The Lincoln cent was introduced to honor the nation's 16th president
on the 100th anniversary of his birth.
Both sides of the
coin introduced in 1909 were designed by Victor D. Brenner. Coins
struck from June to Aug. 5 depict the initials V.D.B. at six o'clock
on the reverse.
The initials on the reverse were believed
to be too conspicuous by some and due to negative newspaper coverage
were removed from coins struck later during 1909 by order of the
secretary of the Treasury. That action resulted in the 1909 and 1909-S
varieties, both with and without V.D.B. The coins with the initials
are scarcer, with the 1909-S Lincoln, V.D.B. cent being a key coin in
COIN VALUES: See how much Lincoln cents are worth today
The initials were restored to the coin in 1918, but were placed on
the obverse at the left lower part of the truncation, where they
appear on all Lincoln cents after that date.
Memorial reverse designed by Frank Gasparro was introduced in 1959 to
mark the 150th anniversary of Lincoln's birth.
Memorial reverse made the Lincoln cent the first U.S. coin struck for
circulation to depict the same person on both the obverse and reverse,
since a statue of Lincoln can be seen inside the memorial on the reverse.
In 2010, the Shield reverse was introduced, which according to a
U.S. Mint release at the time, "features a union shield with a
scroll draped across and the inscription ONE CENT."
Sixteen type coins by design and composition can be collected to
complete a type set of Lincoln cents: the 1909 with reverse
initials v.d.b., 1910-17 without initials, 1918-58 Wheat reverse with
obverse initials v.d.b., 1943 (zinc-coated steel), 1944-46 (95 percent
copper and 5 percent zinc), 1959-62 Lincoln Memorial reverse (with 95
percent copper, 5 percent zinc and tin composition), 1962-82 (95
percent copper, 5 percent zinc); 1982 to 2008 Lincoln Memorial reverse
(99.2 percent zinc, 0.8 percent copper) and the four new reverses
produced honoring the bicentennial of Lincoln’s birth and centennial
of the coin design produced both in 99.2 percent zinc, 0.8 percent
copper and the original 95 percent copper, 5 percent zinc and
The 1943 issue during World War II is probably one
of the best known failures in the U.S. coinage system. The zinc-coated
steel cents are magnetic and will not work in most vending machines.
The zinc quickly deteriorates in use. At the time the 1943 cent was
issued, the public complained the coin was being confused with dimes
An almost legendary error from this period is the
1943 copper composition cent. The few genuine specimens apparently
were made by accident when some copper-alloy planchets used for 1942
cents became mixed with steel planchets.
Likewise, there are 1944 zinc-coated steel cent errors. Although the
Mint did not use the steel planchets for U.S. coins after 1943, it did
use them to strike foreign coins in 1944. Again, steel planchets were
mixed with the copper alloy planchets, resulting in the error.
Key dates in the series are generally accepted to be the
1909-S V.D.B., 1909-S, 1914-D, 1922-D No D, 1924-D, 1931-S, 1955
Doubled Die and 1972 Doubled Die.
The Presidential $1
Coin Act of 2005 (Public Law 109-145) authorized the United States
Mint to issue four different Lincoln cent reverses throughout 2009 to
recognize the bicentennial anniversary of Lincoln's birth and the
100th anniversary of the production of the Lincoln cent. Brenner’s
likeness of Lincoln continues on the obverse. The reverse designs are
emblematic of four periods, or themes, in Lincoln’s life: His birth
and early childhood in Kentucky; his formative years in Indiana; his
professional life in Illinois; and his presidency in Washington, D.C.
At the conclusion of the bicentennial year, beginning in 2010, the
Lincoln cent coin will feature a reverse design emblematic of
Lincoln's preservation of the union.
Each of the four
2009 reverses include the inscription 1809, the year Lincoln was born.
The reverse designs include: Childhood in Kentucky designed by United
States Mint Artistic Infusion Program Master Designer Richard Masters
and sculptured by United States Mint Sculptor-Engraver Jim Licaretz;
Formative Years in Indiana designed and sculptured by United States
Mint Sculptor-Engraver Charles Vickers; Professional Life in Illinois
designed by United States Mint AIP Master Designer Joel Iskowitz and
sculptured by United States Mint Sculptor-Engraver Don Everhart;
Presidency in D.C. designed by United States Mint AIP Master Designer
Susan Gamble and sculptured by United States Sculptor-Engraver Joseph
The United States Mint also will issue numismatic
versions of the four redesigned 2009 Lincoln cent reverses with
exactly the same metallic content as the 1909 coin (95 percent copper,
5 percent tin and zinc). They will be struck. Proof and Uncirculated
conditions, and will be included in the United States Mint's annual
numismatic set offerings.
Keep reading from our "Know Your U.S. Coins" series:
Cents and half cents:
2- and 3-cent coins:
Dimes and half dimes: