The brainy and incredibly sexy niece of Inspector Gadget, followed along by her faithful and genius dog, Brain. She always had a backpack on, in which she carried her futuristic computer book, which had any and all information and her fingertips.

... Ok, am I going to jail for calling this little girl incredibly sexy?

At the time of writing, some properties of the UK one penny coin are as follows:

Substance: copper-plated steel
Diameter:  20.32 mm
Width:      1.65 mm
Mass:       3.56 g
Value:      0.01 pounds sterling

Commonly called a 'penny' or sometimes 'a one P coin'.

Even though one penny and two penny coins are referred to collectively as 'coppers', they haven't been made of copper since 1860.

Pennies from before 1992 (and in fact, one proof set minted in 1999), were made of bronze. The metal was changed to copper-plated steel to reduce production costs. Both versions of the penny have the same mass, but the bronze coins had a higher density, and so they were slightly thinner.

When the new steel coins were issued, there was some concern that they could potentially become magnetised. If people kept them in their pocket or purse along with their credit cards, it was theorised that the magnetic stripes on the cards could be damaged by the magnetism. In practice this does not appear to have been a problem.

The old bronze coins tended to quickly become dull in appearance. The newer copper-plated coins stay shinier for much longer. However, now that the new coins have been in circulation for a while, the copper coating on some of the older ones has started to rub off, producing coins that look silver in colour. Some coin dealers report excited callers hoping to sell the 'rare solid-silver one penny coin' they have 'discovered'.

A penny for your thoughts...

The penny is the common name for the cent (i.e., one cent piece) used in the United States and carries with it a long list of the history of this nation. It derives its name from the British pence, and was the first currency ever authorized by the federal government. With Benjamin Franklin suggesting the original design, the first pennies in the US were created at a private mint in 1787 and were known as the Fugio cent. One of America's most famous blacksmiths, Paul Revere, supplied some of the copper for the coins minted during the 1790's. The original coins were more than five times heavier and nearly 50% larger than today's penny. Since 1787, over 300 billion ($3 billion) one cent coins with 11 different designs have been produced.

The penny is worth 1 one-hundreth (1/100) of a dollar. It is written as 1¢ or $0.01.

Composition of the Penny

1787 to 1793:     Unregulated, though assumed 100% copper
1793 to 1837*:    100% copper
1837 to 1857:     95% copper, 5% tin and zinc (100% bronze)
1857 to 1864:     88% copper and 12% nickel (which gave the coin a whitish color)
1864 to 1962:     95% copper, 5% tin and zinc
1943:             zinc coated steel (copper was saved for the war effort)
1962 to 1982**:   95% copper and 5% zinc (tin content removed)
1982 to present:  97.5% zinc and 2.5% copper (i.e., copper-plated zinc)

* Coin production taken over by the U.S. Mint. Due to a copper shortage caused by the War of 1812, no one cent coins were produced in 1815.
** Because of a coin shortage in the country, mint marks were removed from pennies from 1965-67 to help prevent collectors from hoarding so many coins. Numerous 1965 coins were even stamped with 1964 for the same reason.

Major Designs of the Penny

Fugio Cent

Dates Minted:    1793 to 1856
Obverse Image:   Sun and Sun Dial
Obverse Legend:  "Fugio" (I fly), "Mind Your Business" and the year
Reverse Image:   13 linked circles
Reverse Legend:  "We Are One" and "United States"

The first one cent pieces produced by the US are also known as Congress Coppers, Franklin Cents, or Ring Cents, and were not widely circulated. This original cent coin weighed 157.5 grains, which was equivalent to the English halfpence and the Massachusetts coppers. They were denoted as "cents" to signify that there were 100 to the Spanish milled dollar.

This large cent had numerous problems. First, only gold and silver coins were considered legal tender at this time, so numerous banks and businesses refused to accept the coin. By 1851, it was costing the U.S. Mint $1.06 to produce $1 worth of pennies. This negative seignorage was its ultimate downfall, and lead to the decrease in the percentage of copper used in the next design.

Flying Eagle Cent

Dates Minted:    1856 to 1858
Obverse Image:   Flying Eagle
Obverse Legend:  "United States of America" and the date
Reverse Image:   Wreath
Reverse Legend:  "One Cent"

This short-lived coin was proposed and minted with a high content of nickel by the Mint Director, James R. Snowden. He proposed the use of nickel because of the lobbying by Joseph Wharton (who had a near monopoly in nickel mines). Snowden ordered the minting of this design without official approval of the Secretary of the Treasury, which means that each of these coins was illegally struck and issued. Because of this, the Secret Service has the legal right to confiscate any of these pennies (though this is unlikely to occur).

Indian Cent (aka Indian Head Cent)

Dates Minted:    1859 to 1909
Obverse Image:   Indian Princess
Obverse Legend:  "United States of America" and the date
Reverse Image:   Laurel Wreath
Reverse Legend:  "One Cent"

It is said that the designer, James Barton Longacre, borrowed an Indian headdress from a visiting Indian chief, and had his daughter pose with it as he created the design. Most Indian Cents minted during the Civil War were used to pay Union soldiers.

Lincoln Cent (later known as the Wheat Penny)

Dates Minted:    1909 to 1959
Obverse Image:   Abraham Lincoln
Obverse Legend:  "In God We Trust", "Liberty", and the date
Reverse Image:   Two Wheatheads in memorial style
Reverse Legend:  "E Pluribus Unum", "One Cent", and "United States of America"

The original Lincoln Cent was minted on the 100th anniversary of Lincoln's birth. Victor David Brenner was personally chosen by President Theodore Roosevelt to create the new design. In addition to our 16th president's portrait, the words In God We Trust and E Pluribus Unum were added to this denonination for the first time, though the Coinage Act of 1864 (enacted during Lincoln's term in office) had approved its use long before.

Steel Cent

Dates Minted:    1943
Obverse Image:   Abraham Lincoln
Obverse Legend:  "In God We Trust", "Liberty", and the date
Reverse Image:   Two Wheatheads in memorial style
Reverse Legend:  "E Pluribus Unum", "One Cent", and "United States of America"

Because of the critical need for copper during the war effort for WWII, production of copper pennies was halted and replaced by a temporary steel penny. This penny was coated with zinc to help rust proof it, and kept the same design as the previous Lincoln Cent.

A very limited number of copper pennies were minted in 1943, assumably because there was still copper left in the press. With only an estimated 40 copper coins in existence, these 1943 pennies are one of the most sought-after coins by collectors, and have been auctioned for more than $80000.

Lincoln Cent

Dates Minted:    1959 to present
Obverse Image:   Abraham Lincoln
Obverse Legend:  "In God We Trust", "Liberty", and the date
Reverse Image:   Lincoln Memorial
Reverse Legend:  "E Pluribus Unum", "One Cent", and "United States of America"

In 1959, on the 150th anniversary of Lincoln's birth, a new design for the penny was introduced. The assistant engraver at the Philadelphia Mint, Frank Gasparro, created the entry for the informal competition. Still in use today, it is the first and only coin to have the same person on both sides. While the original obverse is the same as the original Lincoln Cent, it is also the only coin still in production where the portrait faces to the right.

Facts about the modern penny:

Weight:       2.500 g
Diameter:     0.75 in (19.05 mm)
Thickness:    1.55 mm
Seignorage: ~$0.003 (profit made by US government on each penny)

Get Rid of the Penny?

There has been a recent movement to do away with the penny. Most overseas military posts and bases have already done away with the one cent coin (e.g., you can spend it, but you will not receive it as change). It is extremely rare to find a vending machine that will accept pennies (though contrary to popular belief, a penny is legal tender). Most people simply keep their pennies in a jar and never use them, or just don't keep them at all.

Regardless of these facts, it is believed that doing away with the penny will hurt the economy by causing nearly $650 dollars per year in a sort of "penny tax" that would only benefit businesses. Prices would be changed so that store owners would keep the change from the rounding required without pennies. During economic recessions, penny circulation increases dramatically as people roll and spend them. Charities would suffer greatly as well - the penny is the most frequently donated coin, and charitable organizations receive tens of millions of dollars a year in pennies alone. The government has also made over $500 million in profit from the penny in the last 15 years which has kept the national debt from rising as fast, so it is unlikely that the penny will go away any time soon.


The penny has been in continuous existence for well over a thousand years, and for much of that time in a fairly consistently recognisable form, though the intrinsic value was often debased for financial reasons. For most of its history the penny was a small silver coin, typically with the king's head and name on one side, and a cross and mint details on the other. In 1797 the extraordinary 'cartwheels' were minted, huge copper coins (as in the penny-farthing bicycle) with the figure of Britannia on the reverse, and these continued until decimalisation in 1971. The penny is also the only denomination that has been in continuous use from the beginning, and for many centuries it was the only coin.

The earliest coinage in Britain was among local Celtic rulers, crude and mainly geometric, with the odd discernible horse or fragment of a ruler's name. Under the Romans, their usual superb standard applied: it's probably fair to say most modern coins are based on Roman models. Under the Anglo-Saxons the quality dropped to little better than Celtic style again, and continued that way, not reaching Roman quality until about 1500.

Anglo-Saxon coinage drew its inspiration from Merovingian France; from around 630 the local kings issued gold thrymsas based on Frankish tremisses, but by 675 steady debasement of the gold with silver had reduced the thrymsa to an entirely silver currency. They featured heads, geometric fillers, and some simple inscriptions. The pennies of this period are often called sceattas, literally 'treasure'. This was a reasonable collective name since this was the only kind of modern coin around. In 755 Pepin reformed the Frankish currency and issued good-quality deniers, named from the Roman denarii but physically derived from Islamic dinars. This explains the symbol 'd.' for the pre-decimal penny. On this model similar coins were introduced into England shortly after by Offa of Mercia and two obscure Kentish kings: Offa's first effort was a gold Arabic dinar with the overstruck inscription OFFA REX, but thereafter pennies were of silver, and larger than the old sceattas. Apart from the odd experiment with a gold penny or a silver halfpenny, this remained the situation throughout England.

Coins were issued by most of the Saxon kingdoms, and also by the Danelaw, the Welsh prince Hywel Dda, the Bishop of London, and the Archbishop of Canterbury. The Kingdom of Mercia actually used the mint at Canterbury, over in Kent, until 825. The coins tended to have legible inscriptions, usually included the name of the moneyer who made them, and often had the ruler's portrait or a cross.

Initially they had a weight of about 20 grains, or 1.3 grams, and under Alfred the Great this was raised to 24 grains, which is still called a pennyweight. But the real weight of the penny was undercut time and again as foreign wars called on reserves of money: to 20 grains in 1344, 18 grains in 1351, 15 grains in 1412, and 12 grains in 1464.

King Edgar, the first king indisputably ruling over all of England, issued a new, unified currency in 973. The obverse had the king's portrait and name, while the reverse had a small cross, with the moneyer's name and that of the mint town. This remained the sole pattern for hundreds of years, with no more halfpence or any others, unchanged past 1066. Originally many, many towns and lords had mints, though they were under central control, but in the 12th and 13th century they were drastically reduced until out of some seventy there were now only mints at London and Canterbury.

Halfpence and farthings had been created by cutting pennies, until a halfpenny was minted in 1106 and a farthing in 1216. These were both silver like the penny. Base metal didn't come in for a long time afterwards: under Henry VIII the silver was heavily debased with copper. Under Edward VI base metal was used for nominal pennies and halfpennies, side by side with silver ones, but these were not trusted, and were accepted at only half their value. Copper farthings were issued under private licence in 1613, and tin farthings and halfpennies under William and Mary. Only in 1797 did the penny itself turn officially to copper.

This is not the place to go into detail, but the first higher-denomination coin was the gold penny of 1257, equal to 20 silver pence. This was shortlived and was followed by the groat or fourpenny in 1279, weighing 89 grains. The first sign of superior coinage harking back to classical models was the gold series of 1344, with the florin of 6 shillings, the leopard of 3 shillings, and the helm of 1s. 6d., or 18 pence. These were replaced later that year by the noble of 80 pence, and half and quarter nobles, and this system continued a long time, with others added occasionally. The shilling and pound of the familiar £.s.d. system that lasted till 1971 were units of account at this time but not issued as coins: the magnificent gold pound or sovereign was finally issued by Henry VII in 1489, and the shilling a little after that. Read decimalisation and British Currency, Pre-Decimalisation for more.

With the union of the crowns in 1603 under King James VI and I this was symbolised by pennies featuring the rose of England on one side and the thistle of Scotland on the other. Under the Commonwealth the shields of the countries were used, and after the Restoration, when the king's head returned to the obverse, the reverse was now largely occupied by a figure, since they began to issue 1d, 2d, 3d, and 4d coins. It was this system that was replaced by the very large Britannia designs for 1d and (formerly) 2d, which continued in existence into our own time.

The Spink coin company's catalogue Coins of England.

Pen"ny (?), a. [Perh. a corruption of pun, for pound.]

Denoting pound weight for one thousand; -- used in combination, with respect to nails; as, tenpenny nails, nails of which one thousand weight ten pounds.


© Webster 1913.

Pen*ny, n.; pl. Pennies (#) or Pence (). Pennies denotes the number of coins; pence the amount of pennies in value. [OE. peni, AS. penig, pening, pending; akin to D. penning, OHG. pfenning, pfenting, G. pfennig, Icel. penningr; of uncertain origin.]


An English coin, formerly of copper, now of bronze, the twelfth part of an English shilling in account value, and equal to four farthings, or about two cents; -- usually indicated by the abbreviation d. (the initial of denarius).

⇒ "The chief Anglo-Saxon coin, and for a long period the only one, corresponded to the denarius of the Continent . . . [and was] called penny, denarius, or denier." R. S. Poole. The ancient silver penny was worth about three pence sterling (see Pennyweight). The old Scotch penny was only one twelfth the value of the English coin. In the United States the word penny is popularly used for cent.


Any small sum or coin; a groat; a stiver.



Money, in general; as, to turn an honest penny.

What penny hath Rome borne, What men provided, what munition sent? Shak.

4. Script.

See Denarius.

Penny cress Bot., an annual herb of the Mustard family, having round, flat pods like silver pennies (Thlaspi arvense). Dr. Prior. -- Penny dog Zool., a kind of shark found on the South coast of Britain: the tope. -- Penny father, a penurious person; a niggard. [Obs.] Robinson (More's Utopia). -- Penny grass Bot., pennyroyal. [R.] -- Penny post, a post carrying a letter for a penny; also, a mail carrier. -- Penny wise, wise or prudent only in small matters; saving small sums while losing larger; -- used chiefly in the phrase, penny wise and pound foolish.


© Webster 1913.

Pen"ny (?), a.

Worth or costing one penny.


© Webster 1913.

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