The Lincoln Cent has been produced longer than any other United States design and in far greater numbers than any coin in the history of the world. Since its beginning in 1909, it has endured to this day with the same obverse, honoring our beloved 16th president. It was also the very first circulating coin to portray a President’s likeness. Although only the most well-heeled have the necessary resources to complete a collection, numismatists of all levels can pursue this fun and fascinating series as its collecting options are seemingly endless.
Many collectors begin their numismatic journey assembling sets of this interesting, historically rich series due to its relative affordability. A good percentage also return to it when finances are more discretionary later in life. The design run features not only the most valuable error of all time, the 1943 Bronze Cent, but the most dramatic double die in all of numismatics. Due to the intense publicity the 1955 Double Die received, more people than ever began taking an interest in the hobby of Kings. When collecting, a premium is placed on coins displaying original mint red color. Red status is reserved for those deemed to have 85% or more mint red. A Brown cent is defined as having less than 15% red remaining and a Red-Brown shows 15%-85% of its original mint color.
President Teddy Roosevelt influenced changes in all United States’ numismatics designs between 1907-1921. He became acquainted with Victor David Brenner when Brenner was commissioned to do his portrait for the Panama Canal Service Medal. As the Centennial of Lincoln’s birth was approaching, Brenner had completed a plaque featuring a bust of the beloved former President. Thus the idea for the Lincoln cent was born, and the designer chosen. Brenner’s obverse displays Lincoln’s portrait facing right, with the inscription LIBERTY on the left and the date on the right. For the first time on a cent, the motto IN GOD WE TRUST appears along the upper obverse rim. Two sheaves of wheat frame inscriptions E PLURIBUS UNUM, ONE CENT and UNITED STATES OF AMERICA. While the obverse design continues to this day, the reverse was altered in 1959 on the sesquicentennial of Lincoln’s birth to feature the Lincoln Memorial.
Look for Kathleen’s article "The Lincoln Cent’s First 50 Years" in next month’s Coin Dealer Newsletter.