PCGS 92854 - Lincoln Cent, Memorial Reverse (1959-Date), RD

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Lincoln Cent, Memorial Reverse (1959-Date), RD
Lincoln Memorial.jpg
Lincoln Memorial by night


Roosevelt, who considered Lincoln the savior of the Union and the greatest Republican President and who also considered himself Lincoln’s political heir, ordered the new Lincoln penny to be based on Brenner's work and that it go just in time to commemorate Lincoln’s 100th birthday in 1909.

In 1909, the U.S. Mint released a new Cent design to commemorate the 100th anniversary of the birth of Abraham Lincoln, America's 16th president. The production of this coin was authorized by Public Law on February 21, 1857, to replace the Bronze Indian Cent used from 1864 through 1909.

From 1909 to 1942, the Lincoln Cent was composed of 95% copper and 5% tin and zinc. In 1943, due to a shortage of metals during the war, the cent was made from a zinc plated, steel planchet. In (1944-1945) the compostion changed once again to what was referred to as Shell-Case Bronze Planchets.

[1]August 2nd, 1909 the new cent was released to the public. This was the first ever U.S. coin that would be released that would contain a real person on the picture. As such, there was much controversy as some people felt that putting a real person on a coin was too similar to the European monarchies. Others felt that a man of Lincoln's importance belonged on a higher denomination coin than a penny. Mint employees were upset that a coin was designed by a mint outsider.

The entire supply of cents was gone in 7 days. This initial release contained 27,996,194 1909 VDB and the now scarce and key date Lincoln, the 1909 S VDB, that had a mintage of only 404,000. The supply ran dry because only after two days after the official release, on August 4, 1909, production was stopped by order of the Treasury Secretary Franklin MacVeigh.

Although MacVeigh had earlier approved the design, he told reporters that he did not know that Brenner's initials were to appear on the coin and that he was only reacting to widespread public criticism. Many people objected to the size of the letters that Brenner had placed just above the rim on the reverse of the coin. Brenner was angry and threatened to sue as the initials and even full names of other designers had appeared on many previous coins, but there is no indication that he ever followed through on this threat. A suggestion was made to put just the initial “B” on the coin but this was met with fierce resistance by Charles Barber who did not want Brenner's work confused with his own. MacVeigh also claimed that it was cheaper and faster to remove the initials from the hub and leave the die alone. Thus, Brenner's initials were taken off the coin. They did not reappear on the penny until 1918 after the death of Charles Barber. However, the initials were put on Lincoln's shoulder in letters so small that it can barely be seen without magnification. Although there is no hard proof, many believe that anti-Semitism played a large role in the outcry over Brenner's initials on the Lincoln cent.

In 1955, we saw the last of the “S” mint marked wheat pennies. The San Francisco mint ceased minting “S” minted coins of cents and dimes for general circulation at the end of that year. The nickel, quarter and half dollar ceased the year before. It would not be for another 13 years (1968) before “S” mint coins were produced for general circulation.

1959 marked the 50th anniversary of the Lincoln cent and the reverse was changed to what is now the current design, the Lincoln Memorial. On February 12, 1959, the new design was introduced as a part of the 150th anniversary celebration of Lincoln's birth. Frank Gasparro, the Assistant Engraver at the Mint in Philadelphia, prepared the winning entry, selected from a group of 23 models the engraving staff at the Mint had been asked to present for consideration. Since the cent had been in circulation for over 25 years, only the Treasury Secretary's approval was necessary. The imposing marble Lincoln Memorial in the Nation's Capital provides the central motif; the legends E PLURIBUS UNUM and UNITED STATES OF AMERICA form the rest of the design, together with the denomination. Mr. Gasparro's initials, FG, appear on the right, near the shrubbery.

In 1962, the penny underwent another change, although small. Mint officials decided to drop tin from the content of the Lincoln cent, because there were manufacturing cost advantages to a stable alloy of 95 percent copper and five percent zinc. This time, however, there was no particular interest because the change was not readily notice even though technically the Lincoln cent became brass, not bronze.

In 1964, due to the announcement that silver would not longer be the major component of dimes, quarters and half dollars, there was a severe coin shortage for circulation. Although Lincoln cents were not the problem, government officials decided to not place mint marks on all coins in 1965. This continued for 2 more years (1966 and 1967), with the idea that this would keep collectors from hoarding all the coins needed for circulation. Some coins dated 1964 were actually produced 1965. Finally in 1968, mint marks were returned and the beloved “S” mint returned to circulation. The return of the “S” would be short-lived however. Unlike cents of earlier years with “S” mint marks, the cents of 1968-1974 would be produced in the multi-millions with a total number of “S” minted coins from this period totaling over three billion. Yes, that is billion. Still, it was a welcome change.

The price of precious metals in the 1980's was out of control and copper was no exception which took its toll on the Lincoln cent in 1982. The composition was changed to an alloy of 99.2 percent zinc and 0.8 percent copper, plated by pure copper resulting in a total composition of 97.5 percent zinc and 2.5 percent copper.

Victor David Brenner


The Designer/Engraver was, Frank Gasparro, after Victor D. Brenner, a talented artist of the time and did a very wonderful thing for numismatics: Design the LINCOLN CENT. Charles Eliot Norton of Harvard, whom Brenner counted among his friends, gave the sculptor an unpublished portrait of Lincoln which served Brenner as a basis for the study of Lincoln's features. However, he examined every portrait to which he was able to obtain access, in order to draw those conclusions that, together with conversations with those who had known Lincoln himself, enabled him to evolve the portrait that appears on the penny. Brenner's initials, in 1909, were found at the bottom of the reverse, but was later removed and was not restored until 1918, a few months after the death of Charles Barber, it was put at the truncation of the bust. Lincoln's hair in real life was straight and wavy, but Brenner made it curled and twisted to give the assasinated President Lincoln a more "appealing" look. Barber modified the portrait of Lincoln in 1916: Lincolns coat and cheeks are less wrinkled; the vigor of the design is attenuated. The obverse has the words "IN GOD WE TRUST" at the very top, the date to the right, "LIBERTY" to the left, and Lincoln's bust in the center.


On February 12, 1959, a revised reverse design was introduced as part of the 150th anniversary of Lincoln's birth. No formal competition was held. Frank Gasparro, then Assistant Engraver at the Philadelphia Mint, prepared the winning entry, selected from a group of 23 models that the engraving staff at the Mint had been asked to present for consideration. Only the approval of the Secretary of the Treasury was necessary to make the change because the design had been in use for more than the required 25 years.

Frank Gasparro

The imposing marble Lincoln Memorial provides the central motif, with the legends E Pluribus Unum and UNITED STATES OF AMERICA completing the design, together with the denomination. The initials "FG" appear on the right, near the shrubbery. In his treatise Theory and Practise of Numismatic Design, Steve Crooks states that because the Lincoln Memorial is shown in sufficient detail to discern the statue of Lincoln on the reverse of the penny, Abraham Lincoln was the only person to be depicted on both the obverse and reverse of the same United States coin until the release of the New Jersey state quarter in 1999, which depicts George Washington crossing the Delaware River on the reverse.


Lincoln Cent, Memorial Reverse (1959-Date) Mintage


  • Weight: 3.11 grams/0.10 ounce - Zincs weigh 2.5 grams
  • Diameter: 19.05 mm/0.75 inch
  • Thickness: 1.55 mm
  • Composition: French Bronze (1959-1962), brass (1962-1981), zinc (copper coated, 1982-0 core is 99.2% zinc/ 0.8% copper - Total content 97.6% zinc
  • Rim: Plain
  • Mint mark: Obverse under date

Classification of copper and its alloys

  • Family Principal - alloying element - UNS numbers
    • Copper alloys, brass Zinc (Zn) C1xxxx–C4xxxx,C66400–C69800
    • Phosphor bronzes Tin (Sn) C5xxxx
    • Aluminium bronzes Aluminium (Al) C60600–C64200
    • Silicon bronzes Silicon (Si) C64700–C66100
    • Copper nickel, nickel silvers Nickel (Ni) C7xxxx

Catalog reference

Commonly Reference

Penny, Cent, Trolley Car (reverse).

Prices realized from past auction lots. (PCGS Holder)

PCGS Price Guide [1]


  • Breen, Walter H., Walter Breen's Complete Encyclopedia of U. S. and Colonial Coins, New York: Doubleday, 1987.
  • [1]Keith Scott
  • Yeoman, R. S., and Kenneth Bressett (ed.), A Guide Book of United States Coins, 59th Ed., Atlanta, GA: Whitman Publishing, 2005
  • U.S.Mint