One of the most widely-collected coins, the Lincoln cent (often called "penny") was the first regular US coin to feature the portrait of a real person – Abraham Lincoln. Created to celebrate Lincoln’s 100th birthday, it was first struck in 1909 and is still in use today.

The reverse of the penny stated the denomination – "one cent" – in the center and featured wheat ears on either side. This design lasted until 1959, Lincoln’s 150th birthday and the 50th year of the coin’s production, when the image of the Lincoln memorial that is still seen on pennies today was first used.

Lincoln pennies have been made from various different materials over the years. Originally, they were made of 95% copper and 5% tin and zinc, but in 1943, copper was needed for the war effort, so they were made using steel coated with zinc. However, these new 1943 pennies looked very similar to dimes, confusing some members of the public, so in 1944 and 1945, they were produced using spent shell casings and a small amount of new copper. This gave them the same coloring and feel as the original bronze cents.

Lincoln bronze cents began to be made again in 1947, and in 1982, the mint switched to copper-plated zinc.


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