Penny (U.S. coin)

From Academic Kids

Cent (United States)
Missing image

Value: 1 cent (0.01 U.S. dollars)
Mass: 2.5 g
Diameter: 19.05 mm
Thickness: 1.55 mm
Edge: plain
Composition: Copper-plated Zinc
97.5% Zn, 2.5% Cu
Missing image
The obverse of a 2002 penny

Design: Abraham Lincoln
Designer: V.D. Brenner
Design Date: 1909
Missing image
The reverse of a penny

Design: Lincoln Memorial
Designer: Frank Gasparro
Design Date: 1959

The United States one-cent coin, commonly called a penny, is a unit of currency equaling 1/100 of a United States dollar. Its obverse has featured the profile of President Abraham Lincoln since 1909, the centennial of his birth. Since 1959 (the sesquicentennial of Lincoln's birth), the reverse has featured the Lincoln Memorial.

Despite the prevalence of the common term "penny," the U.S. Mint has never actually minted a coin for which this is the official name.


History of composition

1982-present97.5% zinc, 2.5% copper
1962-198295% copper, 5% zinc
1944-1961bronze (95% copper, 5% zinc and tin)
1943zinc-plated steel
1857-186388% copper, 12% nickel (a.k.a. NS-12)

The cent's composition was changed in 1982 because the value of the copper in the coin started to rise above one cent. In 1943, at the peak of World War II, pennies of zinc-plated steel were made for a short time due to war demands for copper; a few (the U.S. Mint reports forty) copper cents from 1943 were produced. Following that year, salvaged ammunition shells made their way into the minting process, and it was not uncommon to see coins featuring streaks of brass or having a considerably darker finish than other issues.

Missing image
1974 aluminum cent from the Smithsonian.

During the early 1970s the price of copper rose to a point where the penny almost contained one cent's worth of copper. This led the Mint to test alternate metals, including aluminum and bronze-clad steel. Aluminum was chosen, and over 1.5 million of these were struck and ready for public release before ultimately being rejected. About a dozen aluminum cents are believed to still be in the hands of collectors, although they are now considered illegal, and are subject to seizure by the Secret Service. One aluminum cent was donated to the Smithsonian Institution.

The price of copper later returned to profitable levels, so that the Mint would not need to change the cent's composition until 1982.


The cent has gone through several designs over its two-hundred year history. Until 1857 it was about the size of the current half-dollar coin.

The following types of cents have been produced:

  • Flowing Hair Chain Cent, 1793
  • Flowing Hair Wreath Cent, 1793
  • Liberty Cap Cent, 1793-1796
  • Draped Bust Cent, 1796-1807
  • Classic Head Cent, 1808-1814
  • Coronet Cent, 1816-1857
  • Flying Eagle Cent, 1856-1858
  • Indian Head Cent, 1859-1909
  • Lincoln Wheat Ears Cent, 1909-1958
  • Lincoln Memorial Cent, 1959-Present

Throughout its history, the Lincoln cent has featured several fonts for the date, but most of the digits have been old-style numerals, except with the "4" and "8" neither ascending nor descending. The only significant divergence is that the "3" was non-descending (the same size as a "0", "1", or "2") in the early history, before switching to descending for one year in 1934 and then permanently (as of 2004) in 1943.

Missing image
Detail of penny showing Lincoln Memorial and statue.

The Lincoln Memorial is shown on the reverse of the United States penny. In his treatise Theory and Practise of Numismatic Design, Steve Crooks states that because the Lincoln Memorial is shown in sufficient detail to discern the statue of Lincoln on the reverse of the penny, Abraham Lincoln was the only person to be depicted on both the obverse and reverse of the same United States coin, up until the release of New Jersey state quarter in 1999, which depicts George Washington crossing the Delaware River on the reverse side.

See also

Coin Coalition

External link

  • The Composition of the Cent ( from the U.S. Mint website
United States currency and coinage
Topics: Federal Reserve note | United States Notes | United States coinage | United States dollar
Currency: $1 | $2 | $5 | $10 | $20 | $50 | $100 | Larger denominations
Coinage: Cent | Nickel | Dime | Quarter | Half-dollar | Dollar

Academic Kids Menu

  • Art and Cultures
    • Art (
    • Architecture (
    • Cultures (
    • Music (
    • Musical Instruments (
  • Biographies (
  • Clipart (
  • Geography (
    • Countries of the World (
    • Maps (
    • Flags (
    • Continents (
  • History (
    • Ancient Civilizations (
    • Industrial Revolution (
    • Middle Ages (
    • Prehistory (
    • Renaissance (
    • Timelines (
    • United States (
    • Wars (
    • World History (
  • Human Body (
  • Mathematics (
  • Reference (
  • Science (
    • Animals (
    • Aviation (
    • Dinosaurs (
    • Earth (
    • Inventions (
    • Physical Science (
    • Plants (
    • Scientists (
  • Social Studies (
    • Anthropology (
    • Economics (
    • Government (
    • Religion (
    • Holidays (
  • Space and Astronomy
    • Solar System (
    • Planets (
  • Sports (
  • Timelines (
  • Weather (
  • US States (


  • Home Page (
  • Contact Us (

  • Clip Art (
Personal tools