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  • Writer's pictureDave Rodgers

A “Penny” for Your Thoughts

Updated: Aug 21, 2021

Despite the name, the USA has never issued a “Penny” as federal currency…ever. The one-cent denomination has always been officially called a “Cent”. The name “Penny” is slang carried over from the British denomination. The first US One-Cent coins were issued in 1793 and were roughly 6x the mass of the “pennies” we carry around today. In 1857, the ‘Large-Cent’ design was scaled down to the familiar size we know of today. The ‘Flying Eagle Cent’ shown here were the first issue of ‘Small-Cents’ and arguably the most beautiful coin of the denomination that was ever minted. The majestic flying eagle was the concept of Christian Gobrecht and was previously used on the back of US silver dollars from 1836-39. These beautiful copper-nickel coins were only issued from 1857-1858. (*Note: About 1,000 experimental strikes were made in 1856)

This is a collection of 1857-58 Eagle cents along with a first year Indian Cent (1859). The smaller ‘flying eagle’ design came about as a result of the Coinage Act of 1857. This was followed by the first "Indian Head" Cent the following year. The "Indian" on the design is in fact, Lady Liberty (Columbia) wearing a headdress. It would finally give way to the “Lincoln-cent” which was introduced in 1909 on the centennial of Lincoln’s birth. Despite some changes over the years, the Lincoln Cent remains the longest-running coin design of any nation in world history.

To date, the US has minted over 289 billion one-cent coins. If these coins were stacked single file, they would make a string long enough to circle the earth at its widest point almost 11-times; more than enough to reach all the way to the moon.


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