Abraham Lincoln One Penny Coin

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Lincoln Memorial Cent

The history of American coins is a window into social and cultural changes. The Lincoln Cents or popular “wheat penny” is a symbol of permanent change in coin collecting.

Abraham Lincoln was one of America’s most notable presidents. Known for his choices surrounding the American Civil War (1861-1865) and the issue of slavery in the country, Lincoln is integral to American history. In 1909, the Lincoln one penny coin was introduced into general circulation to mark the century since Lincoln’s.

Until the introduction of the Lincoln one cent coin there had never been a portrait on an American coin in general circulation. The wheat design on the reverse side of the penny is always thought to be the thing that makes it historically important.

Lincoln’s image was the work of the sculptor Victor David Brenner based off a statue of Lincoln created a few years earlier. It was President Teddy Roosevelt that chose Brenner for the job.

The phrase “in god we trust” was included for the first time on a Lincoln cent coin. Congress passed an act back in 1865 stating that the phrase would appear on American coins but it wasn’t until the Lincoln penny that the act received any follow through.

After approval by then Head of the U.S. Treasury, Franklin MacVeagh on July 14, 1909. The first Lincoln cent coin went into public circulation on August 2, 1909. The name of the sculptor appeared on the first few printings of the coin but then disappeared until 1918. Many thought his signature had been too prominent. It returned and became a small “VDB.”

In February 1959 the Lincoln penny was altered making the wheat design a popular collector’s piece. The choice of the two simple wheat sheaf design was a symbol or remembrance, memorializing Lincoln’s contribution to the country as well as his untimely death. The president was assassinated by John Wilkes Booth on April 14, 1865 as he watched a production of “Our American Cousin” at the Ford’s Theater. The coin change was to commemorate 150 years since Lincoln’s birth on February 12, 1809.

In 1955, over 20,000 double die Lincoln coins went into circulation. Like the many historic changes caused by the introduction of the Lincoln cents, the 1955 penny coin proved a magnet for coin collectors and the interest in numismatics continues into the present.

In 1909, six different and distinct versions of the one cent piece were released into public circulation. There were two versions of the Indian head design and four of the Lincoln head design.

The one penny coin is the most commonly reproduced coin due to its small denomination. It has endured over a century of American history and shows no sign of disappearing into the U.S. Mint archives. Like his legacy, the Lincoln coin remains with us.