Heads and Tails: Lucky penny

-A A +A
By The Staff

As I showed Chloe my treasure, she said “It’s just a penny, Woody. “Sure, pennies are important, but I don’t understand why you think it’s a treasure.”

“Well,” I replied, “Haven’t you heard Mom say finding a penny brings good luck? I found this penny when I needed luck the most – 250 feet above ground on a Ferris wheel. Now I’m on the ground with lunch still in my tummy.”

As I tried to make my point, Dad studied the penny and said, “Wow, this is special, Woody. The date on this penny is 1909, almost 100 years old.”

Chloe’s eyes grew big. For a second, I felt a “told you so,” coming on, but settled for “Really?” The rest of the family caught my enthusiasm.

“I’m not sure when pennies first made their mark in history,” Dad said, “but we need to find out.”

My heart was racing. Could I have one of the oldest pennies in history?

I began to imagine the places this penny had been the past 99 years. Had it traveled through all 50 states or journeyed across the continents? Was it in the palm of a famous actor or in the pocket of a president? Had it been on the top of the Empire State Building, the deck of a ship sailing across the Atlantic Ocean, or in a family’s piggy bank while they saved for something special? I was deep in thought when Chloe broke in,

“Let’s research and see when the first penny was made, Woody,” she said.

With that, we bid farewell to the ferris wheel and funnel cakes and walked toward home.

As soon as we returned, we logged on to the Internet to search for sites about the penny. The Web sites we found, along with the books we checked out at the library on our way home from the fair, gave us useful information. We learned the penny got its name from Britain. Though the British penny dates back to 790 A.D., it didn’t appear in America until almost 1,000 years later.

I read about how the first U.S. penny was minted in 1787. Mom explained that mint means to make money from metal, meaning the first U.S. penny was made in 1787. A few years later, in 1793, President George Washington realized the United States was trying to establish itself as a nation and knew they needed a stable system of money.

The first penny was designed by Ben Franklin and featured the design of a chain and was pressed in copper. Though the penny went through changes over the next 70 years, it always was worth one cent. In 1864, the government passed the Coinage Act and made the penny a legal form of money.

Also, instead of being 100 percent copper like previous pennies, it would contain 95 percent copper and 5 percent zinc.

“If there hadn’t been money, how did people pay for dog food?” I asked.

Mom explained people used items such as tea, coffee, pigs, and other goods or animals to pay for things they needed. It was called bartering. I wanted to know more about bartering, like could I trade the neighbor’s cat for a new Scooby watch, but Chloe interrupted my thoughts.

“Listen, Woody.” Chloe said. “It says that President Abraham Lincoln was the first president to appear on a coin. The government put Lincoln on the penny to honor his 100th birthday. Guess what year that was?”

“1909?” I asked, my voice quivering with excitement.

“Yes.” Chloe said excitedly. “In 1909 the penny changed to include the face of our 16th president, Abraham Lincoln. It also would include the motto, In God We Trust.”

This really was a treasure. After the excitement settled in, Chloe said, “What will we do now?”

“I guess we’ll eat dinner.” I replied.

“No Silly.” Chloe laughed. “Now that you have this special coin, what will you do? Will you keep it in a safe, display it in a case, or sell it?” Chloe asked.

“Sell it?” I questioned. “Wouldn’t I only make a penny?”

Dad explained that it would probably be worth more than one cent since it had a date of 1909, making it one of the first Lincoln pennies ever made.

Tough decisions. I held the penny tightly in my clumsy little paw and closed my eyes. I thought about the year of 1909. I pondered what, if anything, a penny could buy today. Most importantly, I secretly hoped something special would happen with my treasure. Then, I opened my eyes and was shocked ee

Thanks to LG&E/KU both E.ON companies and KPA for making this project possible. Thanks to the Kentucky Secretary of State for sponsoring the new podcast. For podcast and questions and activities go online to www.kypress.com.