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To help combat recession, US Mint releases four new pennies

By Jimmy Orr / February 12, 2009

The United States Mint launched the first redesigned one-cent coin (penny) in 50 years in a ceremony today-the 200th anniversary of Abraham Lincoln's birth. The redesigned Lincoln penny, released into circulation today, features a log cabin on the coin's reverse (tails side), emblematic of Lincoln's humble roots in Kentucky.

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No, it's not a part of President Obama's economic stimulus package: release a few quadrillion pennies into circulation to stimulate the economy.

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It's Abraham Lincoln's birthday. And you might be horrified to find out that the one-cent coin bearing the image of our 16th president hasn't been updated in 50 years.

Sure, you may say that the penny is worthless and this exercise would be a waste of money. But come on! That's crazy talk.

It's time for a makeover.

Polls

After all, President Lincoln consistently tops the charts as the most popular president of all time.

Take this Gallup poll from 2007 asking, "Who do you regard as the greatest United States president?"

Abraham Lincoln (18%)
Ronald Reagan (16%)
John F. Kennedy (14%)

A Washington college poll from 2005 asked respondents, "Who would you say was America's greatest president?"

Abraham Lincoln (20%)
Ronald Reagan (15%)
Franklin D. Roosevelt (12%)

Back in 2000, ABC News asked, "Who do you think was the greatest American president?"

Abraham Lincoln (19%)
John F. Kennedy (17%)
Franklin Roosevelt (11%)

Design change

With this tidal wave of support, a new design seems almost mandatory.

So, the first of four new pennies is being released today. You won't see any difference on the front of the coin. It's on the flip side where you might notice a change.

Today's new penny shows an image of a log cabin representing where Lincoln was born. The other three penny designs to be released quarterly (as in every three months) represent other themes in Lincoln's life.

A younger Lincoln reading a book on a log, standing outside the State Capitol in Springfield as a state legislator, and the unfinished dome of the U.S. Capitol (it was constructed during his time as president).

Urban myth

But doesn't it cost more than one cent to make a penny? If so, why bother making them?

The urban-legend-busting website "Snopes" says it is true. But as they explain, it's not that big of a deal.

A penny that cost 1.2¢ to make isn't all that big of a deal once the concept of multiple use is grasped. If pennies were used but once then thrown away, yes, of course their costing American taxpayers 1.2¢ apiece would be a horrible, horrible thing.
But they're not — pennies pass through hundreds, thousands, and maybe even millions of hands before they somehow drop out of circulation, which more than covers the additional 0.2¢ that went into their manufacture.
In other words, while it's a great "gosh, golly, gee" fact to fling at your friends ("Say, Joe, did you know it costs 1.2¢ to manufacture a coin that's worth only 1¢?"), all the gobsmackedness of it runs right out of that conversation stopper once you pause to ponder how many times that one penny will change hands.

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