iccoins's Blog

05 Nov 2017

Coinage Per Decade: Small Cents

Coins-United States | iccoins

The US Mint is constantly minting new coinage. They also mint new designs quite often, as well. This post discusses new designs every decade starting in 1792, when the US Mint was founded, and going all the way to present day, if applicable in the style.

The price of copper had risen and half cents and large cents arely circulated outside of cities. That was the end of the large cents and the start of the small cents. 

1850s: Flying Eagle Small Cent

The Flying Eagle Small Cent was minted as a pattern to show Congress what the new penny would look like in 1856. It weighs only 4.67 grams and is 88% copper and 12% nickel, unlike the previous, heavier large cents which were entirely copper. All of these coins were minted at the Philadelphia Mint. The coin was minted from 1856 to 1858, however, only about 2,000 1856 coins are known to exist. The coin has a bird flying towards the left of the coin, with the date below and "UNITED STATES OF AMERICA" above, going around the bird to the left and right sides. The reverse consists of another wheat ring with "ONE CENT" in the middle. Because "UNITED STATES OF AMERICA" is on the obverse, it is not on the reverse, as with the large cents.

1860s: Indian Head Small Cents

Minted from 1859 to 1909, this coin had a long history. With the same dimensions as the flying eagle cents, but with a different design, these coins were far more popular than the large cents. The 1859 variety consisted of Lady Liberty wearing an Indian headdress, looking to the left, on the obverse. As with all the other years, this is not portraying an actual Native American/Indian. "UNITED STATES" is towards the left of the coin and "OF AMERICA" is towards the right. The date is on the bottom. The reverse consists of a laurel wreath, similar to the Flying Eagle Small Cents and previous large cents. For 1860 to 1864, the coin was the same on the obverse, but contained an oak wreath on the revserse and a shield up top. These coins were coined only at the Philadelphia Mint.

1870s: Indian Head Small Cents - Bronze Variant

Minted from 1864 to the end of the series in 1909, this coin is 3.11 grams and was minted with 95% copper and 5% tin and zinc, due to a decrease in nickel. The obverse and reverse looked the same. These were coined at Philadelphia and San Francisco mints.

1910s: Lincoln Wheat Small Cents

Several years were skipped, but the Indian Head Small Cent was minted throughout that entire time. The Lincoln Wheat Cents were commemorating the 100th anniversary of Abraham Lincoln's birthday. V.D.B, the designer's initials, appear on a small quantity of 1909 pennies, but Congress was upset, so it was removed. From 1909 to 1942, the coin weighs 3.11 grams, as with the Indian Head Cent, with the same materials and quantity as the Indian Heads.  These coins were minted at Philadelphia, Denver, and San Francisco mints. They contain Lincoln in the middle, facing to the right, with "LIBERTY" to his left, and the year to his right, with the mint mark below. Philadelphia coins have no mintmark. "IN GOD WE TRUST" is above his head. The revser consists of "ONE CENT" in the middle, with "UNITED STATES OF AMERICA" below it. "E PLURIBUS UNUM" is above, where "IN GOD WE TRUST" is on the obverse. Two pieces of wheat are to the left and right of the reverse. This coin was also minted from 1944 to its end in 1958.

1940s: Lincoln Wheat Small Steel Cents

This coin, minted in only 1943, looks the same as the bronze versions, but is made of steel with a zinc coating. It weighed only 2.70 grams and is attracted to magnets, so if you find a bronze 1943, check it with a magnet before saying you have a valuable error. The US Government needed copper for the war. I have heard non-collectors say, "I didn't know they made a silver penny." It's not silver, just steel coated with zinc.

1950s: Lincoln Wheat Small Cents

They went back to the previous version with 95% copper and 5% zinc/zinc and tin.

1960s: Lincoln Memorial Small Cents

These coins contain 95% copper and 5% zinc or zinc and tin. Minted from 1959 to 1982, these coins contain copper. The obverse is the same as the wheat cents, however, the revserse contains the Lincoln Memorial in the middle with "E PLURIBUS UNUM" above and
"UNITED STATES OF AMERICA" abobe that. "ONE CENT" is below the memorial.  This coin was minted for the 150th anniversary of Lincoln's birth.

1980s: Lincoln Memorial Small Cents

Minted from 1982 to 2008, these coins are identical to the previous cents, but contain a copper plated zinc, with 99.2% zinc and 0.8% copper. The weight is 2.5 grams.

2000s: Lincoln Bicentennial Small Cents

These coins have the same obverse as the previous Lincoln cents, but contain different reverses. In 2009, the mint created 4 different designs for the 200th anniversary of Lincoln's birth. One has a log cabin, another has Lincoln sittig, another has Lincoln in front of a building, and another has the building without Lincoln in front of it.

2010s: Lincoln Shield Small Cents

Starting in 2010, the US Mint created new cents, with the same obverse, but with a different reverse. It has a shield with "ONE CENT" in the middle. You probably see these all the time, as with the Memorial Cents.

Those are the small cents! Let's wonder what's next!

Yeoman, R S. A Guide Book of United States Coins 2018 Essential Edition: The Official Red Book. Whitman Publishing, LLC, 2017.
“PCGS Photograde Online - Estimating Coin Grades Has Never Been Easier.” PCGS, www.pcgs.com/photograde/.
Guth, Ron. “CoinFacts.com - The Internet Encyclopedia of U.S. Coins.” CoinFacts.com - The Internet Encyclopedia of U.S. Coins, Collectors Universe Inc., coinfacts.com/.
“NGC Coin Explorer.” Online Coin Catalog Search Page - Coin Explorer | NGC, Numismatic Guaranty Corporation, www.ngccoin.com/coin-explorer/.



Level 6

You did a great job on the blog. That takes some time. Researching information just makes collection more enjoyable.


Level 4

Thanks :)


Level 6

Cents are great! Look how they have been around! Thanks for an interesting blog!


Level 4

Cents are great! Flying Eagles are my favorites! I have an 1857 flying eagle that I really like :)


Level 6

Thanks for a good blog with lots of info! I know I had a set of Lincolns when I was young. Not complete of course.


Level 4

Glad you enjoyed! I have some almost filled sets, but a lot of my sets have the S mintmarks in them too, which makes it really hard to CRH them :/


Level 6

These "pennies" are what a lot of us started collecting. Get them right out of pocket change and stick them in a blue Whitman folder. I still buy boxes of them from the bank to roll hunt!! Thanks


Level 4

These are actually my favorites to hunt. It's so exciting to find a wheat penny :) And far easier to find then trying for silver or mercs in a box of dimes...

coin collector

Level 4

Wow it's amazing how for we have gotten.


Level 4


Conan Barbarian

Level 5

the US cent has a very rich history and many areas that one could collect


Level 4

Exactly! People can collect uncirculated shields, or memorials and wheats from coin boxes. Or even Indian Heads and Flying Eagles if they're lucky :)


Level 7

Thanks for the information. Cents are very popular with a very long history.


Level 4

Glad you enjoyed :) They are quite popular. By the way, cool new profile picture. What is it of?

We use cookies to provide users the best experience on our website. If you continue without changing your cookie settings, we'll assume that you agree to receive all cookies on money.org. You may disable cookies at any time using your internet browser configuration. By continuing to use this website, you agree to our privacy policy and terms of use. To learn more about how we use cookies and to review our privacy policy, click here.