The year 2009 marks the 200th anniversary of the the birth of Abraham Lincoln. As was the the case with the 100th anniversary and the 150th anniversary, this milestone will not go unnoticed in the numismatic community. In fact, legislators have mandated an impressive and extensive new series Lincoln cents.
In 2009 the event will be celebrated numismatically by the introduction of four new Lincoln cents with appropriate reverse designs paying tribute to the life of Abraman Lincoln. It does not end there. In 2010 another Lincoln cent will be released, this one with the reverse acknowledging the overall contribution of Lincoln to to his country.
The original Lincoln cent has been with us for 100 years. It is likely that the new Lincoln cent will be be a repeat performer.
The original Lincoln cent was introduced in 1909. This coin was revolutionary for its day. It was the the first U.S. coin to bear a portrait of a previously living person. Prior to that time, all coin obverses were symbolic or allegorical in content. Lincoln's portrait marked the beginning of a trend toward a more realistic and more humanistic coinage.
The portrait has remained unchanged to the present day and will continue on the coin's obverse far into the future. The original Wheat Ears reverse was converted to the Lincoln Memorial reverse in 1959 on the 150th anniversary of Lincoln's birth.
The legislation enabling the new designs for the Lincoln cent is the Presidential $1 coin Act of 2005 (Public Law 109-145). This legislation authorizes both the new Presidential dollars and the new Lincoln cents. So far this law has generated the most commotion around the Presidential dollars because they proceded the Lincoln cents into circulation.
The legislation addresses both the obverse and ther reverse designs of the new Lincoln cents.
The obverse design will continue to the be the current Victor D. Brenner likeness of Abraham Lincoln.
The reverse shall bear four different designs, issued consecutively in 2009, each representing a different aspect of the life of Abraham Lincoln, specifically:
(a) his birth and early childhood in Kentucky
(b) his formative years in Indiana
(c) his professional life in Illinois, and
(d) his presidency, in Washington, D.C.
The new law specifies that the metallic content for the 2009 Lincoln cent will be an exact duplicate of the metallic content as the 1-cent coin contained in 1909. The original metal was bronze, 95% copper and 5% tin and zinc.
After December 31, 2009 the reverse of the coin will be changed again. The Lincoln Memorial design, used from 1959 to 2008, will be discarded and replaced by a new design emblematic of President Lincoln's legacy. The 2010 version is not intended to be changed to the foreseeable future.
As of this writing (January 2008) the design process is underway. Finalized designs will be included here when appropriate.
HISTORY OF THE LINCOLN CENT
It is a given that the Lincoln cent has two major types, the Wheat Ears Reverse which began minting in 1909 at the 100th anniversary of Lincoln's birth and the Lincoln Memorial Reverse which began minting in1959 at the 150th anniversary of Lincoln's birth. This is enough types to satisfy many collectors.
Another set of collectors (be they classified as perfectionists, pack rats, extremely rich, micromanagers, or just having excess time on their hands) treats every variation in the Lincoln cent coinage as a new type and will have several coins in their "complete" collection.
These variations include the presence or absence of a designer's or sculptor's initials, presence or absence of a particular motto (e.g. IN GOD WE TRUST), placement of the motto (obverse, reverse, or rim) and metal composition.
Lincoln cents include many of these variations. A comprehensive (although not exhaustive) type list follows:
Type I Lincoln Cent, Wheat Ears Reverse (1909-1958)
Lincoln Cent, Wheat Ears Reverse, V.D.B. (1909)
Lincoln Cent, Wheat Ears Reverse (1909-1958)
Variety 1 - Bronze (1909-1942)
Variety 2 - Zinc Coated Steel (1943)
Variety 1 Resumed (1944-1958)
Type II Lincoln Cent, Lincoln Memorial Reverse (1959-date)
Copper-Plated Zinc (1982 to date)
In 2009 we can look forward to a new Lincoln cent approximately every 90 days. Since these will be business strike commemorative coins, conventional sources of supply for circulating coins should be dependable sources for the new Lincoln cents This includes the United States Mint and Federal Reserve banks, among others.
All the above assumes that the penny continues to exist as a viable component of U.S. circulating coinage. Complicating the matter is the the fact that the seiniorage for the coin is currently negative. The seigniorage is the monetary value of the coin less the cost to produce it. The cost to produce includes production costs and bullion costs. Currently, high copper and zinc prices are the cause of this state of affairs.
(Note: If new coinage excites the masses, then the year 2009 is going to the stuff that frenzies are made of. If everything goes according to plan, 15 entirely new business strike commemorative coins will enter general circulation that year: 4 Presidential Dollars, 4 Lincoln Cents, 1 Sacagawea Native American Dollar, the District of Columbia Quarter, and 5 territorial quarters. That amounts to 1 new coin approximately every 24 days. Nothing like this has ever been seen before, and its equal will probably be some time in coming.)