Guest Author - Alan Daigle
Do you have a jar, box, or piggy bank with pennies in it? You are not alone. A lot of people save their one cent coins. Some of these coins are known as "wheat" pennies, which were made from 1909 thru 1958. This denomination was first minted in 1909 to mark the one hundred year anniversary of Abraham Lincoln's birth. This coin was also the first penny to have the words "IN GOD WE TRUST" on them. The Lincoln type cent was the first penny to have a United States president on it. This coin is one of the most collected from the United States of America.
The one cent coin is nineteen millimeters in diameter, and has a plain edge. Their weight was 3.11 grams from 1909 through 1942. The zinc-coated steel pennies from 1943 weighed 2.70 grams. From 1944 through 1958, the Lincoln cent weighed 3.11 grams. With the Lincoln Memorial reverse starting in 1959, the penny still weighed at 3.11 grams. In 1982, the weight was reduced to 2.5 grams. In that same year, both weights were minted. The dates on these pennies are both small and large. The Philadelphia and Denver mints made a total of seven different coins. 1983 became the first year that the date was changed to the smaller size.
Victor D. Brenner was the person that designed this coin. His initials, VDB, are on the back or reverse side of some 1909 cents. Later in this year, Victor's initials were removed from the penny. In 1918, they were placed on the front or obverse side on Lincoln's shoulder.
Wheat pennies were made from copper(95%), and tin and zinc(5%) metals. In 1943, Lincoln pennies were made with zinc-coated steel. The cents from 1944 through 1946 were made from salvaged cartridge cases from WWII. In 1947, the pennies went back to the original alloy.
1959 marked the 150th year since Abraham Lincoln's birthdate. The Lincoln Memorial was placed on the reverse side of the one cent coin. Rev. Frank Gasparro was the designer of this reverse side of the penny. From 1962-1982 they were produced with copper and zinc. From 1982 to the present day, pennies are 97.5% zinc and 2.5% copper. Both types of alloys were issued in 1982. This penny is lighter than the original cents.
The Lincoln penny was minted at Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, Denver, Colorado, and San Francisco, California. In 1985, a total of 696,585,000 coins were manufactured at West Point, New York. Many varieties of this type of penny were made. This was due to the way the mint marks were punched. Improperly prepared dies have caused some double die error coins. The 1955 cent had a very noticable double die error on the obverse side. Error cents are usually hard to find in circulation. A coin dealer is your best bet at obtaining these types of coins. EBAY may also have some of them.
Will the one cent coin ever be redesigned? Abraham Lincoln has been on this coin for almost one hundred years. This type of penny has been around longer than any other denomination. 2009 will be another anniversary of Lincoln's birthday. If history repeats itself, we may see a new design for the Lincoln penny.