A penny is a coin (pl. pennies) or a unit of currency (pl. pence) used in several English-speaking countries. It is often the smallest denomination within a currency system.
Old English versions of the word penny are penig, pening, penning and pending; the word appears in German as Pfennig, in Dutch and Swedish (often shortened to peng) as penning, and in West Frisian as peinje or penje. In Swedish, Norwegian, and Danish, the most common words for money are pengar, penger and penge respectively. These words are thought by some to have common roots with the English word "pawn", German Pfand, and Dutch pand, words which mean "a pledge or token".
Origin and history of development 
The silver penny of medieval Europe was modeled on similar small silver coins from antiquity: the Greek drachma and Roman denarius. There are also archeology exhibitions that show traces of pennies in Sweden and Norway. Researchers believe that this might be the result of Viking influence in northern Europe.
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-Saxons 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.
Around the year 680 a new type of small silver coin appeared which some have identified as "sceattas" or "sceat". Others suggest that sceatta was a specific measurement of a precious metal.
First pennies 
Through the end of the 7th century, no Anglo-Saxon coins had been minted in any metal besides gold.
In Northumbria, pennies made of silver were being minted in the name of Bishop Eadbert (consecrated between 772 and 782, died between 787 and 789), some in the name of his brother Archbishop Egbert (the shilling is one of the oldest of English coins, preceding the penny).
Pepin the Short, in about 735, minted the novus denarius. The novus denarius was based on the denarius and the penny was based on the novus denarius. He declared that 240 pennies or pfennigs should be minted from one Carolingian pound, approximately 326 grams (11.5 oz), of silver, so a single coin contained about 1.36 grams (0.048 oz) of silver. (As of December 2011, this would cost about £0.98).
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, the king of Mercia (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 221⁄2 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.
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, 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 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, and Wessex, by two archbishops of Canterbury, and even in the name of Offa's queen, Cynethryth.
Henry III 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.
In 1527 the Tower pound of 5,400 grains was abolished and replaced by the Troy 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.
First use of copper 
The penny that was brought to the Cape Colony (in what is now South Africa) was a large coin—41 mm in diameter, 5 mm thick and 2 oz (57 g). On it was Britannia with a trident in her hand. The English called this coin the Cartwheel penny due to its large size and raised rim, but the Capetonians (what citizens of Cape Town, South Africa call themselves) referred to it as the Devil'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 Matthew Boulton minted for the British Government have become known as 'cartwheels', because of their large size and raised rims. His Soho Mint (created at his Soho Manufactury in 1788, in Handsworth, West Midlands, England) struck 500 short tons (450 t) of these penny and two-penny pieces in 1797, and further issued copper coins for the Government in 1799, 1806, and 1807. All together the Mint produced over £600,000 worth of official English copper coinage, as well as separate copper coins for Ireland and the Isle of Man.
On 6 June 1825, Sir Charles Somerset issued a proclamation that only British Sterling would be legal tender in the Cape (South Africa colony). 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 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, bronze being made of an alloy of metals, the main part is copper, alloyed with tin and a third metal that acts as a flux (anciently gold, silver, or lead, modernly nickel, silicon, manganese, aluminum, etc.); these coins were 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.
The penny is among the lowest denomination of coins in circulation.
- 1⁄100 of the British pound sterling (see British one penny coin), the former Irish pound, the Gibraltar pound, the Saint Helena pound, the Falkland Islands pound, or a coin with that value: see History of the English penny.
- 1⁄240 of the British pound sterling or Irish pound before decimalisation on 15 February 1971, of the Pound Scots prior to 1707, and also the pre-decimalisation currencies of Australia, New Zealand and South Africa (1⁄12 of the shilling), or a coin of that value.
- A common colloquial name for the one-cent coin currently used in the United States and formerly used in Canada, worth 1⁄100 of the dollar: see Penny (U.S. coin), Penny (Canadian coin).
In addition, variants of the word penny, with which they share a common root, are or were the names of certain units of currency in non-English-speaking countries:
- A fening is 1⁄100 of a Bosnia and Herzegovina convertible mark
- A Pfennig was 1⁄100 of a German Mark and is sometimes still used by Germans as the name for the 1c coin of the Euro
- A penni was 1⁄100 of a Finnish markka
In the United States and Canada, "penny" is normally used to refer to a "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", 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").
|O: Draped bust of Aethelred left. +ÆĐELRED REX ANGLOR||R: Long cross. +EADǷOLD MO CÆNT|
|Anglo-Saxon silver "Long Cross" penny of Aethelred II, moneyer Eadwold, Canterbury, c. 997–1003. The cross made cutting the coin into half-pennies or farthings (quarter-pennies) easier. (Note spelling Eadƿold in inscription, using Anglo-Saxon letter wynn in place of modern w.)|
Handling and counting penny coins makes transaction costs that may be higher than a penny. It has been claimed that for micropayments the mental arithmetic costs more than the penny. Australia and New Zealand now use 5¢ and 10¢, respectively, as their lowest denomination, with Canada set to follow suit as per the most recent Federal budget.
Changes in the price of metal commodity, 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. In the UK, since 1992, one- and two-penny coins have been made from copper-plated steel (making them magnetic) instead of bronze.
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 of 1851. Eventually, around the same time as the introduction of decimal coinage, British Rail gradually introduced better public toilets with the name Superloo and the much higher charge of 6d (21⁄2p).
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 folklore and other places.
The first known record of the phrase "a penny for your thoughts" is found in a 1547 collection of contemporary English language phrases compiled by John Heywood called A dialogue conteinying the nomber in effect of all the proverbes in the Englishe tongue. A possibly related idiomatic expression, "my two cents", may use the low-value denomination to figuratively devalue the speaker's opinions for the sake of irony or humility.
List of pennies 
- Australian penny
- British penny
- Canadian penny
- Irish penny
- 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
- One cent (disambiguation)
- Penny sizes of nails
- Smashed penny
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- Frassetto, Michael, "Encyclopedia of barbarian Europe: society in transformation" 2003 p. 131
- National Bank of Belgium museum Home » News » Islam and the Carolingian penny
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- Empty citation (help)[dead link]
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- Hagenbaugh, Barbara (10 May 2006), Coins cost more to make than face value, USA Today, retrieved 2009-05-07
- Lewis, Mark (5 July 2002). "Ban The Penny". Forbes. Retrieved 2009-05-07.
- BBC Nation on Film - Rise and Fall of LNER Mod Cons - Engines Must Not Enter the Potato Siding: "Spend a 6d in the superloo"
- "Mother Goose's chimes, rhymes & melodies". H.B. Ashmead. 1861?. Retrieved 2009-11-14.
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|Wikisource has the text of the 1911 Encyclopædia Britannica article Penny.|
- Copper Penny Importance – Blog post & video covering the importance of retaining Copper Pennies.
- 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.
- US Lincoln Penny on the Planet Mars – Curiosity Rover (September 10, 2012).
- "Penny". Collier's New Encyclopedia. 1921.