I was surprised to find in my change this morning a new 2009 Lincoln penny, with a redesigned image on the reverse of Lincoln standing in front of the Illinois state capital. The redesign, in honor of the bicentennial of Lincoln's birth, was authorized by Title III of the Presidential $1 Coin Act of 2005, which called for four new reverse designs for the penny to represent the four periods of Lincoln's life: his birth and early years in Kentucky, his formative years in Indiana, his early career in Illinois, and his Presidency in Washington, D.C. The obverse of the penny remains the iconic image of Lincoln sculpted by Victor David Brenner (1871-1924) at the request of President Theodore Roosevelt. The Lincoln penny was first issued in 1909, the centennial of Lincoln's birth, and was the first U.S. coin to feature the portrait of a real person. It was also controversial for bearing the initials of the sculptor, V.D.B., which can now be seen below Lincoln's shoulder. The Lincoln penny, at one hundred years old, is the oldest U.S. coin in continuous circulation. (The Washington quarter was first issued in 1932, the Jefferson nickel in 1938, the Roosevelt dime in 1945, and the Kennedy half dollar in 1964.)
According to the U.S. Mint website, "At the conclusion of the 2009 Lincoln Bicentennial One Cent Program, the 2010 (and beyond) one-cent coin will feature a reverse design that will be emblematic of President Lincoln's preservation of the United States of America as a single and united country."