On August 2, 1909, the first Lincoln pennies were issued to the public. It was the first penny to bear the image of a President and was issued in commemoration of the centenary of President Lincoln’s birth.

20 million pennies were originally struck, and public demand was high. On the morning of August 2, long lines formed outside U.S. Department of the Treasury​ facilities across the country as people scrambled to collect a piece of history. Some offices put limits on how many coins people could have, with the New York branch allowing 100 pennies per person.

Secondary markets around the country began touting the coins for as much as a quarter. Once people had the coin, they either stored it safely away or tried to modify it to make jewelry. Concerned at this practice, jeweler H. R. Boving contacted the Treasury Department about the legality of converting the pennies into hat pins, broaches, and other jewelry. Today, a 1909 Lincoln penny can be worth anything from $200 to $2,000.

Image: Letter from H. R. Boving to the Secretary of the Treasury, 8/19/1909