outside the lines

  • The dollar denomination of the United States has had a long, ever changing history. While many pieces had been struck, there were long intervals between the different series, and whole generations would not see a dollar coin in denomination. Following the dollar bills that were introduced in 1862, the majority of citizens preferred those, and when production of the peace dollar, the last of the silver dollar denomination was discontinued, few people bothered. Silver dollars remained in use in the casinos in Nevada, but in most other places dollar bills served the need.

    During the 1970s the situation had remained the same, and the introduction of the Eisenhower dollars did not help much. Not containing any silver, but of the same size as the old silver dollars, the people considered the new dollars to be too big and unusable in circulation. As a solution, a new, lighter and thinner, dollar piece was proposed and experiments to create planchets were made, both by the Mint and private companies. These are all very scarce, although relatively affordable due to lack of collectors interest. Among the proposed metals was titanium, with test pieces produced by Gould & Co. which was based in Cleveland, OH. None of these would make it to the coinage.

    Eventually a small sized dollar coin was authorized under Public Law Number: 95-447. This was viewed as a solution to the problems cited for the large sized dollars. The coins would have a diamter 26.5 mm, a little bit bigger than a quarter, and would be struck from a composition of copper nickel clad. The Susan B. Anthony Dollar was first minted in 1979. Unfortunately, the solution to the problems viewed for the last design, became new problems. The small size dollar coin was clumsy in circulation since it could easily be mistaken for a quarter! After three years, the coins stopped being minted and it would be many years before the small sized dollar would get another chance.

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  • The longest running series in the history of United States coinage prepares for yet another make over in 2010. The Lincoln Cent was first created to mark the 100th anniversary of the birth of Abraham Lincoln in 1909. Since that date, the design has been changed to mark two other anniversaries in 1959 and 2009.

    The 1909 Lincoln Cent was designed by Victor D. Brenner. He was a Lithuaniun born immigrant to the United States who had prepared a bust of Lincoln a few years prior, which would become the basis for his penny design. The reverse of the coin was also his design and features a pair of wheat stalks, paying homage to the United States agrarian roots. The coin was released for the 100th anniversary or centennial of Lincoln’s birth.

    Fifty years later to celebrate the sesquicentennial or 150th anniversary, a new reverse design was created by Frank Gasparro. This design featured the Lincoln Memorial building. The original Lincoln Cents obverse or “heads” design was retained and paired with the new reverse.

    One hundred years after the release of the first coin in the series, another reverse redesign was authorized. This celebrated the bicentennial or 200th anniversary of Lincoln’s birth. With a hat tip to the success of the 50 State Quarters series, the new reverse design was not one, but four designs which would be released at intervals throughout the year. These designs featured the different aspects of Lincoln’s life.

    One year later, a final and permanent new reverse design will be featured on the 2010 Lincoln Cent. For the first time, this does not mark any particular anniversary, simply the year after an anniversary. The new design will be representative of Lincoln’s preservation of the Union.

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