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Coin Clinic: British nickname trumps formal ‘cent’ term

Why do we commonly refer to the U.S. one-cent coin as a “penny?”
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2014 U.S. Coin Digest

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By Richard Giedroyc

Why do we commonly refer to the U.S. one-cent coin as a “penny?”

You can blame this nickname on the British. The British penny was in widespread use in the American colonies prior to the adoption of the cent for our basic unit of currency.

Is the dollar sign unique to United States currency or is it used for currency denominations elsewhere in the world as well?

What we in the United States refer to as the dollar sign is actually used to identify a currency denomination in many other countries. Among these are Argentina, Australia, Bahamas, Barbados, Belize, Bermuda, Brazil, Brunei, Canada, Cayman Islands, Chile, Colombia, Cuba, Dominica, East Caribbean Territories, Guyana, Hong Kong, Jamaica, Kiribati, Liberia, Mexico, Namibia, New Zealand, Singapore, Solomon Islands, Suriname, Taiwan, Tonga, Trinidad and Tobago, Tuvalu, Uruguay, and Zambia. The denomination symbolized is not always called a dollar.

Has the United States ever considered a currency union with Canada and Mexico?

Such a currency union has been suggested many times in the recent half century, but the political and economic factors involved appear to be too difficult to overcome. The late former congressman Jack Kemp (also a former professional football player) was a big proponent of such a currency union.

I’ve seen gold and silver expressed in ounces, troy ounces, pennyweight, grams and grains. Which is more appropriate to use for coins?

Coins are usually expressed in ounces. However this doesn’t mean any of these other weights can’t be used instead.

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