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« Mayfair Matte | Main | Getting Design Details Right »

July 20, 2010

Insipid Penny

Donald PIttenger writes:

Dear Blowhards --

I'm not into coins and therefore was surprised when I glanced at the reverse side of a penny I received in change a few days ago. It seems that after nearly 50 years of having the Lincoln Memorial, the Treasury decided it was time for a redesign. (In 2009 a set of reverses were minted to commemorate the 200th anniversary of the birth of Abraham Lincoln, but I somehow never noticed any of those coins.)

Here are the reverses of the main penny designs of the past century:

"Wheat" design: 1909-1958

Lincoln Memorial design: 1959-2008

Redesign for 2010 and future pennies

The U.S. Mint's statement is here, and the Wikipedia entry here.

I don't know about you, but I think the new design is about as insipid and ugly as any experienced committee of camel designers could ever have come up with. It's probably the worst coin design I've ever seen (and as reference, I've got baggies full of old European coins eagerly awaiting to be used again should the Euro meet its demise).

Bring back "wheat" -- at least its design is honest and fills the space nicely.



[Cross-posted at Art Contrarian.]

posted by Donald at July 20, 2010


What an ugly design. The thing is, hardly anyone will notice or care because pennies have become little more than an annoyance.

Posted by: Peter on July 20, 2010 10:50 PM

Looks like a union logo. Very original.

Posted by: rico on July 21, 2010 1:42 AM

Agreed, Donald. What an eyesore.

Posted by: Peter L. Winkler on July 21, 2010 3:11 AM

Yeesh. Gotta agree with you on this one.

I also think we should figure out a way to get rid of pennies. (I'm sure there are some negative consequences that we'd have to mitigate.)

Posted by: JewishAtheist on July 21, 2010 11:33 AM

2050 version will say:

Estados Unidos de Mexico y Norte America
Un Centavo

Posted by: Sgt. Joe Friday on July 21, 2010 1:21 PM

Maybe this primitive design will be so loathed it finally will kill off the one cent piece, and good riddance.

Posted by: Rick Darby on July 22, 2010 11:43 AM

Welcome back, Donald.

Yes, the design is a step backward.

What's the progress report on restoring the archives?

Posted by: Shouting Thomas on July 22, 2010 3:02 PM

Peter and Rick -- Here in Washington state (and most other places) the penny has its use for paying sales tax. When I was a kid and money was worth a lot more, we actually had state-issued Tax Tokens worth 1/10 cent. They disappeared by 1950 or thereabouts.

ST -- Michael tells me archives are restored up into this January -- though I haven't tried to inspect them yet. And I'll leave it to him to post further details. I will mention that the effects of the fried controller board were far more serious than first thought, which is why it took so long to get going again.

Posted by: Donald Pittenger on July 22, 2010 4:12 PM

1) Very glad to see the site back up!

2) Rico nailed it - it looks a union emblem, or the logo of a cheap security company.

3) With the 10-to-30-fold price increases of the last sixty years, the penny is not useful anymore. Dump it. Also the $1 bill, $2 bill, and $5 bill.

4) Your pre-euro Euro-coins are worthless. Even if some countries drop the euro, they won't bring back their old currencies. I think Italy was somewhat embarrassed by the 2000-to-$1 lira.

Some of the smaller countries will cling to the euro longer, or subgroups like the Benelux will set up their own common currencies.

Posted by: Rich Rostrom on July 22, 2010 7:27 PM

Here in Washington state (and most other places) the penny has its use for paying sales tax.

Posted by: Manhattan on August 3, 2010 4:30 AM

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