Five cent coins. You can’t use them in vending machines. You can’t use them in parking meters. And I wouldn’t be surprised if beggars and wishing wells start refusing them next.

Even this lego dude can't be bothered picking it up

The heyday of the Australian five cent coin ended long ago. It’s time to take the echidna out of circulation.

Myki machines don’t even take them! You’d think with all their budget blowouts, they’d gladly take any source of money people jam in the slot.

When was the last time you bought something for five cents? I don’t think I’ve made a five cent purchase since that single candy heart I bought for a primary school crush circa 1995.

And even at the school tuck shop, it was all I could do to avoid being up sold to a ten cent bag of mixed lollies.

These days those little coins are completely useless and plain irritating. They just amass in your purse, wallet or pocket. Nobody likes them. The five cent coin is the Gary Busey of Australian currency.

Some people don’t even bother picking them up off the ground if they drop one. Evidentially, the act of bending over in 2012 is worth at least 20 cents.

Plenty of businesses try to discourage their use through setting prices at 10 cent intervals. And if you’re five cents short at the supermarket, you can usually get away with it. So what’s the hold up?

We made the choice to ditch one and two cent coins 20 years ago. It’s the natural cycle of inflation. Prices keep going up and eventually the smaller denominations become practically worthless, ultimately of interest only to museums and collectors.

Unbelievably, just like rowing at the Olympics, the abolition of the five cent coin is yet another area where New Zealand beats Australia. The Kiwis got rid of theirs in 2006.

But the Royal Australian Mint still churns out up to 300 million five cent pieces a year. More than any other coin. That’s 13 five cent coins for each Australian.

Someone needs to set an example. If I get one in my change, I’m not taking it with me. It’s going straight into the tip jar or it’s being left on the counter.

It’s just like that episode of Seinfeld where Kramer decides he’s ready for daylight saving, so he puts his watch forward an hour all on his own.

So that’s it, Mint. I’m doing a Kramer! From now on, David M. Green does not do five cent coins.

David M. Green is the host of TV game show “31 Questions”. Twitter @31Questions

And don’t forget his personal Twitter account @David_M_Green

Comments on this post close at 8pm AEST

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    • Super D says:

      05:47am | 17/09/12

      SO no one wants them yet millions have to be made every year. It’s time to our coin hoarders as traitors and economic vandals.

    • Danny B says:

      05:53am | 17/09/12

      I’ve often wondered why we haven’t already taken the step of abolishing this little, almost useless coin.  It does make a lot of cents.

      (Pun fully intended).

    • Mahhrat says:

      10:01am | 17/09/12

      Could’ve gone the day without you coining that pun, Danny.

    • James says:

      07:16am | 17/09/12

      Who on earth hates Gary Busey?

    • Carz says:

      07:21am | 17/09/12

      As far as I’m concerned everyone who doesn’t want their five cent pieces can send them to me. I volunteer to give them a safe and happy home, where they will feel wanted. Don’t abandon your five cent coins where they won’t be cared for.

    • Ally says:

      08:31am | 17/09/12

      Me too!

      Seriously, does anyone let their 5 cent pieces accumulate in their pockets/wallet to the point where it becomes an irritant to carry them around? Just chuck them in a jar each night when you get home, along with some of your other shrapnel and then take it to the bank when it’s full.

      I’ve been doing this with all my silver each night for the past couple of months and have currently got about $75 to add to my savings account. Not a huge amount of money in the scheme of things, but better put in savings than frittered away.

    • Greg says:

      10:23am | 17/09/12

      I do the same thing every year but with gold as well, by the time Christmas comes around all your presents are paid for out of the coins.

      You don;‘t even need to count them any more just take them to the machine in most newer banks.

    • Me says:

      07:40am | 17/09/12

      A little off topic, however still in the theme of things, here’s one for you. You remember those one and two cent pieces that disappeared, oh at least 10 years ago…...why do we still use them in our economy; as in .98c; $1.97; $99.99 (under $100, what a bargain!)?
      Where are all those one and two cents going? Straight into someones stash without a doubt. Where could we see the five cent piece going? Well, if trends and past history is a great predictor, my bet would be that the ol five cent piece will also become a redundant, yet symbolic use of plageurism in the financial world, and guess who gets ripped off….again…..we, the people. The great disappearing act of one, two and now five cent pieces.

    • Al says:

      09:07am | 17/09/12

      One of the ways to avoid the rounding (and giving them those extra 1c and 2c and eventualy 5c) is to pay using a debit (not credit) card. In that case you are charged the actual price. It would be illegal for them to round for an electronic funds transfer.

    • Steve says:

      10:20am | 17/09/12

      “past history”

      Not to be confused with the other kind…

    • colin says:

      11:45am | 17/09/12

      @Steve 10:20am | 17/09/12

      ““past history”...Not to be confused with the other kind…”

      LOL grin

      On the subject of money; just like people who say “ATM machine”

    • iMitchy says:

      01:28pm | 17/09/12

      Studies have shown that the rounding becomes redundant because sometimes you round up and sometimes you round down. You could of course use a card to avoid rounding up and use cash to take advantage of rounding down but it’s probably not worth your time at less than 5 cents per transaction.

      What’s interesting is the reason that retailers originally started using prices like 99c instead of $1. I’d always thought it was a phycological trick to make products look cheaper but in fact the original intent was to force the cashier to record the sale by having to open the till to retrieve the customers change, instead of slyly pocketing a payment which exactly matched the price of the items. This has since become redundant itself.

      On the 5c piece issue, I agree that we should ditch them but I also think that it should be replaced by a gold $5 coin, about the same size as a 20c piece. Just a thought.

    • Mahhrat says:

      08:00am | 17/09/12

      I still think we could do worse than simply 2 for 1 the Australian dollar.  Everybody’s pay gets halved, everything’s price gets halved.  Bring back the little coins, etc.

      (Yes, I know it’s wishful thinking, hush).

    • iMitchy says:

      01:35pm | 17/09/12

      Then take an overseas holiday….

      You can’t really force the exchange rate to double so it wouldn’t work. Then there’s the problem of price perception - at first lots of people will spend up big as everything looks like a bargain, then due to supply and demand factors as well as a seller’s perception that they are selling their products for half of their worth, hyper-inflation would kick in, real wages would decrease and the exchange rate would plummet.

      Recipe for disaster.

    • gobsmack says:

      08:04am | 17/09/12

      The designs of all the coins that came out in 1966 are pretty amazing, but the design on 5c coin would be my favourite.

    • Frank says:

      08:29am | 17/09/12

      im pretty sure the mint has to wait a little bit to take them out of circulation, isnt there a push to start the process in 2014?

    • Scuffy Smith says:

      08:46am | 17/09/12

      I am a beggar David and I have a sign “no 5 cent coins”.

    • Inky says:

      08:58am | 17/09/12

      Personally, I’m waiting for the day when all physical currency is removed and we start paying for everything electronically with the exact cost of it, rather than rounding all over the place.

    • bael says:

      11:30am | 17/09/12

      Not going to happen any time soon due to alot of our economy stills runs on the ‘flexibilty’ of cash.

    • Inky says:

      11:59am | 17/09/12

      Eh, depends on your definition of “soon”, I suppose. There are already plenty of purchases made via eftpos, debit or credit card every day, lets face it, most purchases over about $100 are more liekly to go onto a card than anything else. With the introduction of “tap and go” payment devices for microtransactions, we have the technology. It’s simply not used by many smaller businesses, although there’s no shortage of complaining the moment somewhere lacks eftpos facilities.

      I would say it’s only a matter of time, and if the country moved to push towards this we could be beginning to phase out physical currency in around 10 years or so (i.e. no longer produing new coins and notes). But we won’t, because Australia never leads the pack in anything and there are still far too many people who would be terrified of the idea of a purely electronic currency.

    • Shane From Melbourne says:

      01:51pm | 17/09/12

      If Cash was removed from the economy all the Tradies would go broke from having to pay GST and tax on their income…....

    • iMitchy says:

      01:55pm | 17/09/12

      Economically speaking, it can’t be done. The currency needs to be backed by a physical representation. The next best thing is what we currently have - the physical money just sits in a safe in the bank and we make our electronic payment without ever having to handle the money.

      It’s pretty much the same way the US did it pre ‘71. Their money was backed by gold and the cash represented a portion of gold. Now, the data that is linked to your debit card (ie your balance) is backed by physical money and the transfer of that data (electronic payment) represents a transfer of the physical cash.

      But without the physical money existing, what worth can you give the numbers on the ATM screen? Money is after all only a perception, “money” only exists in your mind as a value that you place on goods and services. If electronic bank balances aren’t a representation of a controlled, limited, tangible product (cash) then what are they?


    • Inky says:

      02:49pm | 17/09/12

      “If electronic bank balances aren’t a representation of a controlled, limited, tangible product (cash) then what are they? “

      And tell me, what exactly is the tangible value of a $20 note? Is it worth $20 in materials? Or is it merely a representation of a value, much like a number on a screen? What i’m talking about won’t break economics, it’s not a new concept or system, it’s merely changing an existing system.

    • iMitchy says:

      04:49pm | 17/09/12

      But Inky, how can you moniter and limit the creation of the data? The rate at which cash is printed has macroeconomical effects. Thus the rate at which the monetary data is created would have those same effects but it would be almost impossible to control.

      Then consider how foreign exchange with countries that use tangible cash would be affected.

    • Inky says:

      06:45pm | 17/09/12

      “But Inky, how can you moniter and limit the creation of the data? The rate at which cash is printed has macroeconomical effects. Thus the rate at which the monetary data is created would have those same effects but it would be almost impossible to control.”

      If electronic funds could not be controlled, and the creation of data could easily counterfeit currency, why do we have eftpos?

      The note about other countries, however, is a genuine point but there are certainly possible workarounds. Given that most people overseas tend to prefer using their existing debit/credit cards already, it’s not as if the system is alien. For those who want to exchange physical currency for credit, I doubt it’d be hard to set up something akin to a prepaid credit card with a value loaded onto it equal to the currency being exchanged.

      As I said, it’s not an alien concept, but we’ll not be the first to adopt it because people are so wrapped up in what they’re used to that they can’t see how little it would change things.

    • bael says:

      09:07am | 17/09/12

      Also it should be noted the value of the metals in the 5 cent coin are almost worth 5 cents.

    • Brian says:

      09:43am | 17/09/12

      And shortly before the GFC, were in fact worth a little over six.

    • SimpleSimon says:

      09:43am | 17/09/12

      Yeah, I’ve made the same comment about the penny in the US - it actually costs more than 1c to mint one. But it’s really a flawed argument. The fact that each coin gets used numerous times means the cumulative value of the coin is actually much greater than the 1c/5c. For example, if a 5c coin gets used only 20 times before someone eats it, it has contributed $1 worth of value to the economy. But yeah, it’s a fun fact.

    • Inky says:

      10:13am | 17/09/12


      Eh, it’s not even the cost of minting being mentioned here, most of today’s currency isn’t worth their weight, so to speak, it’s resource backed currency. It’s an interesting note that this particular coin, due to it’s size, actually has an inherant value of around the same to it’s applied value.

    • Rossco says:

      09:18am | 17/09/12

      I’m a big fan of NZ currency including their smaller 50 cent piece (more like our 20c). However the 10s and 20’s I did sometimes get confused due to the similar colours.

    • John Oh says:

      09:27am | 17/09/12

      Revalue our money. That will allow them to regain their sue.

    • John Oh says:

      09:29am | 17/09/12

      Devalue our money. That will allow them to regain their usefullness.
      Might upset those who sell home a bit. Wages will be lower etc…

    • Willie Mac says:

      10:06am | 17/09/12

      Amazing, there are actually people silly enough to call for devaluation, with all the pain that entails, merely to save a small little coin. People really must do their own cost-benefit analysis before they propose ideas like this.

    • Richard says:

      11:08am | 17/09/12

      DO you two know what the word “devalue” means? I give you a hint: it means to REDUCE the value of money. What you guys are talking about is the opposite, you’re proposing to INCREASE the value of money (i.e. in relation to the goods and services that money buys).

    • Steve says:

      09:52am | 17/09/12

      The five cent piece can go, but why we’re at it we should give serious consideration to removing our heaviest coins , the 20c and 50c pieces, and replacing them with a lighter 25c coin.  It may be perceived as a little too American, but the quarter is one example of Americana I would happily embrace.

    • Inky says:

      10:33am | 17/09/12

      I’m not really sure why we should be introducing new coins. As mentioned above, we should continue to shift to a currencyless economy as time progresses.

    • Richard says:

      11:06am | 17/09/12

      This article really annoys me. Well, not the writing, which is witty and enjoyable; but the premise, that 5c coins are redundant. In actual fact, 5c coins indeed cost more to produce than their face value of 5c. Apparently, the melt value of the metals in each 5c coin are more valuable than 5 cents!

      Now, this is a travesty, because it is first-hand evidence of the ravages of inflation. Far from being a “natural cycle”, inflation is a disease which brings massive pain, to mainly the lower classes in society.

      There was much rejoicing last week in the press when Ben Bernanke announced yet another round of massive inflation A.K.A Quantitative Easing in the USA. But the despicable fact is that this money printing program, like all inflation, is specifically designed to make the rich richer and the poor poorer.

      Because the rich own all the assets, all the stocks, all the real estate, all the gold, all the tangible assets of value. So when the massive monetary inflation hits (and like Hayek said, inflation is everywhere and in all cases a monetary phenomenon… i.e. consumer price rises are merely the SYMPTOM of inflation, not the inflation itself), but when the inflation hits, the rich see the value of all their assets rise dramatically, meanwhile, the rise in their cost of living is only comparatively small, because they don’t spend a great proportion of their wealth on essential living expenses percentage-wise.

      But for the poor, you know, they don’t have any/many assets, so they don’t get the benefit of willful inflation, but meanwhile, because such a great proportion of their income is spent on essential expenses necessary just to survive and stay alive, the increases in the cost of living for them are devastating.

      And so you know I can’t fathom why the left-wing compassionistas, who suppose to support the poor and hate the rich, aren’t up in arms about this blatant policy to make the rich richer and the poor poorer. The fact is, the left-wing do not care about the poor, they do not hate the rich, they’re all just posers trying to adopt whatever the “cool” political position is, latching onto the flimsiest rationale by the latest “expert” du jour to defend it, all the while not even understanding the slightest bit about the real issues at stake, nor even really caring about anything other than their ability to paint themselves as “compassionate” and their opponents as “heartless”.

    • Inky says:

      12:03pm | 17/09/12

      Wow…  you managed to take a rant about the evils of the rich, usually associated with the right, and blame it on the left.

      Well done, you are certainly something special.

    • Richard says:

      12:12pm | 17/09/12

      But that’s what I mean, Inky… where ARE the left on this issue? Why AREN’T the left condemning Bernanke’s inflation, which in my opinion will only make the rich richer and the poor poorer? The left aren’t opposing it, in fact the only people opposing it are the tea-party style libertarian right. In light of this, how can we come to any other conclusion that its actually the right who are opposing the evils of the rich, and its the left who are supporting the rich to get richer at the expense of the poor getting poorer?

    • andrew says:

      11:12am | 17/09/12

      I don’t bother carrying any coins with me - empty them into a bag every night, pay for everything with notes. I don’t generally use EFTPOS or card in shops either to minimise the chance of fraud, it seems much safer to me to go to my own bank’s ATM about once a week and pay cash. Yes i know i’m every shop keepers worst nightmare!

    • SimpleSimon says:

      12:07pm | 17/09/12

      FYI - you have as much (if not more) chance of being skimmed at an ATM than you do using your card in a store.

    • andrew says:

      01:41pm | 17/09/12

      yes but i’m only taking that risk once a week, not 5 times a day….....

      also at least banks have video surveillance, and i’d like to think they have at least the odd glance at the ATM outside the branch. ATM’s in bars, servos etc seem a far bigger risk.

    • Alicia says:

      12:19pm | 17/09/12

      Yes! Get rid of the 5c coin! I hates them. I’d love them if the parking meter was hungry for them though. I empty mine into a small box at home when I remember but this isn’t very often and I have about $1 so far.

    • colin says:

      01:52pm | 17/09/12

      Yes, let’s get rid of five cent pieces and bring back leaves as currency…Then we can burn down forests in the name of Economic Rationalism..!

    • Coin Dealer says:

      02:24pm | 17/09/12

      Obviously, it shows that David Green and most people commenting do not really understand the real collector (not face) value of any 5 cent coins.

      For example, a 1972 5 cent coin is worth approximately $30, but then again, most do not know this. The reason a 1972 5 cent coin is worth that much is because there were only 8,256,000 minted, making it a rare circulated coin. When was the last time you held a 1972 5 cent coin. There are many other rare 5 cent coins that are collectable and that are worth many times their face value.
      The 1968 5 cent coins are worth $8.00 each in excellent condition.
      I purchased 2oz gold in 1999 from keeping (2 x) 6,000 5 cent coins
      Nowadays, 1oz of gold costs 36,000 5 cent coins, six times as much..

      hmmm, now what has greater value to you, keeping that 5 cent coin or getting poor.
      All 5 cent coins are worth more than the face value (the value printed on the coin, the legal tender value). The collector value is, at minimum, 40 times more for all 5 cent coins.
      also, as governments purchase metals at government rates, then the cost of producing a 5 cent coin is not more than the cost of the metal. The costs you are using are the public rates, not government rates.


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