The wheat penny is one of the most recognizable American coins. It was the first coin to bear the image of slain president Abraham Lincoln, and was minted from 1909 to 1959. Most of the wheat pennies still in existence are in the hands of private collectors, and some are quite valuable. Other names for the Wheat Penny include Strawpenny, Wheatback and Wheatie. The first wheat pennies replaced the Indian head cent that had replaced the flying eagle image that had adorned the obverse of the coin since 1857. The Lincoln image idea came from artist Victor Brenner as a way to commemorate the 100th anniversary of Lincoln's birthday. President Theodore Roosevelt approved the idea and commissioned the creation of the "Lincoln coin" in 1908 for a timely release the following year. The first wheat pennies were struck in 95 copper and 5 percent zinc. While the plain edge and 19mm diameter remained constant, the weight of the coin fluctuated between 2.7 and 3.11 grams. This was the composition of all wheat pennies every year they were produced with one exception. In 1943 the composition of the coin was changed to 100 percent steel with a thin zinc coating because copper was needed for the World War II effort. These coins were poorly made and difficult to use in vending machines. They were very unpopular and the mint returned to the original composition the following year. While the front, or obverse, of the wheat penny bears the profile image of Lincoln, the reverse has stylized wheat stalks around the words "one cent." Until 1918, the reverse also prominently featured the letters "V.D.B.," the initials of designer Victor David Brenner. Because Brenner had been paid for the design, many thought the placement of his initials on the penny was in poor taste and they were eventually removed.
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