Why Is Lincoln's Face on the Penny?


Americans have President Theodore Roosevelt to thank for the creation of the Lincoln penny. President Roosevelt was dissatisfied with the design of United States coins in his day. He got the idea of putting President Lincoln's likeness on a coin after admiring a bronze plaque of Lincoln created by sculptor Victor David Brenner.

Before the Lincoln penny, the only human image featured on U.S. coins was Lady Liberty. It was considered unseemly to put a real person's image on coins. However, the country had high regard for Lincoln, which helped Roosevelt gain approval for a penny in his honor. Designing what would be known as the Lincoln Cent was very challenging. U.S. Mint chief engraver Charles Barber and artist David Brenner collaborated on creating a workable image that was presentable and fit properly on the coin.

The first Lincoln pennies were released in August of 1909, and the coin was an instant hit with the public. The release of these coins was not without controversy. Treasury Secretary Franklin MacVeagh expressed his disapproval of Brenner's initials appearing on the coin's back design, reversing his previous approval before the release. As a result, some of the earliest Lincoln pennies have the V.D.B. initials, while others don't.