Opinion: Lincoln’s penny gets a new look -- actually four new looks


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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 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.

-- Johanna Neuman

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Photo credits: U.S. Mint