So I wasn't terribly shocked to find a brand new penny in my hand upon receiving change for the breakfast I purchased this morning.. I was however shocked to see that they have been completely redesigned!!
Apparently 2009 was the bicentennial of Abraham Lincoln's birth and as such four new designs were commissioned and released to celebrate that as well as the 100th anniversary of the production of the Lincoln cent (penny).
I have to think that Lincoln would be embarrassed...
The front design is the same as it was, but the reverse has 4 new designs apparently featuring four major aspects of President Lincoln's life; his birth and childhood in Kentucky, his formative years in Indiana, his professional life in Illinois, and his Presidency in Washington, D.C as seen to the right.
I'm okay with the first two.. The log cabin and the rail-splitter designs are nice and seem appropriate to me. The last two are also nice designs but I question how those images were more relevant to Lincolns life than say; the Emancipation Proclamation, or the Lincoln-Doublas Debates on the topic of Slavery. or something related to the Gettysburg Address maybe? etc..
I'm just not sure that a picture of the Capitol cluttered by scaffolding was a good salute to Lincoln's life.
But most importantly; Dear god, WHY?! ... why do this? Amid all the government bailouts, corporate bankruptcies, and an economic down turn to rival that of the great depression, how much money did the government blow to redesign those coins?
No one forges the penny so why redesign it? Did the old designs some how fail? Not only that but these 4 new designs during 2009 are mandated to be further redesigned again in 2010 to a permanent design.
Is this some effort to instill value in an almost valueless coin? I'm sure all the numismatists will appreciate it.. Or maybe it's bizarro feel good tactic by the government to cheer us up? I dunno.. But the amount of money that was bound to be put into this redesign process seems silly. Especially in an age where the penny seems largely pointless. Most people don't stop to pick pennies up off the ground..
To be fair; No they aren't worthless.. think how much everything would go up if you had to round up to the nearest nickel.. but still..
At one point (prior to 1982) all US pennies actually had a metal content that at market value was worth more than face value of the coin. Now however, all pennies are 97.5% zinc with only 2.5% being copper (coated over the zinc) and as such have an intrinsic value of $0.0028... So 0.28% of face value..
According to the US Mint the costs to producing and shipping already designed one-cent (penny) coins during the fiscal year 2007 was $0.0167 per penny.[ref] That doesn't count the cost of redesign..
$0.0167 to produce a coin worth $0.0028, with a face value of only $0.01.. Dear god no wonder we are in debt..
So, 5 billion pennies in circulation worth $50 million dollars, cost the government $70 million to make.. For those of you who are really bad at math, thats $20 million dollars wasted..
I have to think even Lincoln would be ashamed..