Abraham Lincoln: A Numismatic Legacy Considered


By Charles Morgan and Hubert Walker for PCGS ……
[ Editor’s note : This column primitively appeared in the PCGS E-Zine newsletter on November 6, 2012 and has been updated to its current shape. — CoinWeek ]

Prelude to War

On January 12, 1848, a 39-year-old Whig congressman from Illinois named Abraham Lincoln took to the House floor and spoke these words :

“ The lineage of this war, like the blood of Abel, is crying to the Heavens against the President of the United States ! ”

The remarks were separate of a political charge against President James K. Polk, a Southern Democrat, who had thrust the United States into a state of war against Mexico after a U.S. patrol was routed by mexican forces in quarrel district located near contemporary Brownsville, Texas .
Lincoln ’ s remarks reveal the biting enthusiast nature of the war. Polk was an expansionist who envisioned a scenario wherein he could claim California from Mexico. Polk had already seen to the admission of Texas in 1845 after more than a decade of U.S. noise in the once Mexican territory. Lincoln and other anti-war northerners saw the conflict as a war of american aggression, which was carried out for the purpose of expanding slavery and tilting the libra of the ability to the South .
Over the adjacent generation, bloody skirmishes in the Border States fomented the structural tension that existed between northerly industrialists and southerly elites, making the area indocile as a unify political entity. When Lincoln won the highly-partisan, highly-regional presidential election of 1860 with virtually no southern corroborate ( Virginia’s 1.1 % being one of Lincoln ’ mho better returns confederacy of the Mason-Dixon Line ), southerly states sensed the possibility of a permanent wave electoral disadvantage and seceded from the Union, ushering in a period of total war .
Lincoln and his administration were considered the most activist in american history by his contemporaries. He suspended the writ of habeas corpus and acted without congressional or judicial supervision, virtually transforming the office of the president into the leader of all branches of government. In reaction to those critics who accused Lincoln of acting extra-constitutionally in declaring war on the secede states, Lincoln stated that it made no feel to “ lose the nation and even preserve the Constitution ” .
After five of the bloodiest years in american history, Lincoln prevailed and the South relented .
It was in Lincoln ’ randomness success and the humanist way in which he conducted himself during the war, and the jolt of his character assassination so soon after its end, that turned the contemporaneous percept of Lincoln around and led future generations of academics and laypeople to consider him one of the greatest presidents, if not the greatest, in the history of the United States .
This fear towards Lincoln was borne out in a assortment of ways, from the naming of towns and town cars to the proliferation of folk music art to the creation of cultural archetypes like “ Honest Abe ” .
And in terms of numismatics–with the possible exception of George Washington –no trope in american history looms equally big as Abraham Lincoln .

American Coinage in the Lincoln Presidential Era

Lincoln ’ randomness tenure as president of the United States saw many developments in terms of the home neologism .
From 1861-65, the United States produced more than 100 million Indian Head cents, the majority of which were of the copper-nickel diverseness. These featured an oak wreath and carapace reverse that replaced the annual laurel wreath reverse of 1859. In 1865, the musical composition of the new “ small penny ” was changed to bronze in holy order to put a period to far-flung billboard of the nation ’ sulfur coinage .
In 1864, the United States issued a two-cent coin that is luminary today merely because it introduced the motto IN GOD WE TRUST to our nation ’ mho neologism. The motto was created at the behest of Treasury Secretary Salmon P. Chase, who in turn was responding to a request by the Reverend M.R. Watkinson of Pennsylvania, who wrote in a letter dated November 13, 1861 :
“ You are credibly a christian. What if our Republic were not shattered beyond reconstruction ? Would not the antiquaries of succeeding centuries rightly rationality from our by that we were a heathen nation ? What I propose is that rather of the goddess of liberty we shall have future inside the 13 stars a hoop scratch with the words PERPETUAL UNION ; within the ring the all seeing eye, crowned with a aura ; below this center the american flag, bear in its sphere stars equal to the number of the States united ; in the folds of the bars the words GOD, LIBERTY, LAW “
mercifully, Chase did not execute Watkinson ’ s particular recommendations, but he did regulate James Pollock, the conductor of the United States Mint, to develop and implement a newly motto that included God. After three years of tinker, the Mint decided on IN GOD WE TRUST, a give voice adapted from the last stanza of Francis Scott Key’s poem “ Defence [ sic ] of Fort McHenry ” – good known in song form as the “ The Star-Spangled Banner ” .
Two cent about 20 million two-cent pieces were struck in 1864. Congress was so taken with the raw motto that it passed an Act on March 3, 1865 that authorized ( but did not demand ) the use of IN GOD WE TRUST on “ aureate, silver, and other coins. ”
The final examination class of Lincoln ’ second presidency saw the initiation of a nickel three-cent coin. The wafer-thin coin served alongside the smaller silver trime and was intended to serve as a stop-gap, circulating until war-time hoard of intrinsically valuable amber and flatware coins came to an end. The little-circulating three-cent nickel was produced in gradually declining mintages ( with the exception of 1881 ), and finally discontinued in 1889.

Lincoln ’ south term was besides marked by the passing of the Dahlonega and the New Orleans Mints, which fell into the hands of the Confederacy at the onset of hostilities. The New Orleans Mint resumed its assaying operations in 1876 and produced coins from 1879 through 1909. Dahlonega never reopened and the facility was sold off in 1871 .

Lincoln’s Numismatic Heritage

Lincoln ’ s appearance on political tokens distributed during the 1860 presidential political campaign caused some alarm among his political rivals. Q. David Bowers, in his Guide Book of Lincoln Cents, shows two of the pieces .
concisely after Lincoln ’ s death, the Mint began to develop the half dime bag ’ south eventual surrogate : the nickel five-cent piece. Having a army for the liberation of rwanda greater impact in american neologism than the nickel three-cent musical composition, the nickel five-cent mint debased the denomination and rewarded the politically well-connected industrialist Joseph Wharton, who had a virtual monopoly on the mining and manufacture of nickel and nickel debase. Some prototype pieces depicting the slain president were struck up ( Judd 486-488 ), but ultimately rejected in favor of James B. Longacre’s shield invention .
fortunately for the numismatic residential district, a Lithuanian-American sculptor named Victor David Brenner would come along a short more than 40 years late and transform american coinage with a design featuring none other than Abraham Lincoln .
The Lincoln cent ( 1909-Present ) inaugurated one of the single most significant eras in our national coinage. This “ Golden Age ” started with Brenner ’ s sculptural profile of Lincoln on the penny and culminated with Saint-Gaudens’ Beaux Arts-inspired designs on the $10 eagle and $20 double eagle gold coins .
Of all the designs from this period ( 1909 through 1933, the year gold mint production ended ), only the Lincoln cent remains today. The mint ’ sulfur plan is therefore exceeding that it is at once classical and modern. When american english neologism saw its adjacent great wave of redesigns ( in what became known as the advanced period ), each denomination, one after the early, copied the precedent of Brenner ’ s Lincoln penny by featuring presidents or founding fathers in profile in the center of a clean, non-cluttered obverse .
On June 1, 1918, another coin bearing Lincoln ’ s compare was authorized by Congress – this being a half dollar commemorative coin to be struck for the memorial of the Illinois Centennial. The coin ’ randomness design, which features George T. Morgan’s interpretation of Andrew O’Conner’s statue of Lincoln, absolutely captures the President ’ s introspection and sedateness. The coin ’ sulfur change by reversal depicts the seal of the State of Illinois. While not rare, this early classic commemorative is enormously popular for Lincoln coin fans .
In the mid-1950s, luminary american sculptor James Fraser and U.S. Mint personnel talked about a full redesign of the penny that would retain Lincoln ’ sulfur compare. These conversations never resulted in a mint and in 1959, President Dwight D. Eisenhower announced without much ostentation that the 50-year-old wheat invert would be replaced by a new change by reversal depicting the Lincoln Memorial, designed by Chief Engraver Frank Gasparro. The Lincoln Memorial cent became the first U.S. coin to feature an effigy of the lapp person on both sides of the coin .
In 2009, in ordering to celebrate the bicentennial of Lincoln ’ s birth and the hundredth anniversary of the Lincoln penny, the Mint offered four commemorative reverses. The designs depict four distinct periods of Lincoln ’ south biography beginning with the celebrated log cabin of his childhood, continuing to his adolescent years in Indiana where Lincoln educated himself, then onto his career as a politician and lawyer in Springfield, Illinois, and finally, to the era of Lincoln ’ mho presidency, with a design that shows the Capital Building’s iconic attic still under construction. french bronze planchets used to coin the original Lincoln cents were used to make Proof versions of the coin, while post-1982 zinc was used for commercial enterprise strikes .

Along with the four cent designs, the Abraham Lincoln Commemorative dollar was besides offered. Congress authorized a mintage of up to 500,000 coins featuring designs “ emblematic of the liveliness and bequest of President Abraham Lincoln. ” It is one of the advanced commemorative era ’ s most successful programs, which speaks to Lincoln ’ s enduring popularity and significance .
The coin ’ randomness obverse features a compare of Lincoln adapted from Daniel Chester French’s statue that sits in constant vigil as the centerpiece of the Lincoln Memorial in Washington, DC. The design was created by Master Designer Justin Kunz and sculpted by Don Everhart. The mint ’ sulfur change by reversal features the last 43 words of the Gettysburg Address .
Collectors were enthusiastic about the release of the commemorative, which was offered in Uncirculated and Proof configurations. It was besides coupled with the Lincoln Coin and Chronicles Set, which was offered at $ 55.95 on October 15, 2009 and sold out by 6:00 pm the future day .
In 2010, the Mint began production of a new cent reverse featuring a Union harbor. The invention was submitted by an american painter named Lyndall Bass. Bass says that the invention is “ emblematic of President Lincoln ’ s preservation of the United States of America as a single and unite country. ” She notes that the scroll across the shield stands for the “ re-establishment of reliance in the economic flow of currency after the Civil War. ”

beyond coins, Lincoln has been honored on U.S. currency notes and a range of medals struck under official sanction of the U.S. government adenine well as by individual makers. To build a collection from the full moon catalog of what is possible would be a lifelong avocation and a rewarding one at that .
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