Coin Emblems and Inscriptions
Since its creation, the US Mint has grown into a large enterprise with more than $1 billion
in annual revenues and 2,200 employees. It is by far the world's largest manufacturer of coins and medals,
producing around 15 billion coins every year. With the exception of commemorative coins and the Susan B. Anthony
dollar, all US coins currently minted portray past famous US Presidents. The presidents that appear on the
obverse (front) side of the circulating coins were all selected by Congress in recognition of their service to
the country. However, they were chosen under slightly different circumstances.
- Designed by Victor Brenner, the Lincoln cent was issued in 1909 to commemorate the 100th anniversary of
Abraham Lincoln's birth
- The portrait of George Washington by John Flanagan, which appears on quarters minted from 1932 to today,
was selected to commemorate the 200th anniversary of our first president's birth
- Felix Schlag's portrait of Thomas Jefferson, which began to appear on the obverse side of the nickel in
1938, was chosen in a design competition among some 390 artists
- The death of Franklin Roosevelt prompted many requests to the Treasury Department to honor the late
president by placing his portrait on a coin. Less than one year after his death, the dime bearing John R.
Sinnock's portrait of Franklin D. Roosevelt was released to the public on FDR's birthday, January 30, 1946
- The assassination of President John F. Kennedy generated such an outpouring of public sentiment that
President Lyndon Johnson sent legislation to Congress to authorize the Treasury Department new 50-cent pieces.
Bearing the portrait designed by Gilroy Roberts, the first Kennedy half-dollars were minted on February 11,
- Calvin Coolidge was the first President to have his portrait appear on a coin struck during his lifetime
Penny and Sacajawea dollar are the only coins currently minted in the United States with
profiles that face to the right. All other US coins - the half dollar, quarter, dime, and nickel - feature
profiles that face to the left. Many rumors circulate the internet concerning this difference, some of which can
be characterized as imaginative or plain funny. One popular belief is that Lincoln faces to the right because he
was a Republican. Another theory is that he faces the opposite way of the other presidents, because he was
assassinated, something which is just not true as Kennedy's portrait on the half dollar faces to the left. Last
but not least, a theory postulates that the other presidents are turning their back on Lincoln because he freed
The likeness of President Lincoln on the penny is an adaption of a plaque executed by Victor
David Brenner, an outstanding portraitist and sculptor. President Theodore Roosevelt was so impressed with Mr.
Brenner's design of a Lincoln plaque that he recommended to the Secretary of the Treasury that
the design be placed on a coin to be issued in the Lincoln Centennial Year, 1909. The direction that Lincoln
faces on the cent was not mandated -- this was simply the choice of the designer.
In God We Trust
In 1792, Congress required that all American coins show on one side "an impression emblematic
of Liberty, with an inscription of the word Liberty, and the year of coinage". This requirement has been followed
since and the phrase "In God We Trust", which was first used on US coins in 1864, is the motto that appears on
all US coins today. From Treasury Department records it appears that the first suggestion that God be recognized
on US coinage can be traced to a letter addressed to the Secretary of Treasury from a minister in 1861. An Act
of Congress, approved on April 11, 1864, authorized the coinage of two-cent coins upon which the motto first
appeared. The motto was omitted from the new gold coins issued in 1907, causing a storm of public criticism. As a
result, legislation passed in May 1908 made "In God We Trust" mandatory on all coins on which it had previously
appeared. Legislation approved July 11, 1955, made the appearance of "In God We Trust" mandatory on all coins and
paper currency of the United States. By Act of July 30, 1956, "In God We Trust" became the national motto of the
United States. Several years ago, the appearance of "In God We Trust" on US money was challenged in the federal
courts. The challenge was rejected by the lower federal courts, and the Supreme Court of the United States
declined to review the case.
Various commemorative coins have been issued from time to time in various denominations to
honor a particular noteworthy person, place or event. The first such coin was issued in 1892 to commemorate the
World Columbian Exposition in Chicago. These coins are usually made in limited quantities, sell at a premium and
-since they are legislated by the US Mint- are legal tender but rarely circulate as normal coinage.
- Sacagewea and Susan B. Anthony are the only women honored on a circulating coin, both on a dollar coin
- George Washington first appeared on a commemorative dollar, with the Marquis de Lafayette, in 1899
- In 1893, Queen Isabella of Spain became the first woman to be featured on a US commemorative coin
- The first coin to feature an African-American was the Booker T. Washington Memorial Half Dollar
In 1999, the design of the US quarter changed as part of the new "Statehood Programme". Reverses
of circulating quarters were replaced with designs representative of each of the fifty states. Each year from
1999 through 2008, five different quarters, commemorating five states will be issued in the order in which the
states ratified the Constitution or were admitted to the Union. These "State Quarters" are intended for general
circulation but special silver proof coins will also be sold to collectors.