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Lincoln Memorial Cents Fill Eyes with Double Vision


The 1959 Lincoln Memorial Cent became the first widely circulating United States coin to simultaneously show a figure of the same person on both the obverse and reverse. Courtesy of PCGS TrueView. Click image to enlarge.

When you hear about two-headed coins, the common thought is that the obverse (or “heads”) side of the coin is seen on both sides of the coin. Many non-collectors think these types of errors exist and are worth lots of money. In reality, any such pieces that turn up among United States coins are usually post-mint alterations fashioned for illusionists or for the sake of sheer novelty. But there really are United States coins on which the same person appears twice creating a double-“headed” coin of a different sort.

The first widely circulating regular-issue United States coin that features the same person on the obverse and reverse is the Lincoln Memorial Cent, which was in production from 1959 through 2008. The obverse carries a right-facing portrait of Abraham Lincoln, the 16th president of the United States. This portrait was designed by Victor David Brenner and has appeared on the U.S. one-cent coin since 1909. It was paired with a wheat ears reverse motif until 1959, when the Lincoln Cent was given a new reverse.

Sculptor-engraver Frank Gasparro designed the Lincoln Memorial reverse, which shows the famous Washington, D.C. landmark that opened in 1922. The Lincoln Memorial has been the site of many historic events, and it is notably where Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., delivered his famous “I Have a Dream” speech in 1963. The real Lincoln Memorial features a magnificent 19-foot-tall marble statue of a seated Abraham Lincoln upon an 11-foot-tall pedestal – an important detail Gasparro didn’t spare from his rendering of the Lincoln Memorial for the one-cent coin.

A close look at the reverse of the Lincoln Memorial Cent reveals a tiny version of this statue between the middle-left and middle-right columns of the Lincoln Memorial. The inclusion of the seated Abraham Lincoln statue on the reverse of the Lincoln Memorial Cent also means this coin features a figure of Lincoln on both the obverse and reverse – a cool piece of trivia that has been known to blow many a mind!

Lincoln Cents (1909-to Date)