The Case of the Missing Penny

expat issues

There’s something weird going on here. It took me at least a month to even notice it. And when I did, I couldn’t be sure. Like Nancy Drew on the case of something that starts as a niggling thought and finally erupts into a full-fledged suspicion, I presented my case by asking my partner-in-crime …

“Does Australia not have a penny?”

He stared at me blankly for a moment, as he considered his experience with the evidence in this burgeoning mystery.

“Huh,” he eloquently retorted, “I don’t know.”


A glance through our coin jar and a couple of retail transactions provided enough evidence that I became satisfied with theorizing my hypothesis. In fact, we completely closed the case when we visited the Australian Mint on our trip to Canberra.

Faithful readers, it is true. Australia does not have a one-cent coin. Denominations begin at 5 cents.

Turns out that Australia has not had a penny since 1991. They simply round everything to the nearest 5.

I found myself particularly intrigued by this fact because the idea of dumping the penny comes up every now and again in the U.S. But, these discussions are typically more of the theoretical, “wouldn’t that be interesting” sort. And then we remember that everything at Wal Mart ends with .97, and there ends that conversation. Those that take this position very seriously are generally considered to be from the tribe “Wackadoo,” or at very least to have too much time on their hands.

Now, I cannot comment on the larger economic ramifications of penny vs. no-penny, but I’ll posit that the fact that it took me a month to realize that the denomination was missing is a sign of what a great impact it has had on my life. That is to say, no impact at all. So, to all you U.S. wackadoos, I salute you and your penniless position.


While I’m on the subject of money, I’d like to post-script with a final coinage fun-fact. The Australian 50 cent piece is a ginormous 12-sided coin. This oversized hulk sits heavy in ones wallet and is the largest circulating coin in the world. Perhaps its size compensates for all those missing pennies that weigh down American pockets.