Rising copper and production costs in the 19th century made large cents an impractical and costly currency. In its place, the U.S. government began minting small cents.
For the first small cent design (1856–1858), the mint chose a Flying Eagle. Only 2,000 of these coins were produced in the first year, making them very rare in today’s marketplace. The coins themselves became far more common in 1857 and 1858, which helps explains their generally inexpensive prices in today’s marketplace.
The Indian Head cent followed the Flying Eagle. First minted in 1859, this coin underwent numerous redesigns and updates during its half-century existence.
In 1909, the government released the Lincoln Wheat cent. This coin, which lasted until 1958, is notorious for having the first design with a depiction of a real person. An image of the Lincoln Memorial in Washington, D.C., eventually replaced the wheat back image. In 2009, the United States updated the Lincoln cent to commemorate the 200th anniversary of Lincoln’s birth. The Lincoln cent today remains the most produced coin in the world.