On Thursday, December 16, 2010 National Public Radio interviewed Bob Hoge of the American Numismatic Society about the Lincoln cent Union Shield reverse design and the future of the "penny".
Earlier this year, a new penny hit cash registers across America. Abraham Lincoln is still there. But on the reverse side, where were accustomed to seeing the Lincoln Memorial, there is now a shield. When I saw one, for a moment I thought that the Amateur Athletic Union or the Union Pacific Railroad had suddenly minted a coin. But it's actually a Civil War shield.
And joining us now to talk about the new penny is Robert Wilson Hoge, who is curator of North American Coins and Currency for American Numismatic Society. Welcome to the program.
Mr. ROBERT WILSON HOGE (Curator, North American Coins and Currency, American Numismatic Society): Thank you. Thank you, Robert.
SIEGEL: And first, what is that shield and what do you think of it?
Mr. HOGE: Well, it's actually technically called the Shield of Union, only it is the Union of States of the United States of America. And it's a very old, traditional symbol, which has appeared on some of our coins and also on many tokens and medals in the past.
SIEGEL: Now, but what do you think about this new design? This shield, it's actually a rather large image for the reverse side of the coin and not much detail there.
Mr. HOGE: Well, that's right. And in comparison with the rather detailed and fine workmanship on something like the Lincoln Memorial or even on the old traditional wheat-ears reverse coins that were found on Lincoln cents earlier, it's a kind of thing that is probably a little bit easier to keep in adjustment and not as much work to produce the dyes for this.
SIEGEL: Why do we need a one-cent piece, I'll oblige you, at all? That is, these things, these coins possess so little value that stores let you take one or leave one. We mint millions of them every year. I gather the vast majority of coins in circulation are pennies, and the government has to buy a lot of zinc to make them. Why bother?
Mr. HOGE: I don't really have a good answer because these are being produced at taxpayer expense. It's costing more to make the cent than it's really worth in terms of its buying power.
SIEGEL: It's 1.7 cents to make a penny, I gather.
Mr. HOGE: Isn't that weird? It's like a government subsidy for mining and manufacturing interests, I guess. (Unintelligible) government subsidies.
To read the complete article (or listen to the interview), see:
Flip Side Of New Penny Features Union Shield
Wayne Homren, Editor
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