generally entrusted with a position of authority and oversight. Within the Catholic Church, Eastern Orthodox, Oriental Orthodox Churches, in the Assyrian Church of the East, in the Independent Catholic Churches, and in the...

 Eadbert
Eadberht of Northumbria
Eadberht was king of Northumbria from 737 or 738 to 758. He was the brother of Ecgbert, Archbishop of York. His reign is seen as a return to the imperial ambitions of seventh-century Northumbria and may represent a period of economic prosperity. He faced internal opposition from rival dynasties...

 (consecrated between 772 and 782, died between 787 and 789), some in the name of his brother Archbishop
Archbishop
An archbishop is a bishop of higher rank, but not of higher sacramental order above that of the three orders of deacon, priest , and bishop...

 Egbert (the shilling
Shilling
The shilling is a unit of currency used in some current and former British Commonwealth countries. The word shilling comes from scilling, an accounting term that dates back to Anglo-Saxon times where it was deemed to be the value of a cow in Kent or a sheep elsewhere. The word is thought to derive...

 is one of the oldest of English coins, preceding the penny).

Pepin the Short, in about 735, minted the novus denarius
Denarius
In the Roman currency system, the denarius was a small silver coin first minted in 211 BC. It was the most common coin produced for circulation but was slowly debased until its replacement by the antoninianus...

. The novus denarius was based on the denarius and the penny was based on the novus denarius. He declared that 240 pennies or pfennig
Pfennig
The Pfennig , plural Pfennige, is an old German coin or note, which existed from the 9th century until the introduction of the euro in 2002....

s should be minted from one Carolingian
Carolingian
The Carolingian dynasty was a Frankish noble family with origins in the Arnulfing and Pippinid clans of the 7th century AD. The name "Carolingian", Medieval Latin karolingi, an altered form of an unattested Old High German *karling, kerling The Carolingian dynasty (known variously as the...

 pound, approximately 326 grams (11.5 oz), of silver
Silver
Silver is a metallic chemical element with the chemical symbol Ag and atomic number 47. A soft, white, lustrous transition metal, it has the highest electrical conductivity of any element and the highest thermal conductivity of any metal...

, so a single coin contained about 1.36 gram (0.0479725884629523 oz) of silver. (As of May 2009, this would cost about £0.40).

Circa 790 Charlemagne instituted a major monetary reform, introducing a new silver penny with a smaller diameter but greater mass. Surviving examples of this penny have an average mass of 1.70 gram (although some experts estimate the ideal theoretical mass at 1.76 gram). The purity is variously given as 0.95 or 0.96.

The penny was introduced into England by King Offa
Offa
Offa may refer to:Two kings of the Angles, who are often confused:*Offa of Angel , on the continent*Offa of Mercia , in Great BritainA king of Essex:*Offa of Essex A town in Nigeria:* Offa, Nigeria...

, the king of Mercia
Mercia
Mercia was one of the kingdoms of the Anglo-Saxon Heptarchy. It was centred on the valley of the River Trent and its tributaries in the region now known as the English Midlands...

 (from 757 until his death in July 796), using as a model a coin first struck by Pepin the Short. King Offa minted a penny made of silver which weighed 22 grains or 240 pennies weighing one Saxon pound (or Tower pound—equal to 5,400 grains—as it was afterwards called), hence the term pennyweight
Pennyweight
A pennyweight is a unit of mass that is equal to 24 grains, 1/20 of a troy ounce, 1/240 of a troy pound, approximately 0.054857 avoirdupois ounce and exactly 1.55517384 grams....

.
The coinage of Offa's lifetime falls essentially into two phases, one of the light pennies of medium flan comparable to those of the reign of Pepin and the first decades of that of Charlemagne in France
France
The French Republic , The French Republic , The French Republic , (commonly known as France , is a unitary semi-presidential republic in Western Europe with several overseas territories and islands located on other continents and in the Indian, Pacific, and Atlantic oceans. Metropolitan France...

, and another of heavier pennies struck on larger flans that date from Offa's last years and correspond in size to Charlemagne's novus denarius introduced in 793/4. But the sceat fabric survived in East Anglia
East Anglia
East Anglia is a traditional name for a region of eastern England, named after an ancient Anglo-Saxon kingdom, the Kingdom of the East Angles. The Angles took their name from their homeland Angeln, in northern Germany. East Anglia initially consisted of Norfolk and Suffolk, but upon the marriage of...

 under Beonna and until the mid 9th century in Northumbria, while the new-style coinages were not merely those of Offa, but were stuck also by king of East Anglia, Kent
Kent
Kent is a county in southeast England, and is one of the home counties. It borders East Sussex, Surrey and Greater London and has a defined boundary with Essex in the middle of the Thames Estuary. The ceremonial county boundaries of Kent include the shire county of Kent and the unitary borough of...

, and Wessex
Wessex
The Kingdom of Wessex or Kingdom of the West Saxons was an Anglo-Saxon kingdom of the West Saxons, in South West England, from the 6th century, until the emergence of a united English state in the 10th century, under the Wessex dynasty. It was to be an earldom after Canute the Great's conquest...

, by two archbishops of Canterbury
Canterbury
Canterbury is a historic English cathedral city, which lies at the heart of the City of Canterbury, a district of Kent in South East England. It lies on the River Stour....

, and even in the name of Offa's queen, Cynethryth
Cynethryth
Cynethryth was the wife of Offa of Mercia and mother of Ecgfrith of Mercia. Cynethryth is the only Anglo-Saxon Queen consort in whose name coinage was definitely issued.-Origins and marriage:...

.


Henry III
Henry III of England
Henry III was the son and successor of John as King of England, reigning for 56 years from 1216 until his death. His contemporaries knew him as Henry of Winchester. He was the first child king in England since the reign of Æthelred the Unready...

 in 1257 minted a gold penny which had the value of twenty silver pence. The weight and value of the silver penny steadily declined from 1300 onwards.

The penny, with a few exceptions, was the only coin issued in England until the introduction of the gold florin by Edward III in 1343.

In 1527 the Tower pound of 5,400 grains was abolished and replaced by the pound of 5,760 grains.

Halfpence and farthings became a regular part of the coinage at that time, money which was created by cutting pennies to halves and quarters for trade purposes, a practice said to have originated in the reign of Æthelred II.

The last coinage of silver pence for general circulation was in the reign of Charles II
Charles II of England
Charles II was monarch of the three kingdoms of England, Scotland, and Ireland.Charles II's father, King Charles I, was executed at Whitehall on 30 January 1649, at the climax of the English Civil War...

. Since then silver pence have only been coined for issue as royal alms on Maundy Thursday
Maundy Thursday
Maundy Thursday, also known as Holy Thursday, Covenant Thursday, Great & Holy Thursday, and Thursday of Mysteries, is the Christian feast or holy day falling on the Thursday before Easter that commemorates the Last Supper of Jesus Christ with the Apostles as described in the Canonical gospels...

s.

First use of copper

Pennies were made of copper in the United States of America as early as 1793 (Chain Cent
Chain cent
The Chain cent was America's first large cent and the first circulating coin officially produced by the United States Mint. It was struck only during 1793.-Obverse design:...

).

The penny that was brought to the Cape Colony
Cape Colony
The Cape Colony, part of modern South Africa, was established by the Dutch East India Company in 1652, with the founding of Cape Town. It was subsequently occupied by the British in 1795 when the Netherlands were occupied by revolutionary France, so that the French revolutionaries could not take...

 was a large coin—41 mm in diameter, 5 mm thick and 2 oz (56.7 g). On it was Britannia
Britannia
Britannia is an ancient term for Great Britain, and also a female personification of the island. The name is Latin, and derives from the Greek form Prettanike or Brettaniai, which originally designated a collection of islands with individual names, including Albion or Great Britain. However, by the...

 with a trident
Trident
A trident , also called a trishul or leister or gig, is a three-pronged spear. It is used for spear fishing and was also a military weapon. Tridents are featured widely in mythical, historical and modern culture. The major Hindu god, Shiva the Destroyer and the sea god Poseidon or Neptune are...

 in her hand. The English called this coin the Cartwheel penny due to its large size and raised rim, but the Capetonians
Cape Town
Cape Town is the second-most populous city in South Africa, and the provincial capital and primate city of the Western Cape. As the seat of the National Parliament, it is also the legislative capital of the country. It forms part of the City of Cape Town metropolitan municipality...

 referred to it as the Devil
Devil
The Devil is believed in many religions and cultures to be a powerful, supernatural entity that is the personification of evil and the enemy of God and humankind. The nature of the role varies greatly...

's Penny as they assumed that only the Devil used a trident. The coins were very unpopular due to their large weight and size.
The first copper coins that Boulton minted for the British Government are known as 'cartwheels', because of their large size and raised rims. The Soho Mint
Soho Mint
Soho Mint was created by Matthew Boulton in 1788 in his Soho Manufactory in Handsworth, West Midlands, England. A mint was erected at the manufactory containing eight machines, driven by steam engine, each capable of striking 70 to 84 coins per minute....

 struck 500 short ton of these penny and twopenny pieces in 1797, and issued further copper coins for the Government in 1799, 1806 and 1807. All together the Mint produced over £600,000 worth of copper official English coinage as well as separate copper coins for Ireland and the Isle of Man
Isle of Man
The Isle of Man , otherwise known simply as Mann , is a self-governing British Crown Dependency, located in the Irish Sea between the islands of Great Britain and Ireland, within the British Isles. The head of state is Queen Elizabeth II, who holds the title of Lord of Mann. The Lord of Mann is...

.


On 6 June 1825 Sir Charles Somerset issued a proclamation
Proclamation
A proclamation is an official declaration.-England and Wales:In English law, a proclamation is a formal announcement , made under the great seal, of some matter which the King in Council or Queen in Council desires to make known to his or her subjects: e.g., the declaration of war, or state of...

 that only British Sterling
Pound sterling
The pound sterling , commonly called the pound, is the official currency of the United Kingdom, its Crown Dependencies and the British Overseas Territories of South Georgia and the South Sandwich Islands, British Antarctic Territory and Tristan da Cunha. It is subdivided into 100 pence...

 would be legal tender
Legal tender
Legal tender is a medium of payment allowed by law or recognized by a legal system to be valid for meeting a financial obligation. Paper currency is a common form of legal tender in many countries....

 in the Cape. The new British coins (which were introduced in England in 1816), among them being the shilling, six pence of silver, the penny, half penny and quarter penny in copper, were introduced to the Cape. Later two shilling, four penny and three penny coins were added to the coinage. The size and denomination
Denomination (currency)
Denomination is a proper description of a currency amount, usually for coins or banknotes. Denominations may also be used with other means of payment like gift cards. See also Redenomination.-Subunit and super unit:...

 of the 1816 British coins, with the exception of the four-penny coins, were used in South Africa until 1960.

Use of bronze

In 1860 in Britain bronze pennies were introduced in place of copper ones, though they were not entirely made of bronze; instead it was an alloy containing 95 parts of copper, 4 of tin, and 1 of zinc. The weight was also reduced: 1 lb of bronze was coined into 48 pennies, versus 1 lb of copper which was coined into 24 pennies.

Value

The penny is among the lowest denomination of coins in circulation. of the British pound sterling
Pound sterling
The pound sterling , commonly called the pound, is the official currency of the United Kingdom, its Crown Dependencies and the British Overseas Territories of South Georgia and the South Sandwich Islands, British Antarctic Territory and Tristan da Cunha. It is subdivided into 100 pence...

 (see British one penny coin
British One Penny coin
The British decimal one penny coin, produced by the Royal Mint, was issued on 15 February 1971, the day the British currency was decimalised. In practice, it had been available from banks in bags of £1 for some weeks previously...

), the Manx pound
Manx pound
The Manx pound or Isle of Man pound is a local issue of the pound sterling, issued by the Isle of Man Government. It is subdivided into 100 pence.-Currency union with sterling:...

, the former Irish pound
Irish pound
The Irish pound was the currency of Ireland until 2002. Its ISO 4217 code was IEP, and the usual notation was the prefix £...

, the Gibraltar pound
Gibraltar pound
The Gibraltar pound is the currency of Gibraltar. It is exchangeable with the UK pound sterling at par value.-History:...

, the Jersey Pound
Jersey pound
The pound is the currency of Jersey. Jersey is in currency union with the United Kingdom, and the Jersey pound is not a separate currency but is an issue of banknotes and coins by the States of Jersey denominated in pound sterling, in a similar way to the banknotes issued in Scotland and Northern...

, the Guernsey Pound
Guernsey pound
The pound is the currency of Guernsey. Since 1921, Guernsey has been in currency union with the United Kingdom and the Guernsey pound is not a separate currency but is a local issue of banknotes and coins denominated in pound sterling, in a similar way to the banknotes issued in Scotland and...

, the Saint Helena pound
Saint Helena pound
The Saint Helena pound is the currency of the Atlantic islands of Saint Helena and Ascension, which are constituents of the British overseas territory of Saint Helena, Ascension and Tristan da Cunha...

, the Falkland Islands pound
Falkland Islands pound
The pound is the currency of the Falkland Islands, a British Overseas Territory in the South Atlantic Ocean. The symbol is the pound sign, £, or alternatively FK£, to distinguish it from other pound-denominated currencies...

, or a coin with that value: see History of the English penny. of the British pound sterling
Pound sterling
The pound sterling , commonly called the pound, is the official currency of the United Kingdom, its Crown Dependencies and the British Overseas Territories of South Georgia and the South Sandwich Islands, British Antarctic Territory and Tristan da Cunha. It is subdivided into 100 pence...

 or Irish pound
Irish pound
The Irish pound was the currency of Ireland until 2002. Its ISO 4217 code was IEP, and the usual notation was the prefix £...

 before decimalisation
Decimalisation
Decimal currency is the term used to describe any currency that is based on one basic unit of currency and a sub-unit which is a power of 10, most commonly 100....

 on 15 February 1971, of the Pound Scots
Pound Scots
The pound Scots was the national unit of currency in the Kingdom of Scotland before the country entered into political and currency union with the Kingdom of England in 1707 . It was introduced by David I, in the 12th century, on the model of English and French money, divided into 20 shillings...

 prior to 1707, and also the pre-decimalisation
Decimalisation
Decimal currency is the term used to describe any currency that is based on one basic unit of currency and a sub-unit which is a power of 10, most commonly 100....

 currencies of Australia
Australia
Australia , officially the Commonwealth of Australia, is a country in the Southern Hemisphere comprising the mainland of the Australian continent, the island of Tasmania, and numerous smaller islands in the Indian and Pacific Oceans. It is the world's sixth-largest country by total area...

, New Zealand
New Zealand
New Zealand is an island country in the south-western Pacific Ocean comprising two main landmasses and numerous smaller islands. The country is situated some east of Australia across the Tasman Sea, and roughly south of the Pacific island nations of New Caledonia, Fiji, and Tonga...

 and South Africa
South Africa
The Republic of South Africa is a country in southern Africa. Located at the southern tip of Africa, it is divided into nine provinces, with of coastline on the Atlantic and Indian oceans...

 ( of the shilling
Shilling
The shilling is a unit of currency used in some current and former British Commonwealth countries. The word shilling comes from scilling, an accounting term that dates back to Anglo-Saxon times where it was deemed to be the value of a cow in Kent or a sheep elsewhere. The word is thought to derive...

), or a coin of that value.
  • A common colloquial name for the one-cent coin in the United States
    United States
    The United States of America is a federal constitutional republic comprising fifty states and a federal district...

     and in Canada
    Canada
    Canada is a North American country consisting of ten provinces and three territories. Located in the northern part of the continent, it extends from the Atlantic Ocean in the east to the Pacific Ocean in the west, and northward into the Arctic Ocean...

    , worth of the dollar
    Dollar
    The dollar is the name of the official currency of many countries, including Australia, Belize, Canada, Ecuador, El Salvador, Hong Kong, New Zealand, Singapore, Taiwan, and the United States.-Etymology:...

    : see Penny (U.S. coin), Penny (Canadian coin)
    Penny (Canadian coin)
    In Canada, a penny is a coin worth one cent or of a dollar. According to the Royal Canadian Mint, the official national term of the coin is the "one-cent piece", but in practice the term penny or cent is universal. Originally, "penny" referred to a two-cent coin. When the two-cent coin was...

    .


In addition, variants of the word penny, with which they share a common root
Root (linguistics)
The root word is the primary lexical unit of a word, and of a word family , which carries the most significant aspects of semantic content and cannot be reduced into smaller constituents....

, are or were the names of certain units of currency in non-English-speaking countries:
  • A fening is of a Bosnia and Herzegovina convertible mark
    Bosnia and Herzegovina convertible mark
    The Bosnia and Herzegovina convertible mark is the currency of Bosnia and Herzegovina. It is divided into 100 fenings...

  • A Pfennig
    Pfennig
    The Pfennig , plural Pfennige, is an old German coin or note, which existed from the 9th century until the introduction of the euro in 2002....

     was of a German Mark
    German mark
    The Deutsche Mark |mark]], abbreviated "DM") was the official currency of West Germany and Germany until the adoption of the euro in 2002. It is commonly called the "Deutschmark" in English but not in German. Germans often say "Mark" or "D-Mark"...

     and is sometimes still used by Germans as the name for the 1c coin of the Euro
    Euro
    The euro is the official currency of the eurozone: 17 of the 27 member states of the European Union. It is also the currency used by the Institutions of the European Union. The eurozone consists of Austria, Belgium, Cyprus, Estonia, Finland, France, Germany, Greece, Ireland, Italy, Luxembourg,...

  • A penni
    Penni
    Penni may refer to:*One hundredeth of the Finnish markka currency*Gianfrancesco Penni, Italian Renaissance artist, or his brothers Luca and Bartolomeo...

     was of a Finnish markka


In the United States and Canada, "penny" is normally used to refer to the coin; the quantity of money is a "cent
Cent (currency)
In many national currencies, the cent is a monetary unit that equals 1⁄100 of the basic monetary unit. Etymologically, the word cent derives from the Latin word "centum" meaning hundred. Cent also refers to a coin which is worth one cent....

." Elsewhere in the English-speaking world, the plural of "penny" is "pence" when referring to a quantity of money and "pennies" when referring to a number of coins. Thus a coin worth five times as much as one penny is worth five pence, but "five pennies" means five coins, each of which is a penny.

When dealing with British or Irish (pound) money, amounts of the decimal "new pence" less than £1 may be suffixed with "p", as in 2p, 5p, 26p, 72p. Pre-1971 amounts of less than 1/- (one shilling) were denoted with a "d" which derived from the term "denarius
Denarius
In the Roman currency system, the denarius was a small silver coin first minted in 211 BC. It was the most common coin produced for circulation but was slowly debased until its replacement by the antoninianus...

", as in 2d, 6d, 10d.

Irish pound decimal coinage only used "p" to designate units (possibly as this sufficed for both the English word "pence", and Irish form "pingin").

Criticism

Handling and counting penny coins makes transaction costs that may be higher than a penny. It has been claimed that for micropayment
Micropayment
A micropayment is a financial transaction involving a very small sum of money and usually one that occurs online. PayPal defines a micropayment as a transaction of less than 12 USD while Visa prefers transactions under 20 Australian dollars, and though micropayments were originally envisioned to...

s the mental arithmetic costs more than the penny. Australia now uses 5¢ as its lowest denomination.

Changes in the price of metal commodity
Commodity
In economics, a commodity is the generic term for any marketable item produced to satisfy wants or needs. Economic commodities comprise goods and services....

, combined with the continual debasement of paper currencies, causes the metal value of pennies to exceed their face value. Several nations have stopped minting equivalent value coins, and efforts have been made to end the routine use of pennies in several countries, including Canada and the United States.

Idioms

To "spend a penny" in British idiom means to urinate. The etymology of the phrase is literal; some public toilets used to be coin-operated, with a pre-decimal penny being the charge levied. The first recorded charge of a penny for use of a toilet was at the The Great Exhibition
The Great Exhibition
The Great Exhibition of the Works of Industry of all Nations or The Great Exhibition, sometimes referred to as the Crystal Palace Exhibition in reference to the temporary structure in which it was held, was an international exhibition that took place in Hyde Park, London, from 1 May to 15 October...

 of 1851. Eventually, around the same time as the introduction of decimal coinage
Decimal Day
Decimal Day was the day the United Kingdom and Ireland decimalised their currencies.-Old system:Under the old currency of pounds, shillings and pence, the pound was made up of 240 pence , with 12 pence in a shilling and 20 shillings in a...

, British Rail
British Rail
British Railways , which from 1965 traded as British Rail, was the operator of most of the rail transport in Great Britain between 1948 and 1997. It was formed from the nationalisation of the "Big Four" British railway companies and lasted until the gradual privatisation of British Rail, in stages...

 gradually introduced better public toilets with the name Superloo and the much higher charge of 6d (2p).

Finding a penny is sometimes considered lucky and gives rise to the saying, "Find a penny, pick it up, and all the day you'll have good luck." This may be a corruption of "See a pin and pick it up, all the day you'll have good luck" and similar verses, as quoted in The Frank C. Brown collection of North Carolina
North Carolina
North Carolina is a state located in the southeastern United States. The state borders South Carolina and Georgia to the south, Tennessee to the west and Virginia to the north. North Carolina contains 100 counties. Its capital is Raleigh, and its largest city is Charlotte...

 folklore and other places.

It is also believed that one may get rid of bad luck by dropping a penny on the ground. The bad luck will go with the coin and be acquired by the next person to pick it up.

List of pennies

  • Australian penny
    Penny (Australian)
    The Australian Penny was a coin of the Australian pound used in the Commonwealth of Australia prior to decimalisation in 1966. It was worth one twelfth of an Australian shilling and 1/240 of an Australian pound...

  • British penny
    • British penny (pre-decimal)
      Penny (British pre-decimal coin)
      The penny of the Kingdom of Great Britain and later of the United Kingdom, was in circulation from the early 18th century until February 1971, Decimal Day....

  • Canadian penny
    Penny (Canadian coin)
    In Canada, a penny is a coin worth one cent or of a dollar. According to the Royal Canadian Mint, the official national term of the coin is the "one-cent piece", but in practice the term penny or cent is universal. Originally, "penny" referred to a two-cent coin. When the two-cent coin was...

  • Irish penny
    • Irish penny (pre-decimal)
  • U.S. penny

See also

  • Coins of the pound sterling
  • Efforts to eliminate the penny in the United States
  • History of the English penny (c. 600 – 1066)
  • Legal Tender Modernization Act
    Legal Tender Modernization Act
    The Legal Tender Modernization Act was a bill proposed by United States Representative Jim Kolbe of Arizona in 2002. Its main goal was to stop the continual production of pennies. The bill also mentions other provisions including:...

  • One cent (disambiguation)
  • Penny sizes of nails
  • Pennyweight
    Pennyweight
    A pennyweight is a unit of mass that is equal to 24 grains, 1/20 of a troy ounce, 1/240 of a troy pound, approximately 0.054857 avoirdupois ounce and exactly 1.55517384 grams....

  • Pfennig
    Pfennig
    The Pfennig , plural Pfennige, is an old German coin or note, which existed from the 9th century until the introduction of the euro in 2002....

  • Smashed penny
    Elongated coin
    Elongated coins are coins that have been elongated and embossed with a new design with the purpose of creating a commemorative or souvenir token. The collecting of elongated coins is a branch of numismatics...


External links

  • The MegaPenny Project - A visualisation of what exponential numbers of pennies would look like.
  • Silver Pennies - Pictures of English silver pennies from Anglo-Saxon times to the present.
  • Copper Pennies - Pictures of English copper pennies from 1797 to 1860.
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