In a city that is no stranger to events related to former President of the United States Abraham Lincoln, several hundred people gathered today in Springfield, Illinois to take part in the United States Mint’s official launch ceremony for the 2010 Lincoln Shield Cent — a ceremony some thought could be canceled due to a wintry snowmageddon of storms striking the nation.
Springfield has deep ties with the former President. It was in this area that he lived most of his adult life; where he taught himself to be a lawyer and practiced as such; where he met his wife Mary Todd and married her; where he raised his family; and where he first delved into politics long before being elected President. It is also in Springfield where Lincoln is buried. His body was interred here following his assassination only days after the end of the American Civil War.
With morning temperatures firmly ensconced around seven degrees, a line of 40 people were frigidly gathered outside the Abraham Lincoln Presidential Library and Museum (ALPLM) complex one hour before the museum opened. By the time the doors sprung open at 9:00, the line had grown to some 300 people who had eagerly awaited to get inside. Coin collectors, members of the media and others immediately started to fill the large room designed to hold approximately 250. Then, with 9:30 approaching, local government representatives and special guests formed at the front of the room and the ceremony began.
Jan Grimes, acting executive director of the ALPLM, took to the podium to not only welcome guests to the museum, but to also say a few words about surrounding Abraham Lincoln landmarks and recognize various partners in the Bicentennial celebrations.
The Master of Ceremony was local television news anchor Elizabeth Wooley from ABC affiliate WICS. She was quick to get things started on a light foot before introducing the other official participants in the ceremony.
James Cornelius, curator of the library and museum, had a small speech prepared in which he extolled the virtues of the 16th President of the United States, not only as a man, but also the legacy and lessons his memory created.
Up next, key-note speaker United States Mint Director Ed Moy. With pleasantries exchanged, Moy moved into a bit of the history of the Lincoln Cent including the design that premiered today.
"This one-cent coin honors the preservation of the union, which was Abraham Lincoln’s ultimate achievement," said United States Mint Director Ed Moy. "Because of his presidency, despite bitter regional enmity and a horrific civil war, we remained the United States of America."
Emblematic of Lincoln’s "Preservation of the Union" as dictated by the law which authorized it, the one cent coin contains an image of a union shield on its reverse. The shield was a prominent device used during his administration.
The reverse was designed by Lyndall Bass and engraved by Joseph Menna. Across the top of the shield is the inscription E PLURIBUS UNUM, Latin for "out of many, one." The shield contains 13 stripes reminiscent of the original thirteen colonies which banded together to create the United States of America. A scroll is draped across the union shield and says ONE CENT.
With the ceremony officially over, a traditional coin exchange began. Some people were already standing in line for the event, but their numbers grew as the morning extended. Each person was allowed to exchange cash for 6 rolls of the new pennies. Run by the local branch of US Bank, the exchange flowed smoothly with many guests making multiple trips through the process. Rolls of the coins ran out around noon.
Children in attendance were given a free shiny Union Shield Cent to help them remember their presence at the ceremony. The coins were handed out by Moy and guests.
The United States Mint also hosted a coin forum the evening before in which enthusiasts and general citizens were allowed to meet US Mint Director Moy and ask questions about U.S. coinage.
These ceremonies mark the second time in less than six months in which Springfield has played host to one-cent official launches. Back on August 13, 2009 on the grounds of the Old State Capitol building, the Mint introduced the Professional Life Cent. It was the third of four new pennies to premier in 2009 that celebrated the bicentennial of the birth of Abraham Lincoln.
Serving as a capstone for the frenzy of new cent designs, the Lincoln Union Shield will be used for the foreseeable future. In fact, if history is any gauge, it could last a half a century (if one cent coins are around that long). Prior to 2009, Lincoln was seen on the Wheat Cent which premiered on the centennial of his birth in 1909 and ran until 1959. In that year, it was replaced by the Lincoln Memorial Cent which survived another forty nine years before being replaced by the 2009 issues.
Throughout their life, all of the coins have contained a portrait of Abraham Lincoln on the obverse. It was originally designed by Victor David Brenner.
The 2010 Lincoln cent has a metallic content of 2.5 percent copper, with the balance being zinc. The coin will be issued for circulation in quantities to meet the demands of commerce. Numismatic proof and uncirculated versions will be included in the United States Mint’s annual product offerings for collectors. The coin will also be available for sale in two-roll sets this spring.