For the last few months, the Commission of Fine Arts and the Citizens Coinage Advisory Committee have been volleying between each other and the sculptor-engravers at the US Mint over the design of the reverse for the 2010 Lincoln Cent. Based on what is being reported one thing is clear, the designs are somewhat less than stellar.
Ok… they stink!
According to Public Law 145-109 Section 303 states, "[the] design on the reverse of the 1-cent coins issued after December 31, 2009, shall bear an image emblematic of President Lincoln’s preservation of the United States of America as a single and united country."
While the mandate sounds simple, there is a catch: Lincoln only caught a glimpse of a united country. Prior to Gen. Robert E. Lee’s surrender on April 9, 1865, Lincoln visited Richmond after it was taken by Union troops. Lincoln was greeted as a conquering hero by newly freed slaves on his way to visit the Confederate capital.
When Lincoln arrived at Jefferson Davis’s office, he sat behind Davis’s desk to symbolize that there was only one president who had the authority to rule over the land. Lincoln was assassinated on April 14, 1865 and died on April 15.
Lincoln was re-elected in 1864 with 55-percent of the vote and a 212-21 electoral vote margin. On March 3, 1865, Lincoln gave his second inaugural address as the war was winding down. Lincoln’s theme turned to healing as he ended his address:
With malice toward none; with charity for all; with firmness in the right, as God gives us to see the right, let us strive on to finish the work we are in; to bind up the nation’s wounds; to care for him who shall have borne the battle, and for his widow, and his orphan—to do all which may achieve and cherish a just and lasting peace, among ourselves, and with all nations.
With that rich and well documented history, someone could not come up with a good theme to represent the preservation of a united country?
Even though the Confederate states did not participate in the 1864 election, Lincoln’s re-election and inaugural speech laid claim to his desire to end this bloody chapter in our history and pursue a policy of peace. What would be a better iconic image than Lincoln delivering his Second Inaugural Address.
Although there is only one known photograph of the inauguration (see above), there are artists renderings that could be used to base a design. For example, the color image to the right of this paragraph was found on the Internet.
I do not know who created the image but it shows Lincoln standing at a lectern with Vice President Andrew Johnson (a southern Democrat) sitting behind Lincoln, and Chief Justice Salmon P. Chase standing to Lincoln’s left. It is a better image to use than what appeared on the cover of Harper’s Weekly because it shows a more dignified proceedings’ plus I think it would look better on a small coin, like the cent.
I think that this is a better idea than sheaths of wheat, shields, and images of the Capital building because it is clearly about Lincoln and how he lead the nation out of its bloodiest war into one United States.
If you agree with me, I encourage you to contact the US Mint, CFA, and CCAC to let them know. After all, it is our money, we should have more of a say in how it looks!!
Scott Barman is a collector and author of the Coin Collector’s Blog (coinsblog.blogspot.com). When Scott is not playing with his coins, he works as an information security analyst in the Washington, DC area. In between all of that, he can be found with his wife and two puggles while they check out his pocket change.