President Abraham Lincoln appears on the penny, Founding Father Thomas Jefferson appears on the nickel, and 32th President Franklin D. Roosevelt appears on the dime. Furthermore, 1st President George Washington is featured on the quarter-dollar and 35th President John F. Kennedy is honored on the half-dollar. Have you ever wondered how particular U.S. presidents were immortalized on coins?
Each U.S. president has a unique connection to American coinage, as well as why he was chosen.
First President on a U.S. Coin
Miss Liberty, also referred to as a goddess of liberty or Lady Liberty, appears on the coinage of the newly formed United States of America. The American Eagle appears on the reverse side of the coin. Abraham Lincoln’s 100th birthday in 1909 marked the first time a deceased president was featured on American coinage.
The Lincoln Cent was created as a commemorative coin, but it ended up being such a popular design that it is still used today. The American presidents that came after him certainly are. We know about Thomas Jefferson’s Nickel, Franklin Roosevelt’s Silver Dime, and George Washington’s Quarter.
Why Are Only Dead Presidents Featured on U.S. Coins?
People all over the country will be surprised to learn that the United States is known for placing only the faces of deceased individuals on its currency. On U.S. coins, the living people are never depicted. The use of dead President images rather than those of living Presidents on the coinage of the United States is a perennial feature of American coinage. Presidents and presidents-elect were noticeably absent from the Presidential Dollar coins. Is there anyone alive who has appeared on a U.S. coin? Many people ask these questions, regardless of whether they collect coins.
One of the main reasons why all U.S. coins feature dead Presidents on them is a longstanding tradition. It is also interesting to note that from the moment our nation was founded, many men have opposed honoring any living person by putting their likeness on circulating currency, including the money we use today.
President Washington declined when our young nation asked him to be featured on the first American silver dollar, which launched the 1,400-year tradition of an American president appearing on the country’s currency. Although several patterns or test coins were minted with his image on the front, this was an exception to the general rule. These are highly valuable coins, and they are quite rare.
On the Penny: Abraham Lincoln
It wasn’t until 1909 that the profile view of Abraham Lincoln first appeared on the front of the one-cent coin, and it was 44 years after he was assassinated. During the Civil War, Lincoln served as our country’s 16th president. His roles in helping to win the Union victory and then working for the abolition of slavery made him an active participant in emancipation.
Lincoln’s first penny was released 100 years after his birth. (The life span of Abraham Lincoln (1809-1865) was insufficient for him to witness his portrait appearing in U.S. pennies, as he died only 5 years before the last penny was minted in 1985. Yet, Lincoln did live long enough to see the passage of the 13th Amendment, which officially abolished slavery in the United States, on January 31, 1985.)
Thomas Jefferson is on the side of a nickel
In 1938, the country’s five-cent coin featured the image of Thomas Jefferson, our third president and author of the Declaration of Independence. The Buffalo nickel was succeeded by the five-cent coin. The Jefferson nickel was produced by the U.S. Mint ahead of the 200th anniversary of his birth.
In keeping with tradition, the Treasury Department commissioned an artist, Felix Schlag, to design the coin. Schlag used a marble bust to sculpt his version of a profile of Thomas Jefferson wearing a period coat and wig. The reverse side originally depicted Monticello, the home of the third president of the United States, Thomas Jefferson.
An accurate description of the Thomas Jefferson Encyclopedia entry on the 1938 coin notes that it was not the first time Jefferson appeared on U.S. currency. He was featured on the $2 bill in 1869.
On the Dime: Franklin D. Roosevelt
Franklin D. Roosevelt, our 32nd president, had his likeness appear on the ten-cent coin in 1946 in place of Lady Liberty. It had been nearly a year since Franklin Delano Roosevelt had died.
During the Great Depression and World War II, Franklin D. Roosevelt served as President of the United States. Additionally, in the course of his administration, he helped lead the U.S. out of the Great Depression with a series of New Deal initiatives. Social Security was one of the most important elements of the New Deal.
The artist who created the portrait of FDR on the dime is still disputed. During his time at the U.S. Mint, John Sinnock was responsible for creating some of the finest American coin designs of the 20th century. For others, it was sculptor Selma Burke who deserves credit.
The Quarter-Dollar was dedicated to George Washington
The front of the U.S. 25-cent coin depicts George Washington, our first president. To commemorate the 200th anniversary of Washington’s birth, the U.S. Mint first produced the Washington quarter in 1932. Flanagan designed the iconic image of Washington, according to CoinWeek.
After serving as a colonel in the Continental Army during the Revolutionary War, as well as the chair of the U.S. Constitutional Convention, Washington was inaugurated as president in 1789. According to the website for Mount Vernon, the two-term president “shaped the role and function” of the presidency.
On the half-dollar: John F. Kennedy
The day of Kennedy’s assassination, the U.S. Mint started working on a coin to symbolize him. John F. Kennedy was murdered while traveling in a motorcade in Dallas on November 22, 1963.
Mint Director Eva Adams made a call to the mint‘s Chief Engraver Gilroy Roberts to discuss depicting John F. Kennedy on a coin within hours of the assassination. In order to honor her husband’s memory, Jacqueline Kennedy chose the half-dollar as the coin‘s denomination. Coincidentally, the front of the coin was designed by Roberts, and the back by Frank Gasparro.
Changing the design of the coinage required approval from Congress because the law only permitted coins to be redesigned no more than 25 years at a time.
In mid-November, less than two months after the assassination of President John F. Kennedy, Congress approved the Kennedy half-dollar to commemorate him with Public Law No. 88-253. In 1964, a year after John F. Kennedy’s death, a commemorative coin was produced in his honor.
He was the youngest person elected to the presidency when he assumed office in 1960. He served less than three years. In that short period of time, JFK began the Peace Corps, proposed civil rights legislation that was even more comprehensive than the bill the Kennedy administration proposed, and challenged the United States to put men on the moon.
Following his assassination, he became a larger-than-life hero. His status as one of the most popular U.S. presidents is a topic of discussion for historians today.
Coin for Ronald Reagan & Chronicles Set
In the years 1981 to 1989, Ronald Reagan served two consecutive terms as president. Throughout his time in the White House, he was instrumental in ending the Cold War, passing tax cuts for the middle class, and increasing the military budget.