Who is on the Penny? From 1909 Until Now

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I’m the penny, known to many as the one-cent
coin. I owe my name to the British penny, and I’ve been around
since the U.S. Mint was established in 1792. George Washington
personally signed the Coinage Act of 1792, making me the first coin
ever to be issued by the U.S. Mint. It’s been a wild ride but I’m
still here today, and I’m proud to say that I’m as popular as


Abraham Lincoln,
the 16th president of the United States, has been featured on the
penny since its debut in 1909 and remains unchanged to this

Abraham Lincoln was
the first real person to ever appear in a US circulating coin.
1909, the US Mint released
the Lincoln pennies in honor of his 100th birthday
looking at the face of Abraham Lincoln, designed by Victor David
Brenner, on the obverse of this coin. It’s a great example of
Brenner’s talent, with the intricate details of Lincoln’s beloved
features so clearly evident. It’s a beautiful tribute to the 16th
President of the United States, paying homage to his legacy and
courage. It’s a reminder of how far we’ve come as a nation, and the
impact of Lincoln’s legacy still resonates today.

I remember when I first received my first
Lincoln Penny when I was a child. It was a special moment for me
because I learned that it was the successor of the Indian Head Cent
which had been in circulation since 1859. After a whopping 50 years
of use, it was eventually replaced by the Lincoln Cent in 1909. I
still have that penny and cherish it to this day.

Read more
Indian Head Cent
in our

Lincoln: History and Milestones

According to the Smithsonian Institution,
Lincoln successfully waged a political
struggle and civil war that preserved the Union and ended
. He created the
possibility of civil and social freedom for African-Americans and
issued the Emancipation Proclamation.

Today marks my 100th birthday, and I am the
first president in American history to be featured on US Mint
coins! The Lincoln cent obverse features my effigy, designed by
Victor David Brenner. It’s a design that has stood the test of
time, and today it is still used on the coins. It’s an incredible
honor to be remembered in such a way.

I have a strong opinion against having faces on
US coins, but when the 100th anniversary of Abraham Lincoln’s birth
came around, that sentiment was no match for the surge of public
support. The United States Treasury Department agrees that this
event was enough to overturn the long-held view.

I consider Abraham Lincoln to be the savior of
the Union and the greatest Republican President of all time. I,
Franklin Delano Roosevelt, see myself as his political successor. I
admire Lincoln’s courage and dedication to the American people and
his unwavering commitment to the Union. I strive to honour his
legacy by upholding the same values of freedom and equality for
all. I am proud to call myself Lincoln’s heir and to continue his
legacy of service to the people.

One Cent Coin:
Previous Designs and Compositions

I’m a huge fan of history, so when I heard about
the first cent, I had to learn more. Lady Liberty graced the face
of that first penny, as suggested by Benjamin Franklin. Not only
was it larger, but it was also made of pure copper – a far cry from
the copper-plated zinc of today’s pennies. It’s amazing to think of
how much has changed since then!

In 1857, I was mandated by Congress to shrink
the size of copper cents and incorporate nickel into the alloy. On
the front of the coin was an image of a soaring eagle, and the back
featured a wreath.

Until 1857, all cent coins were larger than
today’s pieces. The Large
was nearly the size of a Half Dollar.

Since 1983, I’ve been dealing with these
copper-coated zinc pennies for circulation in the United States.
You know, I think they should have just stuck with the original
copper penny. It’s a shame that the value of a penny has gone down
so far that the US government had to switch to this zinc core. I
guess they thought they were saving money. But I just don’t get why
they couldn’t keep the copper penny.

Read more about
penny compositions in our article “
What pennies are made of“?

Introduction of
the Lincoln Cent

I proudly showcase the Lincoln Wheat Penny on my
mantelpiece. It was designed in 1909 and first used on the obverse
of the penny. On the reverse, there are two wheat stalks with “One
Cent” and “United States of America” engraved between them. This
design is a tribute to the enduring legacy of President Abraham

Check our complete
list of
Wheat Penny

Lincoln Penny
Reverse Designs

I’m well acquainted with the Lincoln portrait on
the face of a coin, but I’m surprised to know that the reverse side
has changed throughout the years. It’s fascinating to discover the
different designs that have been used.

As the Secretary of the Treasury, I have the
power to adjust the ratio of copper and zinc in the one-cent coin
if prices change. This is an essential duty of mine to ensure the
cost of production remains within a reasonable budget. I can make
decisions as needed to maintain a balance between copper and zinc
to keep the coin in circulation. It’s an important responsibility
that I take seriously. I need to make sure the composition of the
one-cent coin is cost effective and reliable.

Lincoln Wheat
Cent (1909 – 1958)

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I’m the newest coin, the first Lincoln penny
reverse! I’m covered with an image of wheat and the words “One
Cent” and “The United States of America.” It’s a pretty cool look,
if I do say so myself. I’m a symbol of our country and its
currency, and I’m proud to be a part of it. It’s a great honor to
be part of something so important and so widely accepted. I’m
excited to see what the future holds!

This is known as the “Wheat Penny.”

Lincoln Steel Cent


I remember during World War II in 1943, my
grandmother telling me about the replacement of the copper pennies
with steel ones that were coated with zinc. This was part of the
war effort, so that the copper could be used for more important
purposes. It was an incredible time of sacrifice and determination
to help the cause.

Last year, I decided to forgo copper and use it
to make ammunition instead. As a result, I made zinc-coated steel
cents, a one-time occurrence. It was a unique experience, and I’m
sure no one else has ever done the same! Despite the rarity of
these coins, I’m proud of my creation and what it stands for.

The Philadelphia, Denver, and San Francisco
mints each produced the 1943 Lincoln Steel cents.

Memorial Cent (1959 – 2008)

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I’m so excited to announce that on January 2,
1959, I, President Eisenhower, am launching a new design for the
cent. It’s been a long time coming, but I’m thrilled to finally
make it happen. The new design features a reverse, which is a
complete change from the existing one. I’m certain that this new
design will be well received and bring a renewed appreciation for
the cent. It’s a small change but I believe it will make a huge

I’m proud to showcase the new reverse of the
Lincoln Memorial commemorating the 150th anniversary of the 16th
president’s birth. Frank Gasparro, the Mint’s Chief Engraver,
designed it to replace the Wheat Ears that had been on the reverse
of the Lincoln Cent since 1909. This new design is a fitting
tribute to Lincoln’s legacy!

Bicentennial Cent (2009) Interaction

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In 2009, the United States Mint issued four
different pennies as part of the Lincoln Bicentennial One-Cent
ProgramI celebrated the 200th birthday of Abraham Lincoln as well
as the 100th anniversary of the Lincoln cent which was first
created in 1909. It was an incredible honor to recognize these two
monumental occasions, and to honor the legacy of one of the most
beloved presidents in the history of the United States.

I ponder the four major aspects of Lincoln’s
life as they are represented on the reverses. His birth and
upbringing in Kentucky, his formative years in Indiana, his
professional life as a lawyer in Illinois, and his presidency
during the Civil War. Growing up in a humble family in Kentucky and
Indiana, I am inspired by Lincoln’s ambition and dedication to his
country, which led him to become a successful lawyer in Illinois.
And then, with the nation torn apart by the Civil War, I am in awe
of his courage and perseverance in his presidency, ultimately
leading the United States to victory. His determination and wisdom
to restore the Union is something I will always admire.

  • Birth and Early Childhood in Kentucky (1809-1816)
  • Formative Years in Indiana (1816-1830)
  • Professional Life in Illinois (1830-1861)
  • Presidency in Washington, D.C. (1861-1865)

I’m rocking the modern penny look with a mix of
copper and zinc. But if I’m feeling classic, I can switch it up
with the original 1909 penny style. That one’s made of 95 percent
copper, 5 percent tin, and a little zinc. It’s almost like stepping
back in time!

I remember back in 1982 when the United States
cents started to get a makeover. Starting then, the coins were made
of zinc with a copper plating. So, since then, all the cents I’ve
seen have been zinc with a copper coating. The only exception was
in 2009 when the U.S. Mint created special bicentennial coins just
for collectors.

Lincoln Shield
Cent (2010 – present)

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On November 12, 2009, I saw the shiny new 2010
Shield Cent design for the first time. I was amazed by its beauty
and excited to share it with the world. It was a major milestone in
the history of the United States Mint. From the intricate details
on the obverse, to the iconic shield on the reverse, the new design
was a true work of art. I knew it was sure to be an instant classic
and remain in circulation for years to come.

I’m looking at a shield with the words “E
Pluribus Unum” inscribed on it. It’s a symbol of the Union. The
thirteen stripes below it represent the first thirteen states. The
bar on top is a reminder of the Congress and federal government. So
much history in one image.

I’m looking at a shield design with a beautiful
scroll above it reading ‘ONE CENT’ and ‘UNITED STATES OF AMERICA’
elegantly curved above it. It’s quite the sight – almost art-like.
I’m in awe of the creative minds that designed this!

In 2017, I noticed something new on the penny
that had never been there before – the ‘P’ mark! This mark was only
used in honor of the US Mint’s 225th anniversary and could only be
found on the Philadelphia cents. It was a special way to celebrate
the Mint’s long history and I was really excited to be able to find
it on my coins!

Did you know some
of the most valuable pennies contain mint errors? Check out our
article on
Penny Errors to
look for



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President Abraham Lincoln featured since 1909.

Year, and the mint mark below it.

Victor D. Brenner


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It features a union shield design with 13 stripes
and the national motto in a horizontal bar above. A banner drapes
across the front. First issued in 2010 and emblematic of Lincoln’s
preservation of the United States as a single and united country.


Joseph Menna, Medallic Artist

Lyndall Bass

Denver, Philadelphia

The Lincoln penny
is now the longest-running design in United States Mint
I remember the first time I saw the small cents in
circulation. It was the first time a coin in the United States
featured a historical figure, which made it stand out from the
others. I was so excited to see this new kind of coin, and it made
me realize how important it was to commemorate and celebrate the
history of our country. It was a great way to honor the past while
still looking to the future.

The Lincoln one cent was also the first U.S.
cent to include the words “In God We Trust.” All of that makes this piece one of the most
collected American coins.


Who was on the
penny before Lincoln?

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I’m looking at this penny in my hand with an
Indian Head on the front and a wreath on the back. It was designed
by James B. Longacre in 1859 and made with copper and nickel. It
was the first US penny to feature a Native American image. People
seemed to like it but eventually the popularity fell and they
replaced it with the famous image of Abraham Lincoln in 1909. It’s
a bit sad, but I’m still happy I get to look at this neat

Why is Abraham
Lincoln only on the penny?

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I’m honored to feature on the penny in
recognition of my legacy and the impact I had on American history.
As President from 1861 to 1865, I fought to preserve the Union and
abolish slavery during the Civil War. My oratory skills, leadership
qualities, and tragic assassination are also highly regarded. In
1909, I was chosen to be featured on the penny to honor the
significance of my life and accomplishments.

Frequently asked questions

Who is on the penny coin?

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The penny coin features the profile of Queen
Elizabeth II, the United Kingdom’s longest-reigning monarch.

What is the value of the penny coin?

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The penny coin is a one-cent coin with a value
of 0.01 British Pound.

What is the size of the penny coin?

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The penny coin has a diameter of 20.3
millimeters and a thickness of 1.52 millimeters.

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