US Cents – representing more than 225 years of American history • During its storied history, the US Mint has struck a wide variety of coins. But the cent and half cent hold a special place as the first pieces struck by the fledgling mint! Back then, coin dies were cut by hand, and each die cutter would add his own touches. A screw press was used to squeeze the planchets between the obverse and reverse dies. Horses or strong men powered the press, and the mint's security system was a ferocious dog named Nero!
The start of something big
Our first cents were much larger than the ones we know today. Nearly as large as a half dollar, these coins depicted Liberty on the obverse and the denomination within a wreath on the reverse. There were several design variations during their years of issue until 1857. In that year, the rising cost of copper brought a major reduction in the size of 1¢ coins, and the Large Cent passed into history.
A reduction in size
With the passing of the Large Cent, America's Small Cent was introduced. The first small-size US Cent design was the Flying Eagle, which was issued for general circulation in just two years, 1857 and 1858 (Flying Eagle cents of 1856 were pattern pieces).
Because of problems with the striking process, the design was soon discontinued. It was replaced by the Indian Head Cent in 1859. This beautiful design actually portrays Liberty wearing a Native American headdress on the obverse, while a laurel wreath adorns the reverse. After 50 years of issue, in 1909 it was time for a new cent design...
Debut of the Lincoln Cent
In 1909, to honor the 100th anniversary of Abraham Lincoln's birth, a new cent design debuted. Featuring the 16th US President's portrait on the obverse, and the denomination surrounded by ears of wheat on the reverse, this coin was immediately popular. Now, more than 110 years later, this series holds the honor of being the longest-running US Cent series in America's history.
After 50 years, the long-running Wheat Ears reverse was replaced by a design featuring the Lincoln Memorial in 1959. This reverse design took the Lincoln cent through its next 50 years. Then, in 2009, to honor both the centennial of the Lincoln cent and the bicentennial of Abraham Lincoln's birth, four unique reverse designs were issued honoring milestones in his life. Finally, in 2010, the current US Cent reverse was unveiled. It depicts a Union Shield, made popular during the Civil War era.
During its storied past, the Lincoln Cent series has seen its share of key dates and popular issues. It's long been a popular collectible for kids, too! More recently, due to rising production costs, there has been talk in some circles that it may be time to retire this popular denomination. No one yet knows what the future may hold, but one thing is certain – this US cent is America's favorite "little" coin!