What do Benjamin Franklin, the phrase “mind your business”, and April 1 all have in common? The answer is the penny, which we recognize on National One Cent Day.
The United States first issued a one-cent coin produced by a private mint in 1787. It was designed by Benjamin Franklin. On one side it read “Mind Your Business” and the other “We Are One.” This coin was made of 100% copper was larger than today’s penny and came to be known as the Fugio cent.
It wasn’t until 1792 that the United States Mint was first created. The first coins struck by the newly established mint were called Chain cents, or Flowing Hair Chain Cents by collectors today. On one side of the coin was a circle of 13 links of chain representing the 13 colonies. On the reverse was an image of a woman with flowing hair, otherwise known as Liberty.
The one-cent coin was reduced in size in the 1850s to make the coin more economical and easier to handle. In 1856, the Mint produced the Flying Eagle cent with a wreath on the reverse side.
This coin was soon replaced with the Indian Head cent in 1859, which quickly became popular and remained in circulation for decades.
Today’s one-cent coin is made of copper and zinc and has borne the image of President Abraham Lincoln since 1909. From 1959 to 2008, the reverse featured the Lincoln Memorial. Four different reverse designs in 2009 honored Lincoln’s 200th birthday depicting various scenes from his lifetime and a new, permanent reverse – the Union Shield – was introduced in 2010.