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COLUMN: May 23 is 'Lucky Penny Day'

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By Navisha Collins

May 23 is Lucky Penny Day.

I am sure we have all heard the saying “See a penny, pick it up, all day long you’ll have good luck.”

The first time I heard it was on the movie “Grease.”

Who knew the coin we all love to hate had its own day?

The penny has been part of our currency for more than 200 years. Originally the penny was made entirely of copper. It was in 1856 that manufacturers began to meld other medals with the copper. Today’s penny is now a core of zinc with coating of copper, leaving the total amount of copper as 2.5 percent.

Additionally, the penny has gone through many cosmetic changes. Our 16th president Abraham Lincoln has not always been the face of the one cent coin. It was in 1909 that Lincoln first appeared on the currency. The Lincoln coin has also had many obverse designs.

In 1909, the reverse side of the copper cent featured wheat. Most of us at one time or another have come across one of the now rare “wheat” pennies. The rarest casting of the Lincoln wheat cents was manufactured in 1943. The reason for this was the United States military used a lot of metal during World War II. During this time, the penny was a zinc plated steel cent. Due to the complaints expressed by individuals, claiming that the zinc coating made them look more like a dime the composition was again changed to reflect the reddish exterior that we all know.

In 1959, the penny changed once again. The ever familiar penny reflected the Lincoln Memorial, tiny Abraham Lincoln included. This design remained the same for 49 years – aside from a few metal composition changes made. Each change meant less copper in the infamous copper cent.

In 2009 the Lincoln Bicentennial cents emerged. Four designs were released, commemorating four monumental changes in Lincoln’s life. The first of these cents to be released memorialized his birth and early childhood right here LaRue County. The second showed his youth in Indiana. Third was Lincoln’s life in Illinois. And lastly, the forth cent bears a picture of the White House where he made his final home.

The last change made to the penny occurred in 2010 with the current reverse side. The Union Shield Lincoln cent symbolizes Lincoln’s history making changes including the end of the Civil War and the abolishment of slavery.

The phrase “E pluribus unum” stands for “out of many, one.”

In all of this, one thing has remained true for the last 100 years. The man that changed the face of a nation has remained the face and base rate of our currency. Lincoln has adorned the one cent coin since 1909. And it was lucky for us that he was one of our most influential presidents.

So remember as you are walking along on May 23, should you happen to see a penny on heads, pick it up because it might be your lucky day.