Mint promises cents by Friday

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Cabin penny quickly becomes a must for collectors

By Linda Ireland

Have you seen the new cabin penny?

If you attended the Feb. 12 unveiling ceremony in Hodgenville, you may have purchased a roll of the coins that honor Abraham Lincoln on his 200th birthday. If you did, you now own a piece of history.

If you didn’t make the ceremony, you may have been wondering if you would ever see one of the elusive coins. Many of the rolls made their way into collectors’ hands where they are now fetching a pretty penny on eBay and other online auction sites.

Your wait for the new penny may be over. According to the U.S. Mint’s Web site, the Mint will offer rolls of the one-cent coins with the birthplace cabin beginning Friday. The “two-roll set” is available for a limited time and costs $8.95.

The set contains one roll of 50 coins bearing the P mint mark for the United States Mint at Philadelphia and one roll of 50 coins bearing the D mint mark for the United States Mint at Denver.

For more information on purchasing the coin, visit www.usmint.gov.

The penny’s journey

It has been 50 years since the penny had a re-design, with the Lincoln Memorial replacing wheat on the reverse in 1959. Fifty years earlier, the 1909 cent was the first American coin to feature a person’s image – that of 16th President Abraham Lincoln.

The 2009 Lincoln One-Cent Coin Redesign Program, overseen by the National Abraham Lincoln Bicentennial Commission, provides for four design changes this year.

The first new Lincoln cent, released Feb. 12 in Hodgenville, features the birthplace cabin on its reverse.

The reverse was designed by Mint artistic infusion program master designer Richard Masters and executed by sculptor-engraver Jim Licaretz.

The heads side continues to bear sculptor Victor David Brenner’s likeness of Lincoln.

The other designs will be issued about every three months. They include images of Lincoln’s youth in Indiana, his professional life in Illinois and his presidency.

LaRue County Judge-Executive Tommy Turner was co-chair on the re-design committee. The new coin came about through a two-year process that involved numerous meetings with legislators, the U.S. Mint and the Secretary of the Treasury.

The legislation that permitted the re-design gave the Bicentennial Commission the right to approve the new coins.

“That gave us some say in what the final design would be,” Turner said.

The birthplace cabin was a “natural choice” for Lincoln’s Kentucky years, Turner said. About a dozen cabin designs were submitted, with the final result closely resembling the cabin design that was submitted for the Kentucky quarter.

The cabin design was rejected by the Fine Arts Commission for the back of the quarter; My Old Kentucky Home was selected instead.

The Indiana coin, showing Lincoln’s rail splitter years, drew little controversy, but the Illinois coin showing Lincoln’s political years was another matter.

Of about 25 designs submitted, the ALBC chose an image of Lincoln the statesman standing in front of the capitol. The Fine Arts Commission selected another design for the coin, an act that “upset” the Illinois delegation on the committee, Turner said. The ALBC in turn rejected the proposal and sought an opinion from the Secretary of the Treasury to overrule the Fine Arts Commission. The ALBC won.

The fourth coin, representative of Lincoln’s presidential years, drew plenty of discussion, as well, Turner said. The ALBC chose an image of the unfinished capitol dome in Washington D.C.

“During Lincoln’s time, the dome was being constructed,” said Turner. “There was an outcry in Washington that work on the dome should stop because it was improper to spend money on a building during war.”

Lincoln was steadfast that the dome be completed.

“He felt the building symbolizes our nation, our government,” Turner said. “The dome is symbolic of Lincoln’s striving to see our government continue.”

After the fourth coin is released, one “final design” will be selected for the back of the penny, Turner said. It will replace the Lincoln Memorial design that has been used since 1959.

He doesn’t know what design will be chosen.

“I’m sure we’ll (the commission) have input, but probably not the final say,” said Turner. “Maybe it will have the White House on the back.”