Twenty 'Centsible' Facts

By Dr. Sol Taylor
"Making Cents"
The Signal
December 2004

We don't have pennies — we have cents. Our coins have always been "One Cent," but early on, they were similar in size and value to the English penny of the colonies — and the word "penny" stuck.
    2. A million cents weigh about 3.5 tons — if they're mostly pre-1982 cents. They weigh about 3 tons if all are post-1982. 
    3. The designer of the Lincoln cent was Victor D. Brenner, whose initials, "V.D.B.," have appeared at the base of Lincoln's bust since 1918. In 1909 his initials appeared on the reverse, but they were removed after only five days of circulation. No initials appeared until 1918.
    4. A cent is one millimeter thick.
    5. In 1934 no Lincoln cent was worth more than $2 in mint condition. Today, several Lincoln cents have passed the $100,000 mark. A 1909-S VDB cent in mint condition in 1934 was 25 cents; today it can go for up to $10,000.
    6. The current Lincoln cent (since mid-1982) is 99-percent zinc with a thin copper coat.
    7. In 1943, all Lincoln cents were struck of steel with a zinc coating. About 30 coins from the three mints — Philadelphia, Denver and San Francisco — managed to be made in the bronze metal of the earlier year.
    8. In the war years of 1944 and 1945, the mints used recycled brass shell casings to make cents.
    9. Abraham Lincoln was the first president to appear on a regular-issue U.S. coin. George Washington had appeared on a commemorative silver dollar issued in 1900.
    10. The popular mint-error cent, the 1955 doubled die, is worth about $500 in used condition and up to $20,000 in pristine "mint" condition. About 20,000 were minted and released — even though the error was noted — due to a demand for cents at the time.
    11. Lincoln cents are now minted annually in amounts varying from 7 billion to 10 billion. Philadelphia and Denver mint 99.9 percent of the total. San Francisco makes only "proof" specimens (with a mirror-like finish) for collectors, in much smaller numbers.
    12. Lincoln cents minted from 1909-82 weigh 3.1 grams each. Those after mid-1982 weigh 2.5 grams each.
    13. Lincoln cents minted from 1909-58 are known as "wheat ears." Those minted since 1959 are known as "Memorial" types.
    14. U.S. Mint engraver Frank Gasparro designed the Memorial reverse of the modern Lincoln cent. His initials, "FG," appear to the lower right of the Lincoln Memorial steps.
    15. The mints make a combined $20 million in seignorage (profit) each year from the manufacture of cents.
    16. The Philadelphia Mint has produced Lincoln cents every year since 1909 except 1922 when it spent all of its resources making the new Peace dollars, and no other coins. The Denver Mint made about 7 million cents that year, but also was hard-pressed to bring out millions of Peace dollars.
    17. The Lincoln cent is the longest-running design of any U.S. coin, now in its 96th year — exceeding the $5 Liberty head gold piece, which reigned for 68 years.
    18. More collectors collect Lincoln cents than any other series, based upon the number of Lincoln-cent coin albums sold.
    19. Lincoln was the first president to wear a beard in office, having grown it during the campaign of 1860.
    20. The Lincoln cent replaced the highly popular Indian Head cent, which was issued annually from 1859 to early 1909. They continued to circulate well into the 20th Century.

    Dr. Sol Taylor of Sherman Oaks is president of the Society of Lincoln Cent Collectors and author of The Standard Guide to the Lincoln Cent. Click here for ordering information.