Penny Dreadful

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The government is penny pinching. I mean, pinching the life out of
the once noble copper coin. If you haven’t seen it already, the back of
the 2010 penny looks as like it came from a novelty store. It gives penny dreadful
new meaning.

From a field of 18 designs prepared by the United States Mint, the
best they could come up with for the reverse side of President Lincoln’s
coin was a union shield that is so tacky it might have been drawn by a
Confederate?

The union shield features thirteen vertical stripes
joined by a single horizontal bar at the top with the inscription ‘E
Pluribus Unum’ (Out of many, one). This symbolizes the original
thirteen states joined together in a single compact union. A scroll
appears across the shield with the denomination ‘One Cent’ and ‘United
States of America’ appears above the shield.

Designed by US Mint Artistic Infusion Program Associate Designer
Lyndall Bass and engraved by US Mint Sculptor-Engraver Joseph Menna, it
is supposed to to represent Abe Lincoln’s preservation of the United
States. And that’s a great tribute, but does it have to look so
counterfeit? We all know a penny won’t buy anything, but just for old
time’s sake, some of the other
designs
(below) showed a little more respect for our storied
currency. The 2010 Lincoln Cent design selection was made by the United
States Secretary of the Treasury after review and input from the United
States Mint, Commission of Fine Arts, and the Citizens Coinage
Advisory Committee. Hey brother, can you spare design?

 

 

 

 


About Steven Heller

Steven Heller is the co-chair of the SVA MFA Designer /Designer as Author + Entrepreneur program, writes a weekly column for The Atlantic online and is the "Visuals" Columnist for the New York Times Book Review. He is also the author of over 160 books on design and visual culture. And he is the 2011 recipient of the Smithsonian National Design Award.

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3 COMMENTS

  1. I think it’s great! Given what a penny is worth, why not make it a cartoon? I love the lack of pretense. True, the back doesn’t harmonize with the front now, but perhaps it’s time to rethink the front and elevate Lincoln to another currency. On the other hand, Lincoln does convey the “humble beginnings” symbolism that is appropriate to the penny, the least common denominator of all our currency. … Well, maybe “humble beginnings” and “cartoon” say America like nothing else.

  2. I think it’s great! Given what a penny is worth, why not make it a cartoon? I love the lack of pretense. True, the back doesn’t harmonize with the front now, but perhaps it’s time to rethink the front and elevate Lincoln to another currency. On the other hand, Lincoln does convey the “humble beginnings” symbolism that is appropriate to the penny, the least common denominator of all our currency. … Well, maybe “humble beginnings” and “cartoon” say America like nothing else.

  3. I think it’s great! Given what a penny is worth, why not make it a cartoon? I love the lack of pretense. True, the back doesn’t harmonize with the front now, but perhaps it’s time to rethink the front and elevate Lincoln to another currency. On the other hand, Lincoln does convey the “humble beginnings” symbolism that is appropriate to the penny, the least common denominator of all our currency. … Well, maybe “humble beginnings” and “cartoon” say America like nothing else.