While still a fledgling design, the Philadelphia Mint struck nearly 50% more 1910 Lincoln cents than in 1909. In fact, it was the largest single issuance of Lincoln cents by the Philadelphia Mint until 1917. With a mintage of 146,801,218 pieces, this coin is easily obtainable in both general circulated and Mint State conditions.
However, certified Red Brown and Red examples are quite rare. Since copper is a highly reactive metal and only uncirculated cents are considered for color grades, this automatically reduces the survival numbers. It is estimated that there are approximately 4,000 or fewer each Red Brown and Red cents from 1910 survive, with roughly half of these pieces graded MS 65 or better.
To be graded a “Red” cent, a Lincoln cent needs to retain roughly 90% of the original, untarnished, copper color. Most grading companies use the “RD” abbreviation as the label for this designation. As the natural chemical oxidation process happens, the surface of the copper cent turns from a reddish-orange to a brown color. The most common measurement for “Red Brown” is that the coin retains between 10% to 90% of its original coloring.
In addition to coloring, there is only one minor variety of 1910 Lincoln cent: Obverse die variety 2. The folds of President Abraham Lincoln’s vest on ODV-002 form one tall triangle. This variety is present on cents struck at both the Philadelphia and San Francisco mints in 1910.
Much more interesting is the unconfirmed “Ghost VDB” variety. When the United States Mint removed the “VDB” (the initials of Victor David Brenner, the coin’s designer) from the 1909 cent mid-year, they simply filed the offending letters off instead of carving entirely new dies. This resulted in a curious 1909 variety on which the coin displayed abrasion marks where the VDB used to be. Dr. Sol Taylor, noted expert on Lincoln cents and President of the Society of Lincoln Cent Collectors, discovered that many Uncirculated Lincoln cents dated 1910 also exhibited this same variety, most likely due to the Mint’s practice of taking old unused dies and replacing their dates. Just as likely, the marks could have been made on the master hub and then transferred to new dies.
Consequently, Taylor posed a question. What if the Mint worker responsible for removing the VDB was not careful and left a portion of the letters still visible? Taylor claims to have found just such an example in 1985; however, other experts were unable to confirm whether the marks were simply left-over abrasions or traces of the VDB. Bill Fivaz, coauthor of Cherrypickers’ Guide to Rare Die Varieties, the definitive book of US coin varieties, agrees with Taylor’s conclusion. Q. David Bowers, of Stack’s Bowers Galleries, after discovering VDB traces on a 1909-S “No VDB”, agreed that the 1910 Ghost VDB could exist.
While we know that there are 1910 examples with file marks, there are currently no certified examples of the 1910 VDB. Nevertheless, it is an interesting mystery, and collectors are encouraged to study their mint state 1910 Lincoln cents!
The 1910 Lincoln Cent in Today’s Market
Due to 1910’s high mintage, examples in lower grade sell for between $1 and $5. Mid-range examples can be readily acquired for between $10 and $25 online, at your local coin shop, or at any coin show. Higher-grade examples are slightly rarer, with pieces in low Mint State worth between $25 and $50. Pieces in true Mint State (between MS 64-67), are relatively hard to find and can cost between $50 and $100.
Pieces designated Red Brown and Red command a significant premium. Recent sales of mid-MS Red Brown examples ranged between $50 and $150, with the record price of $504 for an MS 66 piece in a Stack’s Bowers February 2019 Collectors Choice Online Auction. 1910s designated “Red” can be worth between $200 and $2,000 in high Mint State grades, with the record hammer price of $9,600 in the March 2021 Stack’s Bowers US Coin Auction going for a stunning MS 67+.
Victor David Brenner’s portrait of Abraham Lincoln depicts the president from the shoulder up. Lincoln is dressed in a period suit and is wearing a bow tie. Brenner’s initials “V.D.B.” appear in Lincoln’s shoulder truncation. At the top of the design, wrapping around the rim is the motto “IN GOD WE TRUST”. “LIBERTY” appears behind Lincoln’s neck, on the left side of the coin. The date 1910 appears slightly lower, in front of Lincoln’s portrait, on the coin’s right side. Mint marks appear below the date, but as this coin was struck in Philadelphia, there is no mint mark.
Brenner’s “Wheat Cent” reverse. Two sheaths of wheat wrap around the right and the left side of the coin. At the top of the design, the motto “E ·PLURIBUS · UNUM” wraps around the rim. ONE CENT is inscribed in large letters, sans serif, the bottom arm of the E extends beyond the arm at the top. The middle arm is recessed. Beneath, in the same font, but smaller type: UNITED STATES OF AMERICA.
The edge of the 1910 Lincoln cent is smooth or plain.
Victor David Brenner, born in Lithuania in 1871, immigrated to New York at the age of 19. The classically trained sculptor built a group of clients, which included the future president Theodore Roosevelt. Having previously created a medallion of Lincoln, Brenner was contracted by Roosevelt in 1908 to use one of his previous images of the 16th president for a new design of the cent. At the time of his death, Brenner had carved over 125 different medals, sculptures, and coins (View Designer’s Profile).
|Year Of Issue:||1910|
|Mint Mark:||None (Philadelphia)|
|Alloy:||95% Copper, 5% Tin and Zinc|
|OBV Designer||Victor David Brenner|
|REV Designer||Victor David Brenner|
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