Cent (United States coin)

Cent (United States coin)

Infobox Coin
Country = United States
Denomination = Cent (Penny)
Value = 0.01
Unit = U.S. dollar
Mass_troy_oz = 0.080
Mass = 2.5
Diameter_inch = 0.750
Diameter = 19.05
Thickness_inch = 0.061
Thickness = 1.55
Edge = Plain
Composition = Copper-plated Zinc
97.5% Zn, 2.5% Cu
Years of Minting = 1909–
Catalog Number = -
Obverse = 2005-Penny-Uncirculated-Obverse-cropped.png Obverse Design = Abraham Lincoln
Obverse Designer = Victor D. Brenner
Obverse Design Date = 1909
Reverse = 2005_Penny_Rev_Unc_D.png Reverse Design = Lincoln Memorial
Reverse Designer = Frank Gasparro
Reverse Design Date = 1959 | :]
The United States one-cent coin is a unit of currency equaling one one-hundredth of a United States dollar. Its symbol is: ¢. Its obverse has featured the profile of President Abraham Lincoln since 1909, the centennial of his birth. Since 1959 (the sesquicentennial of Lincoln's birth), the reverse has featured the Lincoln Memorial. The coin is 0.75 inch (19.05 mm) in diameter and 0.061 inch (1.55 mm) in thickness.

The one-cent coin is often called a penny, but the U.S. Mint's official name for this coin is cent.

History of composition

In 1943, at the peak of World War II, cents of zinc-coated steel were made for a short time due to war demands for copper. A few copper cents from 1943 were produced from the 1942 planchets remaining in the bins. Similarly, some 1944 steel cents have been confirmed. From 1944 through 1946, salvaged ammunition shells made their way into the minting process, and it was not uncommon to see coins featuring streaks of brass or having a considerably darker finish than other issues.


The cent's composition was changed in 1982 because the value of the copper in the coin started to rise above one cent.Fact|date=October 2007 Some 1982 cents use the 97.5% zinc composition, while others used the 95% copper composition. The price of copper later returned to profitable levels.Fact|date=February 2008

Many people can hear the difference between the bronze and copper cents and the newer, zinc cents: simply flip the coin, giving it a good, solid strike. The predominantly copper pennies produce a ringing sound in the 12 kHz range. The zinc coins do not make a noise.cite web |url=http://coins.about.com/od/uscoins/f/copper_to_zinc.htm |title="Is my Penny a Copper, or a Zinc Cent?" |accessdate=2008-06-16]

Mintage figures for the Lincoln cent can be found here.


The coin has gone through several designs over its two-hundred year time frame. Until 1857 it was about the size of the current U.S. half dollar coin. The following types of cents have been produced:

Large Cents:
*Flowing Hair Chain (1793)
*Flowing Hair Wreath (1793)
*Liberty Cap (1793–1796)
*Draped Bust (1796–1807)
*Classic Head (1808–1814)
*Coronet (1816–1839)
*Braided Hair (1839–1857)Small Cents:
*Flying Eagle (1856–1858)
*Indian Head (1859–1909)
*Lincoln Wheat (1909–1958)
*Lincoln Memorial (1959–)

Throughout its history, the Lincoln cent has featured several fonts for the date, but most of the digits have been old-style numerals, except with the 4 and 8 neither ascending nor descending. The only significant divergence is that the 3 was non-descending (the same size as a 0, 1, or 2) in the early history, before switching to descending for one year in 1934 and then permanently (as of 2004) in 1943.

The Lincoln Memorial is shown on the reverse of the United States cent. In his treatise "Theory and Practise of Numismatic Design", Joe Began states that because the Lincoln Memorial is shown in sufficient detail to discern the statue of Lincoln on the reverse of the cent, Abraham Lincoln was the only person to be depicted on both the obverse and reverse of the same United States coin. In 1999, the New Jersey state quarter was released, which depicts George Washington on both sides, crossing the Delaware River on the reverse side and his profile on the obverse.


Zinc, a major component of post-1982 US cents, is toxic in large quantities. Swallowing such a penny, which is 97.5% zinc, can cause damage to the stomach lining due to the high solubility of the zinc ion in the acidic stomach. [Dawn N. Bothwell, MD and Eric A. Mair, MD, FAAP. [http://pediatrics.aappublications.org/cgi/content/full/111/3/689?ijkey=f41f5a688254663281baabc6ebe9c3bfc964e612&keytype2=tf_ipsecsha Chronic Ingestion of a Zinc-Based Penny] , PEDIATRICS Vol. 111 No. 3 March 2003, pp. 689-691. Accessed 2008-04-17.] Zinc toxicity, mostly in the form of the ingestion of US pennies minted after 1982, is commonly fatal in dogs where it causes a severe hemolytic anemia. [Stowe CM, Nelson R, Werdin R, et al: Zinc phosphide poisoning in dogs. JAVMA 173:270, 1978] In pet parrots zinc is highly toxic and poisoning can often be fatal [See, for example, this [http://www.petparrots101.com/parrots-risk.asp list of common parrot illnesses and their causes] .] .

Numismatics and regulations

Various commentators have suggested that the cent should be eliminated as a unit of currency for several reasons including that many Americans do not actually spend them, but rather only receive them in change at stores and proceed to return them to a bank for higher denomination currencies. Most modern vending machines do not accept cents, further diminishing their utility, and the production cost now exceeds the face value of the coin due to increasing metal prices. [cite news | first=Barbara | last=Hagenbaugh | title=Coins cost more to make than face value | url=http://www.usatoday.com/money/2006-05-09-penny-usat_x.htm | publisher=USA Today | date=2006-05-09 | accessdate=2006-10-04 ] In 2001 and 2006, for example, United States Representative Jim Kolbe (R) of Arizona introduced bills which would have stopped production of cents (in 2001 the Legal Tender Modernization Act, and in 2006 the Currency Overhaul for an Industrious Nation (COIN) Act). [cite news | first=Christian | last=Zappone | title=Kill-the-penny bill introduced | url=http://money.cnn.com/2006/07/18/news/penny/index.htm | publisher=CNN Money | date=2006-07-18 | accessdate=2006-10-04 ]

At the current metal prices, the pre-1982 copper cent contains 2.65 US cents which makes them an attractive target for melting by people wanting to sell the metal as a profit. The US Mint which is a part of the US Department of the Treasury, in anticipation of the business of melting down US cents (pennies) and US five-cent coins ("nickels") for profit, implemented new regulations [ [http://www.usmint.gov/pressroom/index.cfm?action=press_release&ID=724 United States Mint Moves to Limit Exportation & Melting of Coins] ] on December 14, 2006 which criminalize the melting of cents and nickels and place limits on export of the coins. Violators can be punished with a fine of up to $10,000 USD and/or imprisoned for a maximum of five years.

Metal content

As of July 8, 2008, the price of copper on kitcometals.com is $3.8088 and zinc at $0.8013 per pound and at London Metal Exchange is $8535.00 usd per tonne. One tonne = 1000 kilograms = 2204.62262 pounds. This is $3.87141088 usd per pound copper [ [http://www.lme.co.uk/copper.asp London Metal Exchange - Copper] ] and zinc is $0.817373451 per pound [ [http://www.lme.co.uk/zinc.asp London Metal Exchange - Zinc] ] . A 1962 - 1982 us cent (penny) weighting 2.5 grams at 95% copper and 5% zinc at a kitco/lme average of $3.84010544 usd per pound copper and $0.809336726 usd per pound zinc. This is $0.0201067104 usd copper and $0.000223035257 (USD) zinc for a total for pre-1982 us cents at $0.0203297457 usd per copper standard US cent. The 1982 - present of 2008 zinc 97.5% standard with 2.5% copper-plate US cent contains $0.00434918751 usd worth of zinc and $0.000529123958 usd worth of copper for a total of $0.00487831147 usd in metal value for the 1982 - present US cent (penny).

According to the US Mint, the costs of producing and shipping one-cent (penny) and five-cent (nickel) coins during fiscal year 2007 are $0.0167 per penny and $0.0953 per nickel.


In 2009 the cent will get a one-year, four-coin commemorative program marking the 100th anniversary of Lincoln being placed on the cent, and the 200th anniversary of his birth. Thus, 2008 will be the 49th anniversary, and last year that the Lincoln Memorial will be on the U.S cent. [cite web | author=United States Mint | date=2006-11-30 | url=http://www.usmint.gov/mint_programs/lincolnRedesign/index.cfm | title=Presidential $1 Coin | accessdate=2008-04-03] This redesign was passed as part of the Presidential $1 Coin Act of 2005, which also mandates that in 2009, numismatic cents will be issued for collectors that have the metallic copper content of cents minted in 1909. [] In 2010, the cent will be completely redesigned, with a new, permanent design being released into circulation. The redesign should show Lincoln's preservation of the country in the Civil War. Lincoln, however, will remain on the coin. The composition for circulating issues will remain copper-plated zinc.

ee also

* Large cent (United States coin)
* Mill (currency)
* United States Mint coin production
*Take a penny, leave a penny
*Efforts to eliminate the penny in the United States


External links

* [http://www.usmint.gov/about_the_mint/fun_facts/index.cfm?flash=no&action=fun_facts2 The Composition of the Cent] from the U.S. Mint website
* [http://www.nytimes.com/2007/02/11/opinion/11margolick.html "Penny Foolish"] , by David Margolick, "New York Times", February 11, 2007 - a brief popular history of the cent.
* [http://www.stujoe.com/content/view/12/26/ Why does Lincoln face to the right?] - An article explaining why Lincoln faces to the right on the US Cent
* [http://www.usatoday.com/news/offbeat/2004-07-01-pennies-sold_x.htm Man tries to get rid of million pennies, USATODAY/AP, 7/1/2004]
* [http://www.usmint.gov/pressroom/index.cfm?action=press_release&ID=724 December 14, 2006 press release by United States Mint concerning new rules outlawing the melting of pennies and nickels]
* [http://www.snopes.com/business/money/pennycost.asp Examination of claim] that "A U.S. penny costs more than a cent to manufacture" on Snopes.
* [http://www.usmint.gov/pressroom/index.cfm?flash=yes&action=Photo#2009LincolnOneCent Lincoln Penny Design Images] for 2009 Circulating Commemorative Cents

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