Coin History – The Lincoln Shield Cent

Continuing the Coin History series, we take a look at the relatively new Lincoln Shield Cent. Introduced in 2010 as a follow up to the 2009 Bicentennial Cents, the Shield Cent was meant to be emblematic of President Abraham Lincoln’s preservation of the United States after our Civil War. The change to the Lincoln Cent was mandated by the Presidential $1 Coin Act that passed in 2005. But how we got to the Shield Cent as we know it today took a bit of time.

The design process for the coin kicked off in earnest in April 2009 with the Commission of Fine Arts recommending an initial design. That design showed 13 wheat sheaves bound together by a ring. That ring was to symbolize America’s unity as one nation. However, this design was withdrawn later because it looked similar to a coin issued in Germany in the 1920s.

At the same time, the Citizens Coinage Advisory Committee, or CCAC, met and recommended a design that is basically the design we see on the Shield Cent today. The Reverse had a Union shield with ONE CENT on a scroll that went across the shield. At the top of the shield was E pluribus unum with 13 stripes on it.

In June 2009, the CFA met once more and in that meeting recommended a design that bore an American Flag, again being emblematic of a single union that was the United States. But that design was also rejected and on November 12, 2009 the now Shield Cent design was announced. The design was virtually unchanged from the one that the CCAC had recommended.

Design of the Reverse was left to Lyndall Bass, an artist based in Santa Fe, New Mexico. Her initials appear under the N in ONE on the Reverse. It was sculpted by Joseph Menna, the United States Mint sculptor and engraver. His initials are found under the T in CENT on the Reverse. The Obverse of the coin was also re-engraved.

Lincoln Cent Reverse
Lincoln Cent Shield Reverse

The composition of the Shield Lincoln Cent was unchanged from those of since mid-1982 when the copper-zinc Cents were introduced. They are composed of an inner core alloy of 99.2% zinc and 0.8% copper with an outer plating of pure copper, for an overall composition of 97.5% zinc and 2.5% copper.

The release of the new Shield Cent in 2010 did not go quite as planned. The United States Mint had planned to introduce it in an official release ceremony at the Lincoln Presidential Library in Springfield, Illinois. That did happen on February 11, 2010 but the United States territory of Puerto Rico jumped the gun. The coins were released on the island in January 2010. It almost immediately created a shortage of the Cents in general on the island.


In 2010, across the Denver, Philadelphia, and San Francisco Mints, 4,372,519,216 of the new Cents were minted. Like previous Cents, the Denver mintmark and the San Francisco mintmark appeared on the Obverse under the date. Cents with no mint mark were from Philadelphia but this to changed for one year in 2017. The Mint quietly added the P mint mark to Cents minted that year in Philadelphia to honor the 225th anniversary of the Mint. In 2018 and 2019, the mint mark is no longer on Philadelphia minted Cents. But in 2019, there was another change aimed directly at coin collectors.

In February of this year, the Mint announced that the West Point Mint would strike Shield Cents with the W mint mark. Normally the West Point facility only produces commemorative coins for the Mint. All of the 2019-W Cents are part of the annual sets offered by the Mint and not released into general circulation. The three finishes were Uncirculated, Proof, and a new Reverse Proof.

2019-W Lincoln Cent Proof
2019-W Lincoln Cent Proof

To date, there have been 66,959,152,035 Lincoln Shield Cents struck but that number is only climbing as final figures for 2019 and some earlier years are not known yet.


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