Small Cent

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The United States small cent, often simply referred to as the penny, has a fascinating and storied history that spans over 150 years. Its journey begins in 1856, when it was introduced to replace the larger-sized Flying Eagle cent. This marked a significant shift in the way the United States represented its currency, moving towards a smaller denomination coin that would eventually become one of the most iconic and recognized symbols of American money.

The small cent’s early days saw it primarily composed of copper-nickel, a durable and cost-effective alloy for minting coins. However, the Civil War brought about a change in composition to bronze. The reason behind this shift was practical – copper-nickel was in high demand for the war effort, and the government needed to conserve this precious resource. As a result, the copper-nickel composition was replaced by the more readily available and less expensive bronze. This decision reflects the adaptability of the penny and its role in responding to the evolving needs of the nation.

One of the most notable moments in the history of the small cent occurred in 1909, as the nation celebrated the 100th anniversary of Abraham Lincoln’s birth. In honor of this occasion, the small cent underwent a significant redesign. The new design featured a portrait of Lincoln on the obverse (the “heads” side) and a depiction of the Lincoln Memorial on the reverse (the “tails” side). This design was not just a tribute to one of America’s greatest presidents but also a reflection of the small cent’s role in representing American history and culture. Interestingly, this design has remained in use to this day, albeit with a few minor modifications over the years.