Lincoln “Wheat Ears” Penny
The Lincoln Penny was inspired by President Theodore Roosevelt when he sat for a portrait in sculptor Victor D. Brenner’s studio in New York in 1908. Brenner was preparing designs in connection with the upcoming 100th anniversary of the birth of Abraham Lincoln in 1909, and Roosevelt noticed the various designs in the studio.
Roosevelt shared Brenner’s passion for Lincoln, and although the United States at this time had never issued a circulating coin with the portrait of a real person, Roosevelt asked Brenner to create a new coin design honoring Lincoln. Roosevelt’s plan was to release the Lincoln Penny in 1909 as part of the centennial celebrations of Lincoln’s birth.
For his design, Brenner based the portrait of Lincoln on a centennial plaque upon which he was working. This portrait has been used on every Penny issued since August 2, 1909, when it was first released to the public. It is the longest-running coin design in U.S. history.
It is the reverse of the original Lincoln Penny, however, that has excited collectors for generations. It depicts two ears of wheat to honor America’s agricultural heritage, giving the coin its popular “Wheat Ears” and “Wheatback” nicknames. This is one of the most famous and most beloved designs in history.
In 1959 – 50 years after the Lincoln Penny was first struck – the “Wheat Ears” design was replaced with the Lincoln Memorial design. As a result, even the most recent “Wheat Ears” Penny is now almost 60 years old. Most people alive today have never seen a “Wheat Ears” Penny in circulation!
Collectors of all ages love the fascinating “Wheat Ears” Pennies – both for their history and their design. These were America’s Pennies from 1909 to 1958 – from before World War I to after World War II and including the Roaring Twenties, the Great Depression, and the Space Age. Each “Wheat Ears” Penny is treasured, and each is a unique link to American history and culture.