The Lincoln penny is one of the most iconic coins in U.S. history, featuring the profile of beloved president Abraham Lincoln on the obverse side. On the reverse side is a design of two wheat stocks flanking a bust of Lincoln, along with the words ‘One Cent’ and the motto ‘E Pluribus Unum’.

But look closely at the wheat design, and you’ll notice a tiny man sitting on a log in between the wheat stocks. This odd inclusion has puzzled coin collectors and history buffs alike. What is the meaning behind the man on the log on the reverse side of the Lincoln penny?

If you’re short on time, here’s the quick answer: The man on the log represents the average American worker and ties into the wheat stocks symbolizing agriculture. It was meant to depict the value of the American everyman and tie Lincoln to the common man.

Background on the Wheat Penny Design

The Lincoln penny, also known as the one-cent coin, has a rich history and is considered an iconic symbol of American currency. One of the most memorable designs in the penny’s history is the Wheat Penny design, which was used from 1909 to 1958.

This design features a depiction of a man sitting on a log with two wheat stalks on either side.

Switch to the Wheat Ears Design in 1909

Prior to the introduction of the Wheat Penny design, the penny featured an image of a flying eagle on the obverse side. However, due to concerns about the coin’s durability, the United States Mint decided to switch to a new design.

In 1909, the Wheat Penny design was introduced, featuring a bust of Abraham Lincoln on the obverse side and two wheat stalks on the reverse side.

The switch to the Wheat Penny design was met with great enthusiasm by the public. The design was seen as a symbol of agricultural prosperity, reflecting the importance of farming in American society. The design also paid tribute to President Lincoln, who was known for his support of the agricultural industry.

Design by Victor D. Brenner

The Wheat Penny design was created by Victor D. Brenner, a Lithuanian-born sculptor and engraver. Brenner’s design was chosen through a competition held by the United States Mint, and it quickly became one of the most beloved coin designs in American history.

Brenner’s design was significant not only for its artistic appeal but also for its inclusion of the artist’s initials. This was the first time in U.S. coinage history that an artist’s initials were featured on a coin.

The initials “VDB” can be found at the bottom of the reverse side of the penny, just below the wheat stalks.

The Wheat Penny design remained in circulation for nearly five decades, making it one of the longest-running designs in U.S. coinage history. Today, the Wheat Penny is highly sought after by collectors and is considered a valuable piece of American numismatic history.

Meaning Behind the Man on the Log

The design of the Lincoln penny featuring a man on a log holds significant meaning and symbolism. This iconic image has become synonymous with the penny and has captivated the interest of collectors and history enthusiasts alike. Let’s explore the deeper meaning behind the man on the log.

Representing the Common Worker

The man on the log is often interpreted as a representation of the common worker. Abraham Lincoln, the 16th President of the United States, was known for his humble beginnings and his connection to the working class.

The image serves as a reminder of Lincoln’s commitment to the ordinary people and his understanding of their struggles.

By featuring a laborer on the penny, the design pays homage to the hardworking individuals who form the backbone of society. It serves as a tribute to the countless men and women who contribute their efforts to building a better future for themselves and their communities.

Lincoln as Man of the People

The man on the log also represents Lincoln himself as a man of the people. Throughout his presidency, Lincoln was known for his dedication to equality and justice. He fought tirelessly to abolish slavery and preserve the unity of the United States during the Civil War.

The image on the penny showcases Lincoln as a strong and determined leader, perched on a log in a contemplative pose. It symbolizes his wisdom, resilience, and connection to the American people. This depiction serves as a reminder of Lincoln’s enduring legacy and his contributions to shaping the nation.

Lincoln’s image on the penny serves as a powerful reminder of the values he stood for and the impact he had on American history. It is a small but significant piece of currency that carries with it a wealth of meaning and symbolism.

Other Symbolic Elements of the Wheat Design

Wheat Stocks Symbolizing Agriculture

One of the main symbolic elements of the Lincoln Penny design with the man on the log is the presence of wheat stocks. The wheat stocks represent the importance of agriculture in the United States. Agriculture has always played a crucial role in the country’s economy and the inclusion of wheat stocks on the penny serves as a reminder of this fact.

The design serves as a tribute to the hardworking farmers who contribute to the nation’s food supply.

Incuse Lettering and ‘E Pluribus Unum’

Another interesting aspect of the Lincoln Penny design is the use of incuse lettering and the phrase ‘E Pluribus Unum’. Incuse lettering refers to the letters and words that are sunken into the surface of the coin rather than raised.

This design choice adds a unique and distinctive touch to the penny.

The phrase ‘E Pluribus Unum’ translates to “Out of many, one” in Latin. It has been an important motto of the United States since the country’s inception and appears on many official seals and documents.

It signifies the unity and diversity of the American people, highlighting the idea that out of many different backgrounds and cultures, a unified nation is formed.

The use of incuse lettering and ‘E Pluribus Unum’ on the penny is a powerful symbol of the values and principles that the United States stands for.

Evolution of the Penny Design Over the Years

The design of the penny has undergone several changes throughout its history, reflecting the evolving values and ideals of the United States. One notable shift occurred in 1959 when the design switched from featuring the image of a wheat stalk to the iconic image of Abraham Lincoln seated on a log.

This change marked a significant departure from the previous design and symbolized a shift towards honoring important figures in American history.

1959 Design Switch to Lincoln Memorial

With the introduction of the Lincoln Memorial design in 1959, the penny became more than just a piece of currency – it became a symbol of national pride and remembrance. The image of Lincoln sitting on a log, gazing towards the Washington Monument, serves as a reminder of his leadership during a time of great upheaval in the United States.

This design change was met with widespread acclaim, as it captured the essence of Lincoln’s legacy and his contributions to the nation.

Zinc Composition Starting in 1982

In 1982, another significant change was made to the penny’s composition. Previously made of a bronze alloy, the penny transitioned to a zinc composition with a copper plating. This switch was primarily driven by economic considerations, as the cost of producing copper pennies had become increasingly expensive.

While some purists lamented the change, the new composition allowed for more efficient production and distribution of the penny, ensuring its continued circulation in the American economy.

Recent Calls for Removal of the Penny

In recent years, there have been growing calls for the removal of the penny from circulation altogether. Critics argue that the cost of producing and maintaining the penny outweighs its value as a form of currency.

Additionally, the decreasing purchasing power of the penny has led some to question its relevance in modern society. However, supporters of the penny emphasize its historical and cultural significance, as well as its role in preserving tradition.

The debate surrounding the penny’s future continues, with no clear consensus reached as of yet.

For more information on the history and significance of the penny, you can visit the United States Mint website.


The Lincoln penny has gone through changes over the years, but the iconic wheat design with the man on the log remains one of the most memorable. While a small and easily overlooked element, the sitting man represents the American everyman and ties into the greater meaning of agriculture and unity behind the wheat penny design.

For over 50 years, the wheat penny design stood as an endearing symbol of Lincoln’s legacy as a leader connected to the common man.

Similar Posts