Who is on the penny?

Who is on the penny?
Posted on June 14, 2024 by BOLD Precious Metals

Before discussing who is on the penny, it's important to learn about the penny's background.

The term "penny" originates from the British coin. George Washington's Coinage Act of 1792 led to the first U.S. coins. In 1909, Abraham Lincoln replaced the Indian Head cent on the one-cent coin, becoming the first real person on an American coin.

Lincoln, known for the Emancipation Proclamation and leading the Civil War, remains on the penny and the $1 bill.

Since we already know who is on the penny, it is crucial to understand why. This article provides a comprehensive overview of Abraham Lincoln's life, highlighting the significant historical events he encountered and shedding light on the fascinating history of the cent coin.

Did you know that the heads up mean good luck and the tails bad luck when you find a penny on the street?

Check out this article for more interesting facts about the penny.

     Abraham Lincoln: History and Milestones

The sixteenth President, Abraham Lincoln (1861–1865), had an even more challenging task. Elected in 1860, Lincoln came into the presidency, leading a nation in crisis. His election itself marked the end of political control by the South. Lincoln fought to preserve democracy throughout the Civil War, being re-elected in 1864 with the help of an overwhelming majority of soldier votes.

Abraham Lincoln: History and Milestones

During his presidency, he fought tooth and nail to hold the Union together, although it was divided on issues of slavery. The secession of the Southern states, caused by his election, resulted in the Civil War. In April 1861, when the first plea for union was not heeded, the war erupted. The bitter and prolonged war led to significant transformations in the nation.

Lincoln marshaled all his considerable resources to maintain the tenuous political balance between the contentious factions and execute the first modern industrial war.

He was initially focused on Union preservation, but as the war went on, the Union's fate was increasingly bound up with African-American freedom. He had forewarned as much with the phrase \"new birth of freedom\" in his Gettysburg Address of 1863.

Perhaps one of Lincoln's greatest achievements was employing political acumen to build up the executive branch and maintain the Union. He instituted the military draft and suspended habeas corpus, acts that many find controversial. He laid the foundation of the modern state.

Lincoln leaves a significant legacy. Additionally, he defended African Americans' civil rights, stopped slavery, and kept the Union together. He became a martyr after being assassinated in 1865, making him a symbol of the brightness and dedication to freedom of the United States.

Story of the Lincoln Cent

In 1909, the Indian Head Cent was replaced by the Lincoln Cent (also known as the Lincoln Penny), a one-cent coin. This marked the inaugural appearance of an American President on a US coin. The reverse of the Lincoln cent featured two wheat sheaves encircling the legend and denomination.

Due to their larger size than current US cents, the first official cents were known as large cents when they were first issued in 1793. The modern-size one-cent coin officially replaced the large cents, which were still in circulation until 1857.

In 1909, the cents were redesigned with an effigy of Abraham Lincoln on the obverse and two sheaves of wheat framing the denomination and legend on the reverse. These pennies are, therefore, referred to as "wheat cents". This marked the inaugural appearance of a US President on any US coin.

     Lincoln Penny Reverse Design Modifications

Abraham Lincoln made history in 1909 when he was featured on the nation's first coin. The Lincoln portrait hasn't changed since then, but the reverse has featured a number of different designs:

  • Lincoln Wheat Cent (1909 – 1958)

    Lincoln Wheat Cent (1909 – 1958)

    The words "One Cent" and "The United States of America" were surrounded by an image of wheat on the first Lincoln penny reverse. We call this the "Wheat Penny".

    Victor David Brenner created the coin's obverse and the original reverse, which has two wheat stalks on it. The statutory legends on the coin were framed by a heraldic arrangement of wheat heads.

    Certain Lincoln wheat pennies are in high demand among coin enthusiasts, and their worth can fluctuate based on the editions.

  • Lincoln Steel Cent (1943)

    Lincoln Steel Cent (1943)

    In 1943, as part of the war effort, steel pennies coated in zinc were used in place of copper during World War II.

    Copper was diverted from the penny-minting process that year and used instead to make ammunition. As a result, zinc-coated steel cents were made, which were only made once in history.

    The 1943 Lincoln Steel cents were struck in three different mints: Philadelphia, Denver, and San Francisco.

  • Lincoln Memorial Cent (1959 – 2008)

    Lincoln Memorial Cent (1959 – 2008)

    President Eisenhower announced in a press release on December 21, 1958, that production of a new reverse design for the cent would start on January 2, 1959.

    To mark the 150th anniversary of Abraham Lincoln's birth, Frank Gasparro—who would become Chief Engraver at the Mint—designed the Lincoln Memorial, which was featured on the new reverse. The Wheat Ears, which have been on the reverse of the Lincoln Cent since 1909, were replaced by the new design.

  • Lincoln Bicentennial Cent (2009) Interaction

    Lincoln Bicentennial Cent (2009) Interaction

    In 2009, the Lincoln Bicentennial One-Cent Program included four different pennies that were released by the US Mint. In addition to commemorating Abraham Lincoln's 200th birthday, the program marked the 100th anniversary of the Lincoln Cent, which debuted in 1909.

    The four main facets of Abraham Lincoln's life are represented by the themes on the reverses:

    Kentucky Births and Early Childhoods (1809-1816)

    Indiana's Formative Years (1816–1830)

    Illinois's Professional Life (1830–1861)

    Washington, D.C., presidency (1861–1865)

    These coins are in circulation and have the same metal composition as other modern cents—2.5 percent copper and the remaining zinc. The uncirculated version is composed of 95% copper, 5% tin, and 5% zinc, the same metals used in the original 1909 cent.

    Except for the 2009 bicentennial cents made for collectors, United States pennies produced after 1982 have been made of zinc with a copper coating.

  • Lincoln Shield Cent (2010 – present)

    Abraham Lincoln: History and Milestones

    On November 12, 2009, the new 2010 Shield Cent design was first made public.

    The Union is represented by a shield with the words E PLURIBUS UNUM engraved on the reverse. The 13 original states are represented by the 13 stripes on the shield. Congress and the federal government are represented by the bar across the top.

    The words "ONE CENT" are displayed on a scroll above the shield design, and the words "UNITED STATES OF AMERICA" are arched beautifully above the shield.

    The "P" mark first surfaced on circulating pennies in 2017. The 225th anniversary of the US Mint is commemorated on Philadelphia cents only in 2017.

     Fun Facts About the Penny

  • In the past, the term "penny" and its variants throughout Europe, such as the German "pfennig" and the Swedish "penning", referred to any kind of coin or money, not just small denominations.

  • Until 1857, all cent coins were bigger than the modern one-cent piece. The large cent was almost the same size as the fifty cent.

  • The US Mint states that Benjamin Franklin created the first penny, which featured interlocking chains to represent unity during the Revolutionary War era. Many, though, interpreted the meaning incorrectly to allude to slavery. The chains were soon replaced with a wreath.

  • Prior to 1909, Lady Liberty was the face of the coins. Currently, the cent coin features the likeness of President Lincoln.

  • To commemorate Lincoln's 200th birthday, four distinct designs representing different periods of his life were added to the reverse (tails) side of the penny in 2009. Thirteen vertical stripes on the penny depict the Union Shield, signifying the union of thirteen states.

  • Victor David Brenner created the Penny's Lincoln portrait. The artist's initials, "VDB," were originally also on the coin before they were removed in the wake of controversy.


The penny, featuring Abraham Lincoln, carries a rich history. From its British origins and George Washington's Coinage Act of 1792 to Lincoln's placement in 1909, this small coin symbolizes much more than its value. Understanding this background and the changes in the penny's design enriches our appreciation of this everyday coin.

If you're looking to add Abraham Lincoln's legacy to your coin collection or investment portfolio, you're in the right place. Here at BOLD, we offer Lincoln Wheat Cent silver rounds from GSM in various sizes. This allows you to appreciate the historical significance as well as the intrinsic value of silver.

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