Thursday, February 19, 2009

pennies from heaven

I'm one of those people who collects coins in jars. Well, I use beakers, like the ones you'd find in a chemistry lab. Anyway, my point is that my penny beaker has been full for a few weeks now, and today I decided it was time to empty it out and get the pennies ready for the bank. But before the pennies and I part ways, I started a counting project, and you can see the fruits of my labor below.

However, in my quest to learn more about that old familiar copper-plated coin, I was quite surprised to discover that 2009 marks a turning point of sorts for the United States one-cent piece. As it turns out, this is the 100th year in which Abraham Lincoln has graced the American penny. As a result (and as a celebration of the 200th anniversary of his birth), all pennies minted this year will bear one of four special designs commemorating the occasion. More importantly, however, it means that the 2008 pennies were likely the last in which the reverse side will show the Lincoln memorial. In 2010 the U.S. penny will have a new, more permanent design that will supposedly reflect Lincoln's effort to keep the country together as one United States. Who knew?

While we're on the topic of coins, I also wanted to remind everyone that although the last of the 50 state quarter designs began circulating a few months ago, there are six additional quarters being added for this year. They commemorate the District of Columbia, Puerto Rico, Guam, American Samoa, the U.S. Virgin Islands, and the Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands. Be on the lookout for them at a vending machine near you!

And now, without further ado, I present to you a breakdown of my penny collection, which spans from 2005 to today.

Total number of pennies: 412

Average penny age: 20.51 years

Pennies from the 00's: 104

Pennies from the 90's: 92

Pennies from the 80's: 119

Pennies from the 70's: 68

Pennies from the 60's: 24

Pennies from the 50's: 2

Pennies from the 40's: 1

Median penny year: 1989

Years most represented (17 each): 2001, 2000, 1995, 1980

Oldest penny: 1945

Pennies so mangled I couldn't see the year (and therefore not counted in any but the first stat): 1

Pennies that were actually Canadian (ditto): 1

Update: Spurred by this post, a discussion among friends brought to light the penny controversy, so I thought I'd alert you to a recent 60 Minutes piece, which sums the issue up nicely. Thanks to NeatEngine for the link!


  1. you must be a sharp cookie if you ended up with just 1 Canadian penny. Over the years I've been given so many Canadian coins "accidentally" that I should be planning a vacation north of the border to recoup my losses. I am, of course, very conscientious, and never, ever pass 'em on. They should have "Canadian Coin collection jars" in banks, with the proceeds going to UNICEF, or Oxfam. (grumpy in P. Ridge...)

  2. Well, I may have had a few more over the years...these were just the ones that didn't stay in my wallet for recirculation!

  3. Some out there are calling for the US Mint to retire the penny. Apparently, it costs the US Mint more than a penny to make a penny.

  4. And some are all for saving the penny!