On the tails side of the penny you’ll find the Latin phrase, E. Pluribus Unum, which means “one out of many”. The Latin phrase was first introduced as part of the Great Seal on August 20th, 1776 just weeks after the signing of the Declaration of Independence. The phrase was used rather inconsistently on coins and emblems, so in 1873 a law passed that required E. Pluribus Unum to appear on all coins when new designs went into effect, and today the motto appears on all U.S. coins.
The first Lincoln Penny was minted in 1909 and it was President Theodore Roosevelt’s idea to honor President Lincoln on the penny. This was the first time a historical figure was pictured on a coin in the United States.
The wheat penny was minted from 1909 to 1958. The design was meant to honor America’s production of grain and was created by sculptor, Victor David Brenner. That’s why some of the oldest pennies have the initials VDB on the bottom. If you have one of these, hold onto it, they are worth more than a penny.
Canada stopped making their penny in 2012. The Royal Canadian Mint is in the process of collecting pennies and melting them down for their metal content. Australia and New Zealand have also eliminated their one-cent coin.
Can the U.S. penny be discontinued? Two bills to “kill” the penny have already been submitted and defeated in congress. Americans are rather fond of the penny but there is growing support in Washington to reduce expenses. The cost to produce a penny varies depending on the price of copper and zinc, but it will never again be less than one cent.
The United States Mint in Philadelphia was the first facility to make official U.S. coins. In 2014, they produced 3,991,000,000 pennies. See www.usmint.gov for more fun facts.
George and Martha Washington donated several pieces of their personal silver to make the first official coins. Can you imagine what these would be worth today?