7 Penny Facts – Things You Probably Don’t Know About The One-Cent Coin

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Betcha these penny facts will turn you on your head – um, obverse?

Yes, the good old penny. It’s a coin you probably don’t use much these days, though I’ll bet you have a small stash of pennies somewhere in your home tucked away in an old clothes drawer or perhaps in a jar.


Pennies have inspired me as a coin collector. Finding a 1941 wheat cent in my allowance hooked me on the hobby when I was a child. As a penny collector, I spent 2 years and hundreds of dollars completing an entire set of Lincoln cents.

This small coin has somehow defied numerous measures to eliminate it from circulation through the years. Yes, the U.S. penny lives on.

So, as you see, one-cent coins intrigue me, and over my many years in the hobby I have picked up a lot of knowledge about the penny.

Many penny facts are pretty cool. Others may seem more trivial.

But all 7 penny facts below will probably have you going, “Wow, I didn’t know that!”


Penny Fact #1

There’s no official “penny” in United States circulation. That term actually derives from the British, who make a coin called the “penny.” However, the official name of the U.S. coin that we Americans call the penny is actually just the one cent coin.



Penny Fact #2

The first official U.S. one-cent coins were struck in 1793.

These first one-cent pieces were made from 100% copper and had a diameter close to a modern-day half dollar coin.


Penny Fact #3

The first English coin to be known as a “penny” was introduced around 790 A.D. by Offa, an Anglo-Saxon king.

Originally, the penny was made from silver, but in later times was minted in copper.

There are 100 British pennies to the nation’s pound, just as there are 100 U.S. cents to our dollar.


Penny Fact #4

Benjamin Franklin, to whom we owe the phrase “a penny saved is a penny earned,” designed the first one cent coin in 1787.

Called a Fugio cent, this piece depicts a sun over a sundial and the motto “Mind Your Business.” On the reverse side is the motto “We Are One,” which is encircled by a chain with 13 links, representing each of the original colonies.


Penny Fact #5

The one-cent coin actually contains very little copper these days.

This follows a major change in the composition of one-cent coins back in 1982, when the penny (I’ll still call it) saw a reduction in copper content from 95% (and 5% tin and zinc) to only 2.5% copper, with cheaper zinc making up the balance.


Penny Fact #6

It costs around 1.8 cents to make a penny today.

While the cost of making a one-cent coin had fallen dramatically in 1982 after it was first made from primarily zinc, metal prices have risen so in the last 30 years that it again is cost-ineffective to strike the penny as it is made now.

Multiple efforts to to abolish pennies in the U.S. — like what happened in Canada in 2012 — have been sidelined by some opposition on Capitol Hill.



Penny Fact #7

The Lincoln cent was designed by Victor David Brenner, a Lithuanian-born sculptor whose initials can be seen on the coin as V.D.B.

The initials are famously on the reverse side of some 1909 pennies, along the rim on the bottom. After being dropped later in 1909, the V.D.B initials returned to the coin in 1918 and appear to this day as very tiny letters under Lincoln’s shoulder.


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8 thoughts on “7 Penny Facts – Things You Probably Don’t Know About The One-Cent Coin”

    • The two top dimes appear to have been worn down, perhaps purposefully. I thought at first they may be weak strikes, but I see perfect form in the lettering on the top-right piece and the copper interior on the top-left dime, which would not have been exposed had that coin been weakly struck.

      It looks like the two bottom dimes have an odd toning situation going on, most likely caused by exposure to a liquid or fumes.

      Thanks for your question!

  1. I found a twenty dollar coin it has mcmii on it, its 3 in wide,,, i know its not real but was wondering why it was made and if it was made in 1907. I love it , its really old and very interesting, and is it made of brass >?? Thank you . It has united states of america on back it has liberty

    • If it’s 3 in. wide it sounds like a replica of a genuine $20 gold piece. These are available as novelty items from many sources. I have a 4-inch “cent” that I use as a coaster. It frequently elicits comments from people who don’t know much about coins – “OMG, a real large cent and you’re putting your coffee cup on it?!!?”

    • Hi, Paula —

      Your 1937 and 1944 Lincoln cents are worth 3 to 5 cents each, and your 1940 Jefferson nickel is worth 10 to 15 cents.

      Thanks for checking with us!

  2. https://uploads.disquscdn.com/images/af7e89ca28cc2bff5794bc2144146965894eb1c7f646f67d3f25aca77681c48d.jpg https://uploads.disquscdn.com/images/4a727368f053826c9c34cfdffecb3002a659182efd9d297af0739d1ba42bab23.jpg The 19 is missing from this 44D,the second 4 appears to have an overstamped 6 .I cleaned it because I could not determine if the 19 was removed by a person or in the process of minting the coin? I hope you can enlarge it and get an idea what it is I have here??

    • Hi, JBaldino —

      The missing “19” and the scratches are unfortunately post-Mint damage. In this condition, it’s worth 2 to 3 cents.

      Best wishes,


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