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Abe Lincoln was a great president -- is that any reason to keep the coin that bears his image?

When the penny was issued in 1793 (the first official U.S. currency) it was worth far more than the copper colored disk that routinely clogs dresser-top jars and 'take-a-penny' receptacles. So why do we still have it? The answer seems to involve more apathy and tradition than science and economics.

Why do we still have pennies?

The penny's monetary value has decreased greatly since it was first minted in 1793, and at that time, no coin of its current value existed.

So why do we need it now? The debate has raged for years, with detractors making various arguments against it -- including the fact that it costs more than a penny to make a penny -- and yet we still cling to the penny.

In honor of Abraham Lincoln’s birthday, let's take a look back at the coin that bears his image (including seven facts and two baseless superstitions):

  1. The penny was the first currency authorized by the U.S. Government in 1793.
  2. The 1793 penny (which obviously would not have featured Abe Lincoln’s bearded visage) was reportedly designed by Benjamin Franklin in 1787 and bore the image of a sundial, the sun and the words "Mind Your Business" on one side and a chain of 13 links (one for each of the original colonies) around the motto “We Are One.”
  3. President Theodore Roosevelt introduced the Lincoln penny in 1909 in honor of the 100th anniversary of Lincoln’s birth. It was the first American coin to feature the likeness of a real person.
  4. In 1900, a mid-week New York Times went for a penny (three cents on Sunday).
  5. The last time you could mail a postcard for one cent was in 1928 (the rate was raised to two cents in 1925, but was lowered due to public protest).
  6. In 1932, the Southern Railway System had a promotion for round-trip excursion rates at one cent per mile in commemoration of its 38th anniversary.
  7. It costs more than a penny to make a penny. In 2016, the cost to mint a penny was 1.5 cents.

Although inflation has affected every other products or services, wishes in fountains still go for a penny. And finding a penny still confers good luck 'all the day."

A previous version of this story was edited to correct errors in the issue date of the first penny.

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