The penny, first produced in 1787, was the first official currency authorized by a newly formed United States. Benjamin Franklin came up with the design. It was 100 percent copper at first and, in the 1790s, some of that copper came from Paul Revere. Since 1787, about 300 billion pennies have been minted. The word "penny" comes from the British word "pence."
Where Pennies Are Made
The U.S. Mint strikes --- that is, makes --- pennies every year from two locations: Philadelphia and Denver. Denver pennies have the letter D next to the date shown on the penny. Philadelphia pennies don't include any letter next to the date.
Rate of Production
The U.S. Mint makes about 30 million pennies every day, with about 1,040 created every second. The penny represents about half the coins made by the U.S. Mint.
The penny has smooth sides, is 1.55 millimeters (.059 inches) thick, weighs 2.5 grams (.088 ounces) and is 19.05 millimeters (.75 inches) in diameter.
There have been 11 different designs, including the Flying Eagle and the Indian Head pennies.
First Lincoln Penny
Lincoln's head was put on the penny in 1909 in honor of the 100th anniversary of his birth. This was the first time a coin in the U.S. showed a historical person. The phrase "In God We Trust" was used for the first time on this penny. This is the only U.S. coin that has a right-facing profile of the person depicted.
1959 Design Change
On the 150th anniversary of Lincoln's birth in 1959, a new design was struck that changed the back so that it featured the Lincoln Memorial. Because you can see an image of Lincoln within the Memorial, the penny has a person on both front and back, the only U.S. coin designed this way.
2009 Lincoln Pennies
In 2009, in honor of the 200th anniversary of Lincoln's birth, four new Lincoln coins were created. The first shows Lincoln in his Kentucky birthplace, the second shows him as a young man in Indiana, the third portrays his time as a lawyer in Illinois, and the last, his time as president.
Throughout its history, the penny has been made of various materials, including 100 percent copper, bronze, copper and nickel, steel and zinc-coated copper. The zinc-coated copper pennies were made in 1943 during World War II because of a copper shortage. Today, pennies are made of 2.5 percent copper and zinc. Today's penny is only copper-plated.
In 1943, some copper alloy pennies were mistakenly struck by the U.S. Mint. Only 40 are known to exist and they fetch, well, a pretty penny. In 1986, one sold for $82,500. Because they are so valuable, counterfeits have been made out of steel. If you find a 1943 penny, use a magnet to see if it's real. A true 1943 penny won't stick to the magnet.
A penny has a life span of about 30 years, which is the estimated life span of all coins. When the U.S. Mint receives pennies that aren't good enough for circulation anymore, it melts them down and recycles the metal.
- Photo Credit Sufi Nawaz: Sxc.hu
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