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Lincoln Cents, Bicentennial and Shield Reverse (2009-Date)

The Lincoln Cent is one of the most popular issues with coin collectors. Struck since 1909, the obverse has been essentially unchanged for more than 100 years—the longest period of time that the same design has been used for any United States coin. In 2009 four new designs were issued to recognize both the bicentennial of Lincoln’s birth and the centennial of the Lincoln cent. Another reverse design, dubbed the “Union Shield,” was issued in 2010.

As the 200th anniversary of Lincoln’s birth approached there was much discussion about releasing a redesigned cent to mark the occasion. The Lincoln cent was first issued in 1909 for the centennial of Lincoln’s birth, and in 1959 the Wheat Reverse was replaced by the Memorial Reverse to recognize the sesquicentennial of Lincoln’s birth. The Presidential $1 Coin Act, passed in 2005, authorized the Mint to issue four different reverse designs in 2009.

The four revere designs featured themes that represented four major periods of Lincoln’s life. The first, “Birth & Childhood,” shows a log cabin that symbolizes his childhood in Kentucky. The next design to be issued was the “Formative Years” reverse, which depicts Lincoln educating himself while taking a break from splitting logs. The third, dubbed “Professional Life,” has Lincoln standing in front of the Illinois State Capitol building. The last issue, “Presidency,” shows the United States Capitol Building with the dome under construction as it appeared during Lincoln’s time in office.

The 2009 cents issued for circulation were copper-plated zinc as has been the standard since 1982. Proof and Mint sets include cents made from the same composition that was used for the original 1909 cents (95% copper, 5% tin and zinc).

The act that authorized the four reverse designs for 2009 also called for a new reverse design to be issued in 2010 that was “emblematic of President Lincoln’s preservation of the United States of America as a single and united country.” Cents struck since 2010 have the Union Shield reverse design. The composition for all issues is copper-plated zinc.

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