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Eye Opener: The penny gets a makeover

By Ed O'Keefe

The 2010 Lincoln "Preservation of the Union" pennies hit mass circulation this month. (AP)

Eye Opener

Happy Friday! Notice anything different about your pocket change? The nation's one-cent copper piece has a new backside.

For the first time since 1959, the Lincoln Memorial is permanently out, while Abraham Lincoln's profile still appears on the front side, as it has since 1909.

“This one-cent coin honors the preservation of the union, which was Abraham Lincoln's ultimate achievement,” U.S. Mint Director Ed Moy said last week at the coin's official unveiling in Lincoln's hometown of Springfield, Ill. “Because of his presidency, despite bitter regional enmity and a horrific civil war, we remained the United States of America.”

The seal includes the "E. Pluribus Unum" mantra and says "One Cent." The seal's 13 bars for each of the original 13 states. (Shocker!) Peruse these penny fun facts from the U.S. Mint and use them to impress someone else later today:

• The Mint produced the first penny in 1793 with the image of a lady with flowing hair who symbolized liberty. The original pennies were a bit bigger than current day models and made of pure copper.

• Congress mandated a copper-zinc mix in 1857. Those pennies cents had a flying eagle on the front and a wreath on the back. That year lawmakers also mandated that Americans could no longer use coins from other countries.

• The "wheat penny" with two sheaves of wheat on the penny's backside circulated from 1909 to 1958. Lincoln's mug appeared on the front.

• The Lincoln Memorial appeared on the back of the penny from 1959 to 2008. In 2009, the Mint released four different tailsides to commemorate Lincoln's 200th birthday. The images represented Lincoln's birth and childhood in Kentucky, his "formative" years in Indiana, his professional life in Illinois and his presidency in Washington.

The new pennies are scheduled to enter general circulation this year.

Do you like the redesign? What's your favorite version of the penny? What's your favorite coin? Do we even need the penny anymore?

Leave your thoughts in the comments section below

By The Federal Eye in Friday's Post: Two offerings in Friday's dead tree edition worth a gander: Attacks on IRS employees all too common and Federal government to lift restrictions on guns in national parks.

Cabinet and Staff News: Vice President Biden says the U.S. needs to shrink its nuclear stockpile. A new bill would broaden the powers of Treasury Secretary Timothy F. Geithner. Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius decries higher health insurance rates. Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood stars in an episode of MTV's "The Buried Life." AfPak Envoy Richard Holbrooke is back. A Q&A with Assistant Attorney General Lanny Breuer. Melodee Hanes, a former U.S. attorney candidate and current live-in girlfriend of Sen. Max Baucus (D-Mont.), makes a public appearance. The U.S. ambassador to Belgium is raising Eyebrows and causing headaches.

Black farmers, USDA agree to $1.25 billion settlement: Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack said the settlement would close a "sordid chapter in USDA history."

Iranian jamming jams up the BBG: The National Security Council at first tried to prevent the board from allowing the Voice of America to attach its name to a statement last week with German and British broadcasters protesting Iranian signal jamming.

President Obama stars in new Census PSA: If the agency's Super Bowl ad didn't fit your tastes, perhaps you'd prefer a message from the commander in chief?

Administration recasts Iraq war with new name: "Operation New Dawn" will reflect the reduced role U.S. troops will play in securing the country this year as troop levels fall.

Red tape delayed stimulus projects: Agencies responsible for administering stimulus dollars told the Government Accountability Office that complying with aspects regulating the use of the funds were preventing them from moving more quickly to put stimulus money to work.

FCC outlines some national broadband plan details: The agency's presentation was part of a monthlong effort to explain the plan, which was funded by economic-stimulus funds and is expected to be hundreds of pages long.

Fed raises interest rate on emergency loans to banks: It takes another step toward winding down its expansive efforts to prop up the financial system, raising the interest rate that banks must pay to take out emergency loans.

FDA issues warning on 4 common asthma drugs: The government is taking steps to curb use of some long-acting asthma drugs taken by millions, issuing safety restrictions to lower an uncommon but potentially life-threatening risk that asthma could worsen suddenly.

Safety improvements in Metro car design deemed 'most wanted' by NTSB: The agency voted Thursday to add subway car design to its list of "most wanted" safety improvements to prevent the kind of collapse that took place during June's fatal D.C. Metro crash.

National Zoo announces leopard cubs' birth: . At birth, the two cubs weighed in at a little more than half a pound each. Officials said they are not certain about the sex of the cubs.

Frustration mounts after latest Newark breach: Parts of the airport were closed again this week due to a security breach, the second security snafu in six weeks.

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By Ed O'Keefe  | February 19, 2010; 6:00 AM ET
Categories:  Agencies and Departments, Eye Opener  
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Ditch the penny and simplify pricing! This will help business and the public at large.

Posted by: Watersville | February 19, 2010 7:47 AM | Report abuse

I don't mind the notion of celebrating the preservation of the union. However, the actual design itself seems rather uninspired. It's merely a shield and a scroll. I appreciated the detailed, intricate engraving of the Lincoln Memorial (and Lincoln himself on the front). There are a thousand more thoughtful designs that could have been used to depict the preservation of the union.

Posted by: WaPoFan1 | February 19, 2010 7:50 AM | Report abuse

Error in fact in the penny article-

From 1837 to 1857, the one cent coin was bronze, made of a composition 95 percent copper and five percent tin and zinc.

In 1857-1863 they changed the composition to 88 percent copper and 12 percent nickel.

From 1864 to 1962, the penny's composition was 95 percent copper and five percent tin and zinc, except for the war effort in 1943 (steel).

In 1962 the tin content was removed from the cent, making the composition 95 percent copper and five percent zinc. The alloy remained unchanged until 1982, when it became a copper-plated zinc coin made up of 97.5 percent zinc and 2.5 percent copper.

Posted by: pratt1 | February 19, 2010 10:33 AM | Report abuse

Ditch the Federal Reserve!!! The FED is not a branch of our government, but an independent central bank that has hijacked our currency, economy, and political process!! AMERICA WAKE UP!!!

Posted by: AMERICAWAKEUP | February 19, 2010 11:33 AM | Report abuse

The best penny was the 1860's Indian Head Penny. It had a lot of class.

Posted by: rrudy | February 19, 2010 6:14 PM | Report abuse

I believe using the term 'mug' for the profile of President Lincoln to be very disrespectful and sophomoric journalism.

Posted by: Foxedge | February 20, 2010 2:03 PM | Report abuse

The cost of making a pnney is 1.62 cents. Why does our government find it necessary to loose .62 of a cent to create 1 cent?

Drop the pennies, drop the Federal Reserve and get us back on track.

Posted by: damnit79 | February 25, 2010 1:29 PM | Report abuse

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