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Lincoln's penny gets a new look -- actually four new looks

The front of the Lincoln penny

Abraham Lincoln's penny has been around since 1909, when it was inaugurated with several firsts. It was the first U.S. coin to include the words "In God We Trust," and the first to include a portrait. "A strong feeling had prevailed against using portraits on our coins," said a Treasury Department fact sheet, "but public sentiment stemming from the 100th anniversary celebration of Abraham Lincoln's birth proved stronger than the long-standing prejudice."

Now, in honor of the 200th anniversary of Abe's birth, the U.S. Mint is planning to release four new Lincoln pennies this year. Of course these days, given the rising price of zinc and copper, it costs about 1.4 cents to make a penny. As the Washington Post suggested, maybe Congress should change the metal content of the coin to steel.

The first Lincoln penny had Abe's face on the front and  two stalks of wheat on the back. That was replaced 50 years ago with the ubiquitous image of the Lincoln Memorial. But this time, the Mint has really thought outside the box and come up with four separate images for the back of the coin -- four images in the life of the 16th president.

The Lincoln Kentucky penny The first depicts the one-room log cabin in Kentucky where Lincoln was born. It's already in circulation.

The second shows him as a rail splitter in Indiana. (The mint says it should start moving into circulation in mid-May). The third, due out in August, shows him reporting to work at the Illinois Legislature, and the fourth penny, due in November, depicts the U.S. Capitol without its dome -- a symbol of the civil war that divided the nation when he was president.

The Lincoln Indiana Penny

The Lincoln Illinois Penny

The Lincoln D.C. Penny

-- Johanna Neuman

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Photo credits: U.S. Mint

Comments () | Archives (59)

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Who writes these articles? The Lincoln cent was NOT the first coin to bear the motto "In God We Trust." That honor goes to the two-cent piece first minted in 1864. Leave it to the Times to screw up even something as simple as this, something every coin collector knows.

only idiots want to get rid of the fights inflation

Picturing politicians on coins is a bad idea. There's a reason why the United States avoided it until Teddy Roosevelt's administration. It's no coincidence that it happened right around the time that our political class decided that the United States should become an empire.

Why even have pennies anymore? Look at Australia - They phased out their 1 and 2 cent pieces ages ago. Pennies are unnecessary, expensive, inefficient etc..

Very interesting, I suppose coins minted in this year will become collectors items in years to come, as will the older coins.

Personally, I think they should get rid of all coins altogether! Just round everything to the nearest dollar!


Nice designs. Coin collectors willl be happy too~

WOW! What a cool penny! I almost forgot about the 30 Trillion dollar debt!

Please let 2009 be the final year pennies are minted - they are an obsolete denomination and cost more to mint than the value they represent.

The Lincoln penny was not the first to have the 'In God We Trust' phrase. It was first used in 1864 on the 2¢ coin.

It is also not the first to use a portrait, at the 1893 Columbian Exposition quarter dollar featured Queen Isabella of Spain. It is, however, the first US coin to feature a president.


Quit making pennies! Seriously, people... let it go.

what are these new pennies to make up for closing Lincoln Historical sites in IL? Cause if it it aint helping

Wait... so instead of using government resources to fix the economy, we are wasting time, man-power, and money to create new designs for pennies, which actually cost more than 1 cent to produce? Makes perfect sense.

This is an outrage.

We're wasting money on pennies. Not 1, but 4. AND WHO USES PENNIES?!

I wonder when we get to see them in circulation.


Exactly how does losing money by minting coins fight inflation?

How the hell am I going to get change or cash my paycheck if there is not a penny? We going to round to the nearest 10 so I can get screwed some more by big business and government? Mentally challenged persons like yourself are the cancer of our society. People like you allow the ruling class to form our minds and enslave us. Think for yourself, fool.

If the penny goes away, so will all cash shortly after, and you WILL get injected with a RFID chip shortly after that.
Once you get that, you have the mark of the beast, and he owns you 100%.
A cashless society is not one where freedom exists. They will tax you to death. STUPID SLAVES! There is no where else to run from this tyranny. We need to stop it here. Please for the love of God, wake up and start fighting to preserve your freedom.

A million isn't what it used to be, and pennies *are* obsolete. What about revaluing the dollar: $100 = $10?

The dime would become the new dollar, and we wouldn't have to embarrass ourselves by reissuing $500 bills any time soon :D

Humm, I have an 1865 2 cent piece with the words "In God We Trust" guess you're writers don't know basic google research.

Are there any plans to remove the one-cent coin (more popularly known as the "penny”) from circulation?

You may be interested to know that the penny is the most widely used denomination currently in circulation and it remains profitable to make. Significantly, it is Congress that determines the denominations of coins that the Mint must produce and put into circulation. Each penny costs .81 of a cent to make, but the United States Mint collects one cent for it. The profit goes to help fund the operation of the United States Mint and to help pay the public debt. In 2000, this profit added up to about $24 million. As the United States Mint produces the coins that Congress mandates, it does not have the authority to abolish a unit of currency. If directed to do so by legislation enacted by the Congress and signed by the President, the Treasury Department would again study phasing out the penny. Because the demand exists and the Federal Reserve Banks require inventories to meet the demand, the United States Mint is committed to producing the penny.

It makes me happy to see "In God We Trust" is still being printed.

@Web 11:53

your = belonging to you
you're= you are
I guess some commenters don't know basic grammar.
; D

Who uses pennies?!? Duh. Are you a moron?!? What a stupid question. How do you pay for anything that is taxable with cash? $9.97 Yeah, I can pay that with the exact amount of $10.00. Doh!

Ahh. I love the smell of freshly manufactured faux outrage in the morning....

It makes me sad to see "In God We Trust" is still being printed.

Oh my god, im so thrilled! I just love the design of the pennies that will be coming out, and shiny too haha. Anyways totally awesome!


Politicians shouldn't be on coins, period. Not in a proper republic.

very interesting article, I like the new look

A great idea- alhtough I'm not surprised as Obamas role model seems to Abe Lincoln. Good job.

I'm really not a big fan of all the new mints. I don't like all the different quarters. If you are going to make a new mint, that is fine. But why multiple versions? Keep it simple

What? No picture of Honest Barry Obama on the new penny alongside that of Lincoln? Come on now... Obi the One is the New Lincoln Incarnate and possibly Jesus H. Christ too.

Ahh. I love the smell of freshly minted outrage in the morning.... too as in aslo.

In God we Trust.. all other pay cash and don't forget the tip.

different article very nice to read this

I love both Abe Lincoln and shiny things.

We definately need to get rid of the penny. It's basically worthless. Rounding everything off to the nearest nickel would be perfectly fine, since you can't even buy anything for a nickel anymore, and you certainly can't buy anything for a penny.

Let's hope that after they mint all of these commemorative pennies that they plan to, congress will get serious about getting rid of the 1 cent coin.

Then let's get the "In God we trust" off the rest of the coins.

And finally, the author of the article needs to learn how to research, as indeed the 2 cent coin minted in 1864 was the first "In god we trust" coin...

Some commenters mentioned non U.S. coins with portraits dating back to the 1800's. The Lincoln penny is indeed the first U.S. coin to have a portrait (unless you include the Lady Liberty coins)... but portraits on coins go back as far as the Roman empire - B.C.

To those that think we should keep the penny:

"Historical precedents — There has never been a coin in circulation in the US worth as little as the penny is worth today. Due to inflation, as of 2007[update], a nickel is worth approximately what a penny was worth in 1972.[9] When the United States discontinued the half-cent coin in 1857, it had a 2008-equivalent buying power of 13¢.[10] After 1857, the new smallest coin was the cent, which had a 2008-equivalent buying power of 26¢. The nickel fell below that value in 1974; the dime fell below that value in 1980;[9] the quarter fell below that value in 2007.[10] "(wikipedia)

Would you have been in favor of minting a 1/5 cent coin in 1972? No? Then it doesn't make sense to keep minting the penny today.

Another thought for those that think we should keep the penny:

"The zinc suppliers profits — The penny is 97.5% zinc and the removal of the penny would decrease profits of zinc suppliers. According to economic theory, however, the purchase of zinc for the minting of pennies is effectively a subsidy to zinc producers, and doing so creates a net loss of wealth for the nation."

If continuing to create a net loss for a nation with the financial struggles that we have makes sense - then I guess we should keep the penny.

They cant stop making pennies beacuse say if there were no pennies and a dudes change was $1.01 and he gives the cashier 1.05 the cashier leagley can not take any money. or that is an easy lawsuit. he has to give him exzact change back. Plus they would have to make even prices to where no pennies are used. making stores crash with fustration. There by causing all stores to close untill the can figure out the even no pennie prices! Which can take evn a little gas station untill 2011. and walmarts and k mart and other big big store maybe 2019! So we need pennies yea i hate picking them up off the ground in my house but there is a purpose we need them!

well seing as how i have worked with coins for years.. these will end up being collectors peices and the mint can sell them uncirc. for a decent amount of money, right now i believe they are at about twenty bucks for a roll (which is really equal to 50cents if circulated.) so its not a waste of money... not to mention in a few years they will be worth a lot, so instead of complaining i suggest you buy a roll of each from both mints, uncirc. preferable 70s and hold on to them as long as you can then sell them ... or you can be ignorant. and complain.

here's another two cents: when people no longer trust themselves, or even each other, they have recourse to trust in gods and governments. it's not because the metal worth and cost to make the coin exceeds the market value of the cent, that it's so worthless (in fact this would make a cent more valuable than a fiat dollar note - if it weren't for the artificial devaluation of any money backed by anything).
so here's the motif, taken at face value: from food and shelter - to labor and business - to education and social control - to power and empire building; personality cult and personal mockery, and feudo-socialist propaganda (even the latest president was not exactly born in a manger and his father did not really herd goats either, and he was early on more interested in splitting hairs than logs); besides the obvious ridicule of a nation's deliberately ruined currency, what else is advertised at the disowned target group's own expense, on the symbol of their mindless slavery? major civil unrest and bloody sacrifice before the new global power superstructure is completed? and will to that effect a certain now existing dome, first be taken down?

They should change the inscription to "in God we trusted"

Ahh. I love the smell of freshly minted outrage in the morning.... too as in aslo.

In God we Trust.. all other pay cash and don't forget the tip.

They should change the inscription to iin God we trusted..

If continuing to create a net loss for a nation with the financial struggles that we have makes sense - then I guess we should keep the penny...

only idiots want to get rid of the fights inflation..

the penny diferentiates us from the rest!

Whoever said that they are sad to see "In God We Trust" still stamped on US coinage must be either an uncultured swine or a communist sodomite.

Probably both.

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About the Columnist
A veteran foreign and national correspondent, Andrew Malcolm has served on the L.A. Times Editorial Board and was a Pulitzer finalist in 2004. He is the author of 10 nonfiction books and father of four. Read more.
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