Collecting Lincoln Cents - From Wheat Stalks to Union Shields

Lincoln Head Cents

One of the most easily-recognizable presidents in United States history, Abraham Lincoln (born February 12, 1809), is also a prominent figure on U.S. coinage. His likeness, of course, appears on U.S. one-cent coins, and has done so since 1909. Lincoln Cents are long-time favorites for collectors of all ages. This is due in part to the relative ease of finding what you need (oftentimes in your own pocket change), fairly low cost to build your collection, and a wide variety of years, mint marks, metal content, etc.

Lincoln Cents are the longest running coin type in United States history, and among the longest running coin types in world coinage history. With over 100 years in production, there are many years and designs for the collector to pursue for his or her collection. The Lincoln type cent was the first regularly circulating U.S. coin to feature the image of a real person, and was also the first U.S. cent coin to bear the motto In God We Trust, which wasn’t required on smaller cent coins at the time. In addition to minor updates to Lincoln’s profile, which appears on the obverse (heads side) of the coins, there have been a few different designs featured on the reverse side of U.S. Lincoln Cent coins over the years.

The original Lincoln Cent, released in 1909 to coincide with the 100 year anniversary of Lincoln’s birth, featured a pair of wheat stalks on the reverse. These coins are commonly referred to as "wheat cents" or "wheat pennies". (Fun fact: even though the term "penny" is often used in reference to U.S. one-cent coins, "pennies", as an official denomination, are only produced by Great Britain and its territories.) After 50 years of producing wheat cents, the U.S. Mint released a new one-cent design in 1959 in conjunction with the 150th anniversary of Lincoln’s birth. This new reverse design featured the Lincoln Memorial - in enough detail to show the statue of Lincoln in the center.

Perhaps the most ambitious design update for U.S. one-cent coins happened in 2009, when four different designs were released to commemorate the 200th anniversary of Lincoln’s birth. Each design in the bicentennial series portrays a stage of Abraham Lincoln’s life, from his birth and childhood, to his formative years, to his professional life and finally his presidency of the United States of America. All of these fun designs are easy to collect, readily available as individual coins, in rolls of 50, or even in boxes of 50 rolls for a total of 2500 coins! For the more advanced or discerning collector, several varieties of these four designs are also available certified by third-party grading services.

Lincoln Cent DesignsStarting in 2010, through the present, a new design has been minted featuring the Union Shield, which represents Lincoln’s role in preserving the United States of America as a unified country. No one can say how long this design, or the one-cent coin itself, will be produced by the US Mint. There have been discussions over the past few years as to the feasibility of continuing the production of the U.S. one-cent coin due to the rising cost of making each coin. We can’t predict the future, but whether or not new cent coins continue to be issued, one thing is certain – Lincoln type cents will continue to be popular for new and experienced coin collectors alike!

Abraham Lincoln consistently ranks in the top 3 in surveys of the greatest presidents in U.S. history – oftentimes taking the top spot. Take a moment on February 12th, Honest Abe’s birthday, to reflect on the life and legacy of the 16th president of the United States of America, and what his enduring image has meant for U.S. coinage throughout the years. It’s also the perfect time to start, or grow, your very own Lincoln Cent coin collection!