The lowly penny might have little value in monetary circulation, but as an art object, well, that’s an entirely different matter.
Pictou County musician Dave Gunning found that out recently, much to his surprise, as the Royal Canadian Mint still has its paws all over the copper where copyright is concerned. But count on a fine folksinger to put the material to good use.
Gunning ran into the snag as he geared up for his latest CD release, “No More Pennies,” on Sept. 18. In a bit of a homage to the soon-to-be-defunct coin, the album art features it from a couple of angles.
With artwork designed by Michael Wrycraft, the front cover depicts someone sitting at a lunch counter, trying to scrape up enough change to pay for his coffee – a sentimental way of saying goodbye to a small piece of money that once helped a lot of working-class joes make ends meet.
On the back, a sunset image features a penny sinking below the horizon.
Representatives of the Mint got in touch to let Gunning know such a depiction would be in breach of copyright. Furthermore, as if the Canadian entity literally holding a licence to print money really needed it, they decided to charge for the use.
That led to the penny drive idea.
The Mint, upon hearing of the plans, graciously let Gunning off the hook for the initial run of CDs, but they’re holding firm on future production. So the singer-songwriter is asking fans to bring pennies to album-release shows this fall for an old-fashioned penny drive to help cover the Mint’s demands. In turn, Gunning plans to make a donation of $1,200 to the IWK Children’s Hospital in Halifax.
It’s an amusing, kind of convoluted turn of events, with – at the heart of it all – a coin worth less than its cost of production and headed for the scrap heap.
But if the penny drive goes well, everyone turns out a winner: the fans, the artist, the IWK and, irony of ironies, the Royal Mint for recognizing there’s gold in that there nostalgia.