The penny was the first currency of any type of any denomination authorized by the Continental Congress. In 1782, Congress met with a man named Robert Morris (No, not THAT Robert Morris) to attempt to devise monetary standards for the new nation. Morris eventually came up with a complex currency system. A member of the House of Representatives named Thomas Jefferson (Yes, THAT Thomas Jefferson) disagreed with Morris' idea, claiming it was too complicated. Jefferson proposed a simpler decimal system based on America's First Silver Dollar.
Jefferson's system finally won over Congress, and plans were set to start minting coins. On April 21, 1787, Congress purchased three-hundred tons of copper, and contracted with a private mint to produce one cent coins. A design was agreed upon in late June or early July. Shortly afterward, the One Cent piece, or "Fugio Cent" as it came to be known, was first minted.
The obverse of the coin depicts a sun with a face, eminating long sun rays. The middle of the coin has a sundial facing left. The word "Fugio" meaning "I Fly" appears along the left side of the coin, while the year appears on the right side. The phrase "MIND YOUR BUSINESS" is printed at the bottom. The coin's reverse is a lot simpler, sporting a ridged edge, thirteen interlinked rings encircling the words "WE ARE ONE", itself surrounded by a solid circle containing the words "UNITED STATES."
The coin's design was created by Benjamin Franklin. The thirteen rings on the reverse of the coin symbolize the thirteen colonies of the original United States.
United States Coinage