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The Presidents on Our Coins

The presidents that appear on the obverse (front) of our circulating coins were all selected by Congress in recognition of their service to our country. However, they were chosen years apart and under 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 front of the nickel in 1938, was chosen from among 390 entrants in a design competition.
  • Following many requests to see the recently-deceased FD Roosevelt on a coin, John R. Sinnock's portrait of Roosevelt was released on FDR's birthday in 1946.
  • The portrait of George Washington by John Flanagan, which first appeared on quarters in 1932, commemorated the 200th anniversary of our first president's birth.
  • The assassination of President John F. Kennedy generated a great outpouring of public sentiment. Bearing the portrait designed by Gilroy Roberts, the first Kennedy half dollars were minted in 1964.

The United States Mint has not published a historical reference about coinage. The numismatic or coin collecting sections of public libraries usually contain excellent reference books that may interest 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
As Illustrated by the Garrett Collection
Q. David Bowers for the Johns Hopkins University
Bowers & Merena Galleries, Inc.
Wolfboro, New Hampshire, 1988

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