How long will pennies stay in circulation? Ask McArdle

McArdle weighs in on pennies and the price of a Stanley Cup ring. Also, an emoticon for sincerity?


(Illustration: Peter Arkle)

How long will it take to get all the pennies out of circulation?

Canada’s final penny will leave the Royal Canadian Mint on Feb. 4, 2013. After that, citizens will need to find new ballast to weight our pockets during windstorms, and I will be forced to more than double the littlest McArdle’s allowance to a nickel. But be heartened penny enthusiasts—the end of the copper age will come slowly. Mint officials predict it will take five years for the majority to exit circulation. Even then, precedent indicates the coins could linger indefinitely. The Bank of Canada discontinued the two-dollar bill in 1996. A decade later, there were still more than 109 million of them still stuffed in the night tables, piggy banks and bustiers of the nation. Change is going to come, indeed. But it is going to leave far more slowly.

How much is a Stanley Cup ring worth?

It can be maddeningly difficult to affix price tags to items that derive their worth from sentimentality, as evidenced by so many failed kitten auctions. This sad fact has been wholly demonstrated by a recent ring-appraisal squabble that spilled out of a Toronto courtroom and into our national gossip pages. Paul and Judy Bronfman—of the Bronfman Bronfmans—sued their insurance company for failing to adequately compensate them for some burgled items. Among them: two Stanley Cup rings, acquired when Mr. Bronfman’s father and uncle owned the Montreal Canadiens in the 1970s. As delightfully recounted in The Globe and Mail, the couple felt the rings were worth $15,000 apiece, based partly on the price fetched for similar baubles once belonging to former Edmonton Oiler owner Peter Pocklington. The insurance company claimed Peter Puck’s greater fame gave his rings greater worth. I am not a lawyer, but having watched several on television, I see two flaws with this argument. To begin, it is true a Pocklington ring sold for roughly the Bronfmans’ stated figure in 2005. But he peddled five additional rings this year, which fetched far more handsome figures, starting at US$33,657 and escalating to almost 45 grand. So there is clearly no simple correlation between a person’s fame and the value of their rings. To wit, Guy Lafleur’s 1976 ring fetched about ten grand in 2001 but Jean Beliveau’s 1959 ring earned almost seven times that amount four years later (Lafleur closed the gap somewhat when his ring resold for more than $17,000 in 2009.) It is perhaps possible to establish a market bottom with another Pocklington-related example. In 2009, a pair of Stanley Cup rings were auctioned as a set for $5,500. The inscription: Elsie McAvoy, Pocklington’s mother-in-law. It is difficult to say where the average price of ring might fall, but I would say it is likely lower than a Beliveau and far above an in-law’s.

Almost every e-mail I receive contains one of those winking emoticons to let me know the person is kidding. Is there an emoticon for sincerity?

Emoticons now sprawl across our language like cane toads across Australia. Scott Fahlman, a computer scientist at Carnegie Mellon University, first suggested using a smiley face built out of punctuation symbols to demarcate jokes in electronic communications in 1982. There are now emoticons to denote sleepiness, anger and even for a number of sexual practices. In days past, I might have counselled readers to avoid these abominations. If it is not clear you are joking, perhaps the gag is not that good. But a wise man recognizes an unwinnable fight. Instead, I offer an emoticon of my devising to fulfil your need. In my view, there is nothing more sincere than a man with moustache. :{

Need advice? Want to settle a debate? Go ahead, ask McArdle anything:

McArdle is our resident expert in many things. He believes himself expert in all things.