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Feb. 12 – Abraham Lincoln’s 200th birthday was celebrated with the release of a new coin in his honor, a gun salute, a banquet and an opera.
Visitors from around the state, nation and a couple of foreign countries joined local residents in honoring Hodgenville’s famous native son. Blue skies and temperatures in the 50s were a plus and stood in stark contrast to last year’s wintry weather. Sleet and ice caused the cancellation of the Feb. 12, 2008 Lincoln Bicentennial national kickoff.
The morning’s ceremony attracted about 300 people. Highlights included the 9th Michigan Volunteer Infantry Fort Duffield from West Point, a Civil War re-enactment group, presenting the flag, a performance by the Band of Hawks brass quintet and Glen Rice and a wreath-laying by Hodgenville Mayor Terry Cruse and scouts.
About 1,200 people attended the 10 a.m. coin unveiling ceremony at LaRue County High School. The event was sponsored by the Abraham Lincoln Bicentennial Commission.
Andrew Brunhart, the deputy director of the U.S. Mint, and Gov. Steven L. Beshear, unveiled the first of a series of four new Lincoln pennies. The one-cent piece has an image of the symbolic Lincoln cabin on the reverse. The other three Lincoln-themed designs will be unveiled this year.
Beshear, one of the few dignitaries who attended the 2008 kickoff, said the new coin is a “way to celebrate (Lincoln’s) humble beginnings.”
“I know the heart of every Kentuckian is bursting with pride today knowing that 200 years ago, Lincoln was born here,” said Beshear.
Brunhart said he was honored to be part of Hodgenville’s celebration – and the “triple anniversary” of Lincoln’s birth, the 1909 release of the first Lincoln cent, and the 1959 change of the reverse design on the cent from wheat to the Lincoln Memorial.
Brunhart called the new penny’s release “quite significant for the American people” and the iconic design “clearly representative of a human being’s humble beginnings.”
“This is truly your Kentucky Lincoln penny,” he said.
As the ceremony ended, Beshear, Brunhart and the LaRue County Ambassadors passed out the new pennies to the children in the audience.
The pennies, bound to become a collector’s item, came “directly from the U.S. Mint,” Brunhart said.
“Keep that penny, cherish it, put it away and in 60 or 70 years, give it to your children or your grandchildren and remember this day when the Kentucky Lincoln cent was created,” said Brunhart.
The penny was also introduced Thursday in the chambers of the U.S. Senate and House of Representatives, Brunhart said. Banks should have them in a couple of weeks.
Employees of Lincoln National Bank were on hand to exchange rolls of the new pennies for dollars; $5,000 worth were available. A limit of $5 was placed on the exchange, although several people returned to the back of the line to obtain more coin rolls.
Emogene Gardner of Hodgenville said the line “moved quickly considering the crowd.” She purchased $10 of the pennies.
Doc Meredith, president of the bank, said about 10 coin collectors had called the bank in advance, inquiring about the coins.
“One flew in from Denver, Colorado (for the unveiling ceremony),” he said.
The coins were delivered to Lincoln National in an armored truck, Meredith said.
By Thursday afternoon, several of the coins had shown up on Ebay, the online auction site. Prices ranged from five cents to $2.50 each or $50 per roll of coins.