1909-S VDB Lincoln Head Cent
The 1909-S V.D.B. Lincoln Head Cent, of which 484,000 were struck, quickly became recognized as scarce, later as rare.
The 1909-S VDB retails $750 in Good. All the others retail $25-$45 in Good. That alone should tell you the importance of demand when determining the market value of a coin. Demand trumps age, precious metal content, whether or not a certain coin is still being made any more, and even scarcity!
To take it further, the 1909-S VDB Lincoln cent isn’t even the scarcest cent struck by the San Francisco mint in 1909! That distinction goes to the 1909-S Indian Head cent, struck in the first few months of 1909 before the Lincoln cent was introduced later that year. The 1909-S Indian Head cent has a mintage of 309,000 and is currently valued at $425 in Good– that’s nearly $300 less than the value of the 1909-S VDB in Good! But it’s all in the demand. There are a lot of Lincoln cent collectors. Of those many Lincoln cent collectors, a large percentage of those are collecting Lincolns by date and mintmark– Lincoln cent collectors get hooked early, as so many date/mintmarks can be obtained cheaply.
The 1909-S VDB Lincoln cent is one of four 1909-dated Lincoln cents. There is just the plain ol’ 1909, the 1909 VDB, the 1909-S, and of course, the 1909-S VDB. The 1909 is fairly common; the 1909 VDB is popular and just slightly less common; the 1909-S is scarce, in demand and pretty costly for a Lincoln cent (retails $68.50 in Good). But the 1909-S VDB is the King of the Lincoln Cents. It’s the toughest hole to fill in any Lincoln cent album. Ironically, it may not be the toughest Lincoln cent to find– it’s possible that you’ll have to look harder for a 1914-D or a 1922 No-D. But the 1909-S VDB will be your most expensive Lincoln cent to purchase.
The initials, ‘V.D.B’ refer to the initials of the Lincoln cent designer, Victor David Brenner. In 1909, those initials appeared on the reverse of the Lincoln cent, below the wheat ears. They were very tiny, but visible. But those were different times in 1909. Today, probably no one would care about a designer’s initials appearing “prominently” on the face of a United States coin. But in 1909, there was actually an outcry over the V.D.B initials on the reverse! People actually hollered ‘foul’ as the initials were seen as “defacing” a U.S. coin by such an egotistical placement of a designer’s initials on the surface of our nation’s new cent coin!
There was such an outcry over the initials, that the ‘V.D.B’ was removed, but not before it had appeared on the 1909 cents struck at both the Philadelphia mint AND the San Francisco mint. Which accounts for the 1909-VDB and the 1909-S VDB cents. More 1909 cents were struck later in the year, again at both mints, but THIS time with the offending initials removed. This accounts for the 1909 and the 1909-S cents.
But that wasn’t the end of Victor David Brenner’s initials. They took a break from 1910 through 1917. But in 1918, the “V.D.B” was back– this time in a VERY tiny, unobtrusive place beneath the Lincoln bust on the obverse. The initials are there on the Lincoln cent to this day. This time there was no outcry.
As of this writing, we are roughly two years away from the 100th anniversary of the 1909 Lincoln cents. We may be even LESS than two years away from the cent being abolished altogether, but that’s not for certain. Either way, the Lincoln cent, INCLUDING the 1909-S VDB cent, is in for some interesting times in the coming years!
Though the mintage of the 1909-S VDB is quite small for a Lincoln cent, 484,000 is not exactly a tiny mintage, especially compared to some of the REALLY tiny mintages throughout U.S. history. That’s why it’s not SUPER hard to find a 1909-S VDB. You can find them here on a regular basis. It’s not so much that they’re hard to track down, it’s just that you’ll have to pay a lot for each one up for sale. There are plenty of buyers, so that’s why prices rise steadily for the 1909-S VDB.
Retail values for the 1909-S VDB go up very slowly from the grades of Good through Fine: the Good retails $750, Very Good retails $800 and Fine retails $850. The first decent jump is up to Very Fine, where these cents retail $1,050. From there, prices still rise only gradually: Extra Fine retails $1,200, About Uncirculated $1,250 and in basic mint-state, the 09-S VDB retails $1,500. So while the 1909-S VDB is an expensive coin going down into the lower grades, unlike other U.S. coin rarities, the price does not spiral into the stratosphere even up into Uncirculated condition! Consider, a Very Good 1909-S VDB (that’s a pretty worn cent) retails $800, but a nearly uncirculated 1909-S VDB retails $1,250– it would almost seem to follow, that if you have $800 to spend on a Very Good example, why not save up a bit more for the About Uncirculated or Uncirculated, which are priced just about in the same ballpark?