Thursday, February 19, 2009

New Lincoln Pennies and Stamps Unveiled for Bicentennial

In honor of the bicentennial, the US Mint and the Post Office are releasing commemorative coins and stamps, respectively. The Mint is releasing new pennies with four different reverse images, while the Post Office has released four stamps depicting Lincoln's growth from young man to president.

Here is the official press release -- dateline Hodgenville, Kentucky on Lincoln's birthday -- from the US Mint. And here is the press release -- dateline Washington, though unveiled at Old State Capitol in Springfield, IL -- from the Post Office.

While both of these offerings are obviously appropriate government commemorations of the sixteenth president. But the new penny is particularly fitting, given that the current penny honoring Lincoln was unveiled in honor of the centennial of Lincoln's birth in 1909, which made it the first regular circulating coin to honor a president. The penny continues to feature the famous Lincoln profile by Victor David Brenner.

The four reverse sides, to be released over the next few months, feature representations of epochs in Lincoln's life. The first features an image of the "traditional" Lincoln birth cabin now enshrined in Kentucky. Even though this log cabin has been proven not to be Lincoln's log cabin (which most likely was burned for firewood before he was president), it is still symbolic of Lincoln's all-American rise from poverty to the presidency. The second shows Lincoln the rail-splitter, or Lincoln the reluctant rail-splitter reading instead of splitting the log, which is a good representative of Lincoln's priorities. The third shows Lincoln the orator outside the then Illinois State Capitol (now called the Old State Capitol) where he delivered his famous "House Divided" Address, a key part of Lincoln's rise to national prominence.

My favorite, though, is the view of United States Capitol during the early years of the Civil War, when the magnificent dome on the building was still being built. Not only is this an authentic, and unusual, symbol of the Lincoln presidency, it has symbolic value. Writers then and since have recognized the unfinished dome the potent metaphor of the unfinished Union Lincoln was seeking to preserve.

The Post Office, as it also did for the 1909 Lincoln Centennial, has released first-class stamps honoring Lincoln. Each of the stamps features two images of Lincoln, one taken from an actual photograph and the other an artistic representation of a scene from Lincoln's life. The first shows Lincoln the rail-splitter and features the oldest known photograph of Lincoln, dating to when he was 37 (a few years after his rail-splitting days).

The second stamp, featuring Lincoln the lawyer arguing a case in a courtroom, features a photograph from 1858, take in Beardstown, Illinois while Lincoln was there arguing his most famous case, the murder trial of "Duff" Armstrong, better known as the Almanac Trial. The third stamp shows Lincoln's rise to national fame during the 1858 Lincoln-Douglas debates, although the photograph is the famous Matthew Brady photograph shot just before Lincoln delivered his extremely well received address at New York City's Cooper Union.

The fourth stamp rrepresents Lincoln the president, featuring Alexander Gardner's famous 1863 photograph of Lincoln facing straight ahead -- taken two weeks before the Gettysburg Address. The image is of Lincoln the war-time president, a painting of the famous conference between Lincoln, Gens. Ulysses S. Grant and William Tecumseh Sherman and in the unseen Adm. David Porter just before the fall of Richmond in 1865.

The Post Office expects people to collect the Lincoln stamps, and has several ways to buy collectible versions of them (for a fee, of course). The Mint will offer proof pennies later in the year made of the metallic composition of the 1909 penny (also, I'm sure, for a fee) for avid numismatists.

1 comment:

Nomad said...

this new design for the 2009 penny makes me wish i had held onto my old coin collection