The modern American penny is a major stinker – I won't rehash why when CGP Grey already has in a well produced manner, and John Green has a more passionate plea that's also quite persuasive. It costs tons of money, helps nobody, wastes time, and exists as a handout to a private company (who pays for lobbying to make sure we don't eliminate the penny). I feel like everyone can agree: this is a loser.
But the thing that really got me riled up today was discovering out pennies used to reflect true America. Not saying "In God We Trust" or anything – we know not to trust our fate to God or chance – but saying the ideal thing for a small-denomination coin: "Mind Your Business".
We are so frequently reminded of the differences we've had with the past, the horrors of their existence, intentional and otherwise. But so rarely can an American artifact capture something clever and true about what it means to be an American. Franklin's model for a society is weaker now than it's ever been, but no where near dead.
Of course, even if this was the current penny design, they'd still be worth less than nothing. It's an embarrassment to Lincoln's legacy we stamp him onto garbage, and it would serve this delightful design no better. But we can at least attempt to make our purely symbolic tokens symbolic of something better, I think.