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Bad Penny

October 6, 2010

Someone near and dear to me pointed out the fact — of which I was blissfully unaware — that the United States Mint has, in its infinite wisdom, decided to again redesign the obverse reverse of the one cent coin — colloquially known as the “penny”.

Now, there wasn’t anything particularly wrong with the “wheat” back of the penny that was used from 1909-1958.

It was extra cool in its “steel” version that was in use during WWII (to save copper for more explosive purposes):

Then in 1958, to commemorate the 150th anniversary of Lincoln’s birth, they switched to the image that we are all used to of the Lincoln Memorial.  Nothing wrong with that one at all.

Now, for no good reason at all, they’ve fucked up the penny.  Many say we don’t need the penny at all.  I’m agnostic on that, but if you’re going to have it, you shouldn’t fuck it up.  Here’s the new “design”:

Come on, that’s ridiculous.  It looks like something out of a Superman comic.  Actually, if I may, I will appropriate the rant of the reader who brought this to my attention:

They’ve turned the penny, mainstay of our economy, proud smallest denomination of the mighty dollar, into something that looks like a cheap arcade token.

What more can I say?

15 Comments leave one →
  1. jco permalink
    October 6, 2010 11:15 am

    HEG’s detailed photo of the Wheat penny made me curious about why the initials V.D.B. appeared at the bottom. Here is what I found:

    Both the obverse and the reverse were designed by Victor David Brenner, a New York sculptor. Brenner’s initials, V.D.B., were originally included on the reverse of the coin below the two stylized wheat stalks when the coin was officially released on August 2, 1909. The secrecy surrounding the new design up to the release date created great media speculation and interest. When a reporter from the Washington Star inquited with the Treasury about the V.D.B. advertisement on the reverse, The Mint fumbled its response. There was no Treasury Secretary at the time, so the media storm fell to Assistant Treasury Secretary Charles D. Norton. By August 5, 1909 the Treasury cut off the growing public relations disaster by removing the initials. 27,995,000 pieces had been struck in Philadelphia and 484,000 in San Francisco. These all entered circulation despite rumors of a recall. Both issues were widely saved at the time. In 1918, Brenner’s initials were restored to the obverse, below Lincoln’s shoulder.

    Different times. It is unfortunate that the cheesy new Superman penny seems not to have caused any public relations disaster, although really it should have.

    • Fat Al permalink*
      October 6, 2010 11:52 am

      So who are “LB” and “JFM” on the new coin?

      Also, I had to correct my error in calling the reverse of the coin the obverse. Mea culpa. That makes the original post a collector’s item, no doubt.

      • Fat Al permalink*
        October 6, 2010 11:59 am

        Thanks to the wonders of Google and the Numismatic Biblomania Society, I can answer my own question:

        I do have one question – is this the first time the initials of TWO creators are included on THE SAME SIDE of a U.S. coin? Signing the new Shield Reverse are United States Mint Artistic Infusion Program Associate Designer Lyndall Bass (LB) and United States Mint Sculptor-Engraver Joseph Menna (JFM).

      • Marie Leslie permalink
        December 23, 2010 2:30 pm


        • Fat Al permalink*
          December 23, 2010 6:21 pm

          Thanks for stopping by Marie. Now this is genuinely fascinating to me. Lyndall Bass is an actual artist. From 3 seconds on his (I’m assuming he’s a he) website I haven’t decided if he’s a good artist, but there he is, painting nudes and fruit and whatnot. And coins. Not, in my view, very attractive coins, but good old U.S. Legal tender nonetheless. Here’s to Lyndall Bass, wherever you are.

  2. October 6, 2010 12:15 pm

    I think the new penny should star in its own reality show.

  3. October 6, 2010 12:54 pm

    I hear Joe Girardi is going to be pictured on the front.

  4. October 7, 2010 5:19 pm

    I have a gallon ice cream container filled with steel pennies, which an uncle of mine collected in the years following World War II. They are neat.

    Much as I love Abraham Lincoln, one of my top 5 presidents, it’s time to retire the penny. It’s foolishness.

  5. October 9, 2010 4:10 pm

    The new penny looks FAKE and very Canadian…

    • Fat Al permalink*
      October 9, 2010 4:52 pm

      Canadian? Man, that’s cold.

      Welcome, Gidget. Thanks for stopping by.

    • jco permalink
      October 9, 2010 4:53 pm

      It definitely looks Canadian. When I found one in my wallet I was sure it was some foreign interloper.

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