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New Lincoln Penny




Bicentennial Commission Played Key Role in First Changes in 50 Years

September 22, 2008 

Washington – The Lincoln penny will have a new look in 2009 – actually four new looks.

Today, the Abraham Lincoln Bicentennial Commission joined the U.S. Mint to unveil the four new “tails” side designs that will be released in 2009 to mark the 200th birthday of the 16th president.  The designs mark the first change to the penny since the Lincoln Sesquicentennial in 1959.

“From modest Midwestern roots, Abraham Lincoln rose to the Presidency through his intelligence, integrity and commitment to the nation that he loved,” said U.S. Senator and ALBC Co-chair Dick Durbin (D-IL).  “He is a true American hero whose enormous courage and strength of character during some of our nation’s most tumultuous times have been sources of inspiration for generations of Americans.  As we approach the bicentennial of Lincoln’s birth, these commemorative coins will play an important role in this year-long tribute to his life and legacy.”

The ALBC played a major role in the development of new pennies.

The legislation directing the U.S. Mint to create new pennies for the Bicentennial was introduced in Congress by two of the ALBC’s three co-chairs, Senator Dick Durbin (D-IL) and Rep. Ray LaHood (R-IL). The ALBC submitted concepts to guide the Mint’s artists, who created multiple potential images for each coin from which to choose.  Finally, the ALBC was one of three bodies to recommend a single final design for each coin.  The U.S. Commission of Fine Arts and the Citizens Coin Advisory Committee also offered recommendations.  Treasury Secretary Henry Paulson made the final selection.

“When the legislation was originally written we thought it was important to include a new design for the penny,” said U.S. Rep. Ray LaHood (R-IL), an ALBC co-chair.  “We are delighted that the U.S. Mint chose to create four new designs which so beautifully celebrate the life and legacy of Abraham Lincoln.”

The new pennies will feature four new designs on the reverse side of the coins, marking different aspects of the 16th president’s life:

  • Birth and early childhood in Kentucky (1809-1816) – features a log cabin designed by United States Mint Artistic Infusion Program (AIP) Master Designer Richard Masters and sculpted by United States Mint Sculptor-Engraver Jim Licaretz.
  • Formative years in Indiana (1816-1830) – depicts a young Lincoln reading while taking a break from working as a rail splitter in Indiana.  Designed and sculpted by United States Mint Sculptor-Engraver Charles Vickers.
  • Professional life in Illinois (1830-1861) – depicts Lincoln as a young professional standing in front of the old state capitol building in Springfield.  Designed by United States Mint AIP Master Designer Joel Iskowitz and sculpted by United States Mint Sculptor-Engraver Don Everhart.
  • Presidency in Washington, DC (1861-1865) – features the half-finished United States Capitol dome, symbolizing a Nation torn apart by civil war and the resolve Lincoln showed as he guided the country through its worst crisis.  Designed by United States Mint AIP Master Designer Susan Gamble and sculpted by United States Sculptor-Engraver Joseph Menna.

"It is a particular privilege and pleasure for the Commission to fulfill its congressional mandate by welcoming such beautiful and evocative new designs for the 200th birthday Lincoln penny series,” said Lincoln scholar Harold Holzer, the third of the ALBC’s three co-chairs.  “'Common looking people are the best in the world,' Lincoln once mused, 'that is why the Lord makes so many of them.'  Thus it is 'altogether fitting and proper,' to quote him yet again, that America's quintessential common man will continue to be honored, in fresh and exciting ways, on the most common and ubiquitous coin circulating in the great nation he helped to save.  As we near this bicentennial year, it is good to know that the U.S. Mint has developed a new arsenal of Lincoln pennies, and plans to circulate 'so many of them.'"

The new pennies will be released into circulation incrementally by the U.S. Mint every three months through 2009.  The Kentucky penny will be released in February, Indiana in May, Illinois in August, and the District of Columbia in November.

After 2009, the “tails” side of the coin will feature “an image emblematic of President Lincoln’s preservation of the United States of America as a single and united country,” according to the legislation.

The “Lincoln cent” first appeared during the centennial observation of Lincoln’s birth in 1909 and represented a major departure from previous American coinage.  For the first time, a U.S. coin depicted a real historical figure rather than the allegorical “Liberty” figures or the more generic “Indian head” that immediately preceded Lincoln on the penny.  Victor David Brenner’s profile of Lincoln, which has appeared continuously on the obverse, or “head” side, of the penny since its introduction in 1909, will remain through and after the 2009 bicentennial celebrations.

Additional information about the 2009 Lincoln Bicentennial penny program can be found on the U.S. Mint’s Web site.