Interesting Facts About the Lincoln Cent
-- The first Lincoln cent of 1909 was issued for the 100th anniversary of Abraham Lincoln's birth. It replaced the Indian Head cent, which had been struck since 1859, prior to the Civil War.
-- President Teddy Roosevelt had been very impressed by a Lincoln memorial plaque by the distinguished engraver Victor D. Brenner. Based on a Civil War portrait, it was recognized as the finest engraved depiction of Lincoln. Brenner adapted this engraving for the new Lincoln cent.
-- It was the first time in U.S. minting history that a portrait of an historical figure appeared on American coins intended for circulation. (The 1892-1893 Columbus commemorative half dollar was not minted for commerce.) The Lincoln cent established the U.S. presidential coin sequence continued in 1938 with the Jefferson nickel and completed in 1971 with the Eisenhower dollar.
-- The Lithuanian-born Brenner originally inscribed his name on the Lincoln penny model, as was customary with European engravers. On the first "VDB" Lincoln cent of 1909, his initials appear on the reverse "Wheat" side. After release, the coin won great acclaim but some objected that the initials were obtrusively large. Later in 1909, a second type was issued without initials.
-- A simple "B" engraver's initial was suggested, but U.S. Mint Chief Engraver Charles Barber protested that it might be mistaken for his name (and he was not fond of the Lincoln cent). After Barber's death, Brenner's initials were restored in small form on the obverse side.
-- In 1922, only the Denver Mint struck Lincoln pennies. But on a very limited number the die was damaged so that the "D" mintmark was erased. This 1922 "Plain" rarity is a great collector favorite.
-- As World War II munitions production peaked, the 1943 steel cent temporarily replaced 95% copper cents. In 1944-1946 special cents were struck from copper recycled from spent artillery shells.
-- On the Lincoln penny's 50th anniversary in 1959, the Lincoln Memorial reverse replaced the long-standing Wheatie design, 1909-1958 .