The Numismatic Bibliomania Society



The E-Sylum: Volume 11, Number 39, September 28, 2008, Article 20


The new reverse designs for the 2009 Lincoln Cent reverses have been unveiled. Joel Iskowitz, designer of the Lincoln at the Illinois Statehouse design forwarded these thoughts:
The millionaire may seldom
Those noble outlines grasp,
But childhood.s chubby fingers
The image oft will clasp.
The poor man will esteem it,
And mothers hold it dear .
The plain and common people
He loved when he was here.

. .The Lincoln Cent,.
The New York Sun, February 1909

This poem from the year the Lincoln Cent made its appearance speaks volumes of the veneration and affection that was held for both the great and humble man, "Father Abraham" and the coin, the lowly but noble cent that bears his likeness.

It is fitting that Lincoln is associated most closely to the cent, each humble in origin and aspect but indelible as icons of our civilization. After all, the Lincoln cent is the most reproduced object of art in all of human history.

The first oil painting I ever made at the tender age of eight, on a little 6"x8" canvass board was of Abraham Lincoln from a Matthew Brady portrait reproduced in our family encyclopedia.

As a professional artist and illustrator I have had occasion to depict Lincoln numerous times, on book covers and postage stamp designs. Never could I have dreamed that the arc of my personal and professional story would intersect such a momentous combination of events: those being, President Theodor Roosevelt's selection of Victor David Brenner's profile of Lincoln, the first president to appear on a circulating coin for the centennial celebration of his birth and five score later, to have my design candidate for the third aspect of Lincoln's life, his professional years in Illinois, appear on the reverse for the 2009 Bicentennial celebration.

At a later date I would like to expand on the research and design process which I found so rewarding and enlightening. The more I read of Lincoln, especially contemporary accounts, the more profound my respect and affection for this great leader grew. For now, allow me to reiterate my deep gratitude and sense of humility and honor to be connected to the recognition of one of our greatest Presidents along with the other artists and sculptors, Victor David Brenner, Frank Gasparro, Richard Masters, Charles Vickers, Don Everhart, Susan Gamble and Joseph Menna, who have added their creativity to this icon of American coinage.

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This article from the Illinois State Journal-Register shows how the perseverance of one man forced a change to one of the planned Lincoln Cent reverse designs for the 2009 bicentennial. -Editor
2009 Lincoln Cent State Capitol Reverse Earl Wallace Henderson doesn.t give up easily.

As a fledgling architect, .Wally. Henderson designed the restoration of the Old State Capitol in the 1960s, when skeptics said it couldn.t be done.

Now, 40 years later, Henderson has triumphed again. Thanks to him, the building he saved will appear on millions of commemorative pennies due to be issued next year.

Given the choice between a penny featuring Lincoln holding a book or Lincoln standing outside the Old State Capitol, the director of the U.S. Mint went with the book last spring. Lots of insiders didn.t like it.

The decision, disclosed to a committee of the national Abraham Lincoln Bicentennnial Commission in May, was supposed to be final.

.Our committee was disappointed, but how can you fight the U.S. government?. committee member Julie Cellini wrote in an e-mail to The State Journal-Register. .So everyone pretty much gave up. Everyone except Wally..

The more Henderson thought, the angrier he got. After all, the penny was supposed to depict Lincoln.s years in Illinois.

.I wake up in the middle of the night saying, .This is the most ridiculous (expletive) thing ever seen,.. Henderson recalled. .This could be anybody in the world looking at Playboy magazine anywhere in the world. It had nothing to do with Illinois..

Appropriately, it was June 6 . D-Day . when Henderson had his first showdown with the mint. It came during a conference call with a mint official who was supposed to brief committee members on the planned coins.

.The mint representative is some woman who comes on strong . wouldn.t let you get a word in edgewise,. Henderson recalled. .I finally got a word in edgewise. She said, .It.s impossible . once on track, we can.t reverse this thing.. I was really riled up. I could have strangled her.

.There was only one way to get it done, and that was to go over her head..

Treasury Secretary Henry Paulson was the only person who could overrule the director of the mint. Henderson started making calls and writing letters, waxing eloquent and enlisting support from such heavies such as U.S. Rep. Ray LaHood, R-Peoria, and U.S. Sen. Dick Durbin, D-Illinois.

A penny might not be worth much, but it is forever . and almost everyone in the nation has at least one, Henderson said in his pitches.

.He talked about how civilizations come and go, but their coins remain, thousands of years later, that coins survive floods and fires and wars,. wrote Cellini, who sits on the state and national Lincoln bicentennial commissions and so heard Henderson.s plea twice. .Each time I heard his argument, it seemed stronger. More important. Worth fighting for..

Henderson convinced the bicentennial commissions, which wrote letters to Paulson asking that the decision be reversed. He also swayed Durbin, pointing out that Henderson had been appointed to an advisory committee that.s helping shape the observance of the 200th anniversary of Lincoln.s birth.

.I said, .You asked me to be an adviser . I.m advising you that screwing Illinois with this coin,.. Henderson said.

Durbin, who refers to Henderson as .my buddy,. called Paulson personally.

.I said, got to ask you a favor,.. Durbin recalled. .He said he.d think about it. He called me back and said, .Some people will be unhappy with me, but I.m going to do it..

.Wally Henderson deserves the credit for inspiring me,. Durbin said.

Officially, the credit goes to the national Lincoln bicentennial commission, so far as the mint is concerned.

But those who saw Henderson at work think otherwise.

To read the complete article, see: Architect urged mint to employ good cents (

Wayne Homren, Editor

NBS ( Web

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