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The Presidents on Our Coins

The presidents that appear on the obverse (front) side of our circulating coins were all selected by Congress in recognition of their service to our country. However, they were chosen under slightly different circumstances.

Designed by Victor Brenner, the Lincoln cent was issued in 1909 to commemorate the 100th anniversary of Abraham Lincoln's birth. Felix Schlag's portrait of Thomas Jefferson, which began to appear on the obverse side of the nickel in 1938, was chosen in a design competition among some 390 artists.

The death of Franklin Roosevelt prompted many requests to the Treasury Department to honor the late president by placing his portrait on a coin. Less than one year after his death, the dime bearing John R. Sinnock's portrait of Franklin D. Roosevelt was released to the public on FDR's birthday, January 30, 1946.

The portrait of George Washington by John Flanagan, which appears on quarters minted from 1932 to today, was selected to commemorate the 200th anniversary of our first president's birth.

The assassination of President John F. Kennedy generated such an outpouring of public sentiment that President Lyndon Johnson sent legislation to Congress to authorize the Treasury Department new 50-cent pieces. Bearing the portrait designed by Gilroy Roberts, the first Kennedy half-dollars were minted on February 11, 1964.

The United States Mint has not published a historical publication of coinage. The numismatic (coin collecting) sections of public libraries usually contain excellent references that may be of interest to you. Two such publications are:

A Guide Book of United States Coins
R.S. Yeoman, 50th Edition, 1997
Western Publishing Company, Inc.
Racine, Wisconsin 53404
The History of United States Coinage
Illustrated by the Garrett Collection
Q. David Bowers for the Johns Hopkins University
Bowers & Ruddy Galleries, Inc.
Los Angeles, California, 1980

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