Now thoroughly diminished in respectability — the penny is better known today as the butt of jokes concerning the value of the time spent in picking it up from the street (conclusion: your time is generally more valuable) — its first introduction of a president on the coin face met with a flood of eager acquirers over mints. Where before only allegorical figures and landscapes appeared now lay the visage of the 16th president Abraham Lincoln. The honor still seemed too small for such a great man, and forty years later Lincoln took over the obverse side.
On this day, August 7, in 1959, on the occasion of the sesquicentennial (150 years) of Lincoln’s birth, the Chief Engraver of the U.S. mint Frank Gasparro’s replaced the pair of wheat sheaves on the penny’s reverse with his image of the Lincoln Memorial.
On the bicentennial of Lincoln’s birth, the U.S. mint issued a series of four distinct pennies, each with a different design commemoration an important period in Lincoln’s life: early years in Kentucky (1809-1816), formative years in Indiana (1816-1830), early political career in Illinois (1830-1861) and presidency in Washington, D.C. (1861-1865).