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U.S. Mint rolls out a new penny

The Lincoln Cent has been redesigned again. But not everyone is celebrating.

By Money Staff Feb 24, 2010 1:18PM

This post comes from Anna Vander Broek of MSN Money.


Those of you who still use the penny as currency (rather than as a screwdriver or for scratching off lottery tickets) may soon notice America’s 1-cent coin has gotten a facelift. 


The U.S. Mint has changed the design for the reverse -- or “tails” -- side of the 2010 Lincoln Cent, which entered circulation on Feb. 11 (everywhere but Puerto Rico, which received the new penny in late January). Michael White from the U.S. Mint says penny inventory is very high, however, so you may not see a new penny right away. 


The U.S. Mint kicked off the release of the new penny during a ceremony at the Abraham Lincoln Presidential Library and Museum in Springfield, Ill. The design was chosen out of 18 candidates. Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner made the final call.

The penny’s new reverse side features a union shield with 13 vertical stripes and a scroll draped across reading “One Cent.” (Check your nearest couch cushion and you’ll see the old penny portrays the Lincoln Memorial.) The Web site of the U.S. Mint explains that the stripes represent the 13 original states and the banner signifies “a single union in support of the federal government.” The new penny’s front face will continue to illustrate President Lincoln, designed by American sculptor Victor David Brenner back in 1909. 

The 2010 penny follows the four different reverse designs, each one depicting a stage of Lincoln’s life, used on the 2009 Lincoln pennies. The special pennies were produced last year to commemorate the bicentennial of Lincoln’s birth and the 100th anniversary of the Lincoln Cent. 


A penny for your thoughts

Not everyone is excited about the prospect of a new penny. Some would rather see the coin disappear altogether. The anti-penny group Citizens for Retiring the Penny explains on its Web site why it believes the penny is a waste of time and money.

The half penny was eliminated in 1858, when it was worth over 10 times what the penny is worth today. Assuming that the timing was correct before, this means that we should have eliminated the penny 50 years ago. 

Some Americans won’t even accept the penny as currency.  Alko Office Supply, owned by Gary Shows in downtown Berkeley, Calif., has a sign hanging over the cash register that reads, "We are a penny free store,” reports in a story debating the worth of the penny.


Even President Obama seems to think the penny has overstayed its welcome. “We have been trying to eliminate the penny for quite some time -- it always comes back,” he said at a press conference in 2008, according to a blog post on (Although in 2005 when Obama was a senator from Illinois, he co-sponsored the Abraham Lincoln Bicentennial One-Cent Coin Redesign Act, which required the new penny designs in 2009 and 2010.)


A penny actually costs more to make than it's worth. In 2009, the unit cost to produce the penny was 1.62 cents, according to the U.S. Mint. 


Find a penny, pick it up

The penny still has many fans. Pro-penny group Americans for Common Cents "aims to inform and educate policymakers, consumers and the media about the penny’s economic, cultural and historical significance." The group also emphasizes the penny’s importance for charity through organizations such as Penny Lovers of America and Habitat for Humanity’s Parade of Pennies. 


A poll conducted by Coinstar in 2006 found that only 27% of Americans want to get rid of the penny. Four out of five Americans will still pick up a penny on the ground. 


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