The Lincoln Penny: The History and Significance

1909 lincoln penny

Since its inception, the Lincoln penny has become an emblem of American history, representing the life, legacy, and values of one of the nation’s most revered presidents, Abraham Lincoln. The birth of the Lincoln penny dates back to 1909, the centennial year of Lincoln’s birth, when the then-president, Theodore Roosevelt, commissioned the renowned sculptor, Victor David Brenner, to design a new cent coin. Brenner’s design featured a profile of Abraham Lincoln on the obverse side and wheat stalks on the reverse, symbolizing American agricultural heritage.

Design Evolution:

The initial 1909 version of the Lincoln penny made waves due to its innovative use of an actual person’s portrait, rather than the customary allegorical representation. However, due to production issues and concerns over the prominence of Brenner’s initials on the reverse, the design was modified in 1918 to feature the Lincoln Memorial on the reverse side instead of the wheat stalks.

The Significance of the Lincoln Penny:

The Lincoln penny not only honors the 16th President of the United States but also serves as a symbol of unity and perseverance during tumultuous times. The image of Lincoln reminds us of his leadership during the Civil War and his unwavering commitment to preserving the Union.

Furthermore, the Lincoln penny serves as a constant reminder of Lincoln’s remarkable personal journey. Born into poverty, Lincoln rose to become one of the most influential figures in American history. The coin carries the message that with hard work, determination, and integrity, anything is possible in the land of opportunity.

Collectability and Value:

Over the years, the Lincoln penny has garnered immense popularity among coin collectors worldwide. The scarcity of certain editions, such as the 1909-S V.D.B. cent, has increased its desirability and value. The Lincoln penny’s collectability represents a tangible link to the past and a fascination with numismatics.

Philanthropic Initiatives:

In recent years, the Lincoln penny has also been associated with philanthropic efforts. One such initiative is “Coins for a Cause,” where individuals donate their spare change, particularly Lincoln pennies, to support charitable organizations or causes. This serves as a testament to the enduring impact of the Lincoln penny beyond its monetary value.


Like any historical artifact, the Lincoln penny has had its fair share of controversies. One of the most notable controversies surrounding the coin is the inclusion of Brenner’s initials on the reverse side. This sparked concerns about excessive self-promotion and led to their removal in subsequent editions.

Additionally, there have been debates about updating the design of the Lincoln penny to reflect a more contemporary image of the president. However, due to its historical significance and strong public sentiment, the original design has remained largely unchanged.

The Lincoln penny stands as a cherished relic, symbolizing the ideals of freedom, unity, and resilience that Abraham Lincoln embodied. From its iconic design to its role in numismatics and philanthropy, the penny continues to captivate collectors and remind Americans of their shared history. As we handle these small copper coins every day, let us not forget the profound story they carry—the story of Abraham Lincoln and the indelible mark he left on the United States of America.