Penny (United States coin)

The United States one-cent coin (symbol: ¢), often called the "penny", is a unit of currency equaling one one-hundredth of a United States dollar. It has been the lowest face-value physical unit of U.S. currency since the abolition of the half-cent in 1857 (the abstract mill, which has never been minted, equal to a tenth of a cent, continues to see limited use in the fields of taxation and finance). The first U.S. cent was produced in 1787, and the cent has been issued primarily as a copper or copper-plated coin throughout its history.

Cent
United States
Value0.01 U.S. dollar
Mass(1982-present) 2.5 g (0.08 troy oz)
Diameter19.05 mm (0.75 in)
Thickness1.52 mm (0.0598 in)
EdgePlain
Composition(1982–present) copper-plated zinc
97.5% Zn, 2.5% Cu
Years of minting1793–1814, 1816–present
Catalog number
Obverse
DesignAbraham Lincoln
DesignerVictor D. Brenner
Design date1909 (modified since)
Reverse
DesignUnion Shield
DesignerLyndall Bass
Design date2010–present

The penny is issued in its current form as the Lincoln cent, with its obverse featuring the profile of President Abraham Lincoln since 1909, the centennial of his birth. From 1959 (the sesquicentennial of Lincoln's birth) to 2008, the reverse featured the Lincoln Memorial. Four different reverse designs in 2009 honored Lincoln's 200th birthday and a new, "permanent" reverse – the Union Shield – was introduced in 2010. The coin is 0.75 inches (19.05 mm) in diameter and 0.0598 inches (1.52 mm) in thickness. The current copper-plated zinc cent issued since 1982 weighs 2.5 grams, while the previous 95% copper cent still found in circulation weighed 3.11 g (see further below).

The U.S. Mint's official name for the coin is "cent"[1] and the U.S. Treasury's official name is "one cent piece".[2] The colloquial term penny derives from the British coin of the same name, which occupies a similar place in the British system. Pennies is the plural form (not to be confused with pence, which refers to the unit of currency).

In the early 2010s, the price of metal used to make pennies rose to a noticeable cost to the mint which peaked at more than $0.02, a negative seigniorage, for the $0.01 face-value coin. This pushed the mint to look for alternative metals again for the coin, and also brought the debate about eliminating the coin into more focus. As of 2022 there are no firm plans to do so.[3]


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