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Cent

Current Designs

2012 Lincoln One-Cent Obverse
2012 Lincoln Cent Obverse
2012 Lincoln One-Cent Reverse
2012 Lincoln Cent Reverse

"Preservation of the Union"  The 2010 and beyond reverse (tails side) design is emblematic of President Abraham Lincoln's preservation of the United States as a single and united country, as required by Title III of Public Law 109-145, the Presidential $1 Coin Act of 2005.  While the obverse (heads) continues to bear the familiar Victor David Brenner likeness of President Lincoln that has appeared on the coin since 1909, the reverse features a union shield with a scroll draped across and the inscription ONE CENT.

Background

When the United States Mint was created in 1792, one of the first coins it made the following year was the one-cent coin, and it looked very different from the modern version.  The image on the first cent was of a lady with flowing hair, who symbolized liberty.  The coin was larger and made of pure copper, while today's smaller cent is made of copper and zinc.

In 1857, Congress authorized the United States Mint to strike the cent with 88 percent copper and 12 percent nickel.  The "shape and size" would be determined by the United States Mint Director, with the approval of the Treasury Secretary.  The new cents showed a flying eagle on the front and a wreath on the back.  The act of February 21, 1857, also mandated that people could no longer use coins from other countries, a practice that had been necessary because of a lack of domestic coinage.  However, people could bring their foreign coins to the United States Mint, where they could be exchanged for U.S. silver coins and the new cents.

From 1909 to 1958, the Lincoln obverse was paired with a reverse that featured a wheat design in which two sheaves of wheat flanked the words ONE CENT and UNITED STATES OF AMERICA.  It is commonly known as the "wheat penny."

From 1959 to 2008, the reverse featured an image of the Lincoln Memorial designed by Frank Gasparro.  It commemorated the 150th anniversary of Lincoln's birth.

In 2009, the United States Mint issued four different one-cent coins in recognition of the bicentennial of President Abraham Lincoln's birth and the 100th anniversary of the first issuance of the Lincoln cent.  The themes for the reverse designs represent the four major aspects of President Lincoln's life:

  • birth and early childhood in Kentucky (1809-1816)
  • formative years in Indiana (1816-1830)
  • professional Life in Illinois (1830-1861)
  • presidency in Washington, DC (1861-1865)

Specifications

Composition: Copper-Plated Zinc: 2.5% Cu, Balance Zn
Weight: 2.500 g
Diameter: 0.750 in., 19.05 mm
Thickness: 1.52 mm
Edge: Plain

View other circulating coins
The Department of the Treasury Seal
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