Let’s Look at a Penny

By June Swanson

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    Almost everyone knows what a penny looks like. But do you know why the likeness of Abraham Lincoln is on the front of it?

    The head of Lincoln first appeared on the penny in 1909 in commemoration of the famous president’s hundredth birthday. Earlier pennies had the head of an Indian in full headdress stamped on them.

    The Lincoln penny was the first one to have the words “In God We Trust” inscribed on it. To the right of Lincoln’s head is the year in which the coin was made. An S under the date means it was made at the San Francisco mint, and a D means it came from the Denver mint. If only the year appears, the penny came from the Philadelphia mint.

    At first the back side of the Lincoln penny had two wheat sheaves on it with a large ONE CENT in the middle. Sometimes we can still find one of these older pennies in a handful of change. Then in 1959, to commemorate the 150th anniversary of Lincoln’s birth, the reverse side of the penny was changed to show a picture of the Lincoln Memorial. This penny is still being made today.

    For over one hundred years United States pennies have been made of a mixture of metals containing at least 95 percent copper. The only time this changed was during World War II when there was a shortage of copper. In 1943 the penny was made of zinc-coated steel and had a silvery blue appearance.

    In 1944 and 1945 pennies were made from old cartridge cases. They were a little lighter in color than the penny today. In 1946 the minted pennies again contained copper.

    Today copper is expensive. Treasury officials estimate that it costs about ten cents to make each penny. This is one reason some people think the government should stop making them.

    A few older Lincoln pennies are worth much more than ten cents, however. Sometimes only a few of a particular kind were made, and these have become extremely valuable. For example, certain 1931 pennies can be worth as much as $50, and some 1922 pennies are even worth $1,000!

    Maybe we should all take a closer look at those common old pennies in our pockets and piggy banks. They may be old, but they might not be so ordinary after all!

    Penny Puzzle

    Can you find the following things on the front side of a Lincoln penny? Be careful, some are tricky. The first answer is given.

    1. Flowers—tulips (two lips)

    2. Fruit

    3. Part of a river

    4. Country

    5. Small animal

    6. A drink that is against the Word of Wisdom

    7. Yourself


    Show References

    • (2) date, (3) mouth, (4) us (in TRUST), (5) hare (hair), (6) tea (t), (7) I (eye).