The designer for the Lincoln Cent, Victor David Brenner changed everything about the design of Lincoln Cents by placing the image of a real person on a coin made for circulation. It was not until 1909 that Victor David Brenner created the legendary bust of Abraham Lincoln that is so well-known by all of us today.
The most significant part of the story all comes down to the initials on the back of the cent. V.D.B. are Victor David Brenner’s initials, the renowned designer of the Lincoln cent. Victor David Brenner positioned his initials on the reverse of the Lincoln cent, near the bottom rim on the reverse under the wheat stalks on the back side.
By placing his initials near the bottom of the back Brenner started quite an uproar. The people by and large loved the Lincoln cent when it was first released, however some had a problem with prominence of Brenner’s initials. They basically thought the initials were too big and noticeable. The letters V.D.B. in spite of their small size were noticeable enough to create a hullabaloo with the people and Mint officials, who insisted on their removal right away. When this was done later on in 1909, it resulted in the making of four varieties: 1909 (with and without V.D.B.) and 1909-S (with and without V.D.B.). The 1909-S V.D.B is the rarest of the four varieties and it debuted on August 2, 2009.
Altogether there are six different 1909 pennies. There are four Lincolns – the 1909 VDB penny with no mintmark, struck at the Philadelphia mint, the 1909 S VSB struck at San Francisco mint, in addition coins without the designer initials from each mint. There are as well two Indian Head cents of 1909, one from the Philadelphia mint and one from the San Francisco mint.
The VDB pennies were made at Philadelphia and San Francisco. The 1909 S VDB penny is the one made at the San Francisco Mint so it carries the S, which is the mint mark for the San Francisco mint. Due to the fact that there were so many less of the S VDB struck, it is most definitely a rarity. Without fail, collectors have always paid more for the 1909 S VDB than for any other Lincoln penny, of course that is except for the 1943 copper cent. The number of coins with the initials made at the S mint was the smallest of all the 1909 pennies.
In fact, the 1909-S V.D.B. Penny has long been considered one of the key dates in the series, filling the dreams of collectors young and old. It is important to understand that millions of people collect Lincoln Head Cents and it makes it obvious why the 484,000 mintage may seem high, but it is not. To be clear there are clearly not a sufficient number of 1909-S VDB Pennies to meet all of the collector’s demands.
The value of a 1909 S VDB cent is around $750-800 in Good, and upwards of 2,500 in Uncirculated grades to nearly $100,000 in PCGS MS-67 Red. There have been some badly worn, even damaged, 1909 S VDB pennies that can be occasionally found on eBay and in numismatic dealers’ catalogs at reasonable prices. Click Here to see the Price Guide for 1909-S VDB Lincoln Cents.
The 1909 S VDB penny is without a doubt one of the most costly regular-strike (non-error) rarities of modern U.S. coinage. It is also one of those coins that has almost seen always upward movements in values for the last several decades.