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Abraham Lincoln's

200th birthday anniversary cent

Front of 2009 coin shows Lincoln.Over the years, there have been many design changes for the one-cent coin.  Usually, the 25-year minimum has to pass between redesigns.  But, thanks to the 2009 Lincoln Bicentennial One Cent Program, there was four design changes within 2009!

2009 was not only the 200th anniversary of Abraham Lincolnís birth, but the 100th anniversary of the Lincoln cent as well, first appearing in 1909.  The Lincoln image remained on the front of all four cents in the new program, and is on the current year.

On the back, four different images highlighted four parts of Lincoln's life.  These coins were issued about 3 months apart in the order they happened (you can scroll down to see them).

Birth and Childhood in Kentucky

Abraham Lincoln was born on February 12, 1809, in a small log cabin like the one shown on this one-cent coin.  Nolin Creek ran nearby, and the closest town, 3 miles away, is now called Hodgenville.  Abraham was named after his grandfather on his fatherís side and was Thomas and Nancy Lincolnís second child.

When Abraham was two years old, the Lincolns moved to Knob Creek Farm, not far away.  They worked a 30-acre section of the 228-acre farm.  By the time they moved again in 1816, Abraham was old enough to fetch water and firewood.

This coin reminds us of one of the most amazing aspects of Lincolnís life:  that his humble beginnings on the Kentucky frontier were the first step on the road to the nationís presidency.

Youth in Indiana

Abe grew into a skilled plowman and woodcutter at his new home in southern Indiana.  For a frontier farm boy in those days, there wasnít much time for learning from books or going to school.  Yet his parents loved to read and passed that love on to their son.

He often carried a book along with his axe.  By the age of 11, he had read The Life of Washington, The Autobiography of Benjamin Franklin, Robinson Crusoe, and A Thousand and One Arabian Nights.  The design on this coin captures this part of Lincolnís life by showing him reading while he takes a break from his work as a rail splitter.

While in Indiana, his mother Nancy died.  This was a terrible loss for 9-year-old Abraham.  But his father later married Sarah Bush Johnston, who proved to be a kind and caring stepmother.  The next time the family moved, Abraham was 21.

Professional Life in Illinois

Thomas Lincoln decided to move the family in 1830 to Illinois, farther west.  Abraham worked at different jobs there, including piloting a steam boat.  But he was also becoming more and more interested in politics and in studying and practicing law.

He was elected to the Illinois General Assembly in 1834.  In 1837, he moved to Springfield, the capital of Illinois.  There, he married Mary Todd and they had their first child, Robert Todd Lincoln. Doing well as a lawyer, Lincoln won election to the US House of Representatives in 1846.

Lincoln debated Stephen Douglas for a seat in the US Senate in 1858.  Although he lost that election, the debates made him nationally famous as they showcased his debating skills, clear thinking, and moral character. Two years later, the Republicans nominated him to run for president, and he won the election.

This coin design shows Lincoln standing outside the state house of Illinois.  It reminds us of his career in law and politics before he ran for the presidency.

Presidency in Washington, DC

On this coin, the US Capitol buildingís dome is still under construction, as it was during Lincolnís term in office.  The dome continued to rise as the Civil War raged and the Union struggled to remain united.

The war began just after Lincoln took office in 1861.  During his second year as president, Lincoln declared all slaves free in the rebel territory through the Emancipation Proclamation.  Lincoln was elected for a second term in 1864 and the war finally came to an end the following year.

Just 5 days after the war ended, President Abraham Lincoln was assassinated while watching a play in Washington.  Army doctors worked all night to save him, but he died the next morning at the age of 56.  Before he was buried in Springfield, Illinois, his body lay in state, visited by thousands of mourners, under the Capitolís newly-completed dome.


The circulating version of these coins used the same standard inscriptions and the same metal content as have been used recently.  A special version of these coins for collectors was also made.  The coins look the same, but contain the metals that were used in the original 1909 cent (95 percent copper, 5 percent tin and zinc) instead of the modern cent's mix (2.5 percent copper, the rest zinc).

After the 2009 Lincoln Bicentennial One Cent Program, the design on the back of the one-cent coin changed to represent the unity of the states, which President Lincoln worked so hard to restore and preserve.

A little history of the Lincoln cent...

    It started in 1909 when Vincent David Brenner designed both the obverse and reverse on the new cent to mark the 100 centennial of Lincoln birth. The earliest versions of the Lincoln Cent featured Brenner's initials (V.D.B.) near the bottom of the back of the coin.  Apparently, such a prominent display was considered offensive, and the initials were removed later in 1909.  In 1918, the initials re-appeared, this time hidden on the truncation of Lincoln's bust.

   In 1922 something filled the D mintmark on a already worn die to create a much sort out 1922 "plain" variety. They only made the cent at the Denver mint that year so all 1922 cents should have the D mintmark. The "Strong" reverse variety is the most desireable.

   In 1943 the United States Government change the composition of the cent to 100% steel with a thin layer of zinc because of it's high demand of copper during the World War 2. In 1944 and 1945 the Lincoln cent was made out of bronze shell-case and went back to it's normal composition in 1946.

   The reverse design was changed from Wheat ear to the Memorial reverse in 1959 and has stayed that way since 2008. The Lincoln cent has the longest life spam of any other United States coin since it conception.

    Statistics - Diameter: 19mm, Weight: 3.11g,  Composition: 95% copper 5% Tin Zinc  Edge: Plain

   Key dates - 1909-S VDB, 1914, 1922 Plain, 1931-S

   Common known errors and varieties - 1944 D/S, 1955 DDO, 1972 DDO, 1983 DDR, 1984 DDO, 1995 DDO. Small and large dates in 1960, 1960 d, 1982, 1970 proof, clear and filled (s) 1979 and 1981 proofs and 1998-2000 Wide AM.

   In closing - The Lincoln cent has something to offer to every collection. If you are looking for a good value of certified example check out our inventory of cents 1 2 3 or some varieties and error examples 1 2.

All picture are "United States Mint Images".

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