New penny to feature Lincoln's birthplace cabin

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Stories from the Heartland by John Friedlein

By John Friedlein


HODGENVILLE — Pennies soon will be worth more than random thoughts or a measly cent. An added value will be the reinforcement of Abraham Lincoln’s local roots. The U.S. Mint this morning will unveil a new penny design — the first in about 50 years. While the heads side will remain the same, the tails will feature an image of Abe’s symbolic birthplace cabin. He was born on a farm just south of town on Feb. 12, 1809. The coins may help Kentucky with a central theme of the bicentennial birthday celebration. It’s: Hey, Abe was born here, not Illinois. The design is “very similar” to one LaRue County Judge-Executive Tommy Turner and local attorney Carl Howell Jr. submitted for the Kentucky quarter. My Old Kentucky Home in Bardstown eventually was chosen instead. That the only two coin designs specific to Kentucky will depict sites within 25 miles of each other says something about the importance of this area’s cultural heritage, Turner said. But neither Hodgenville nor Kentucky is mentioned on the new penny, he said. The U.S. Mint typically doesn’t mention specific locations on coins, and, anyway, the writing would be small and difficult to read, he said. The Mint won’t release an image of the new penny to the press until this morning. It will unveil the design at 10 a.m. at the Lincoln Memorial in Washington. Turner plans to attend the ceremony. The Lincoln Birthplace National Historic Site has asked to be the location where the new penny is put into circulation on Lincoln’s 200th birthday next year. While the Mint hasn’t yet given the OK, the agency has visited the Hodgenville park, said San­dy Brue, chief of interpretation and resource management. She has said the cabin image helps illustrate how an American can rise to power from such humble roots. Also, the state Bicentennial Celebration uses a stylized version for its logo, which appears on a specialty license plate. In addition to the cabin penny, the Mint at three month intervals will issue other designs representing Lincoln’s life: his formative years in Indiana, his professional life in Illinois and his presidency, said spokeswoman Carla Coolman. The penny always changes on Abe’s big birthdays. His profile replaced the Indian Head cent on his 100th birthday. Fifty years later, on the sesquicentennial, the Lincoln Memorial design replaced one depicting wheat on the tails side. Despite calls to scrap the coin altogether, the penny remains prolific. The Federal Reserve orders about 7 billion to 8 billion of them a year, Coolman said. Some people around here at least seem partial to it. The birthplace park two years ago installed a wall of 10,368 pennies at its visitors center. “Many people have a great affection for the penny,” Coolman said. “Abraham Lincoln is considered one of our greatest presidents.”   Staff Writer John Friedlein can be reached at (270) 505-1746