The Iconic 1909-S VDB Lincoln Cent
The debut of the Lincoln cent was highly anticipated, by coin collectors and the general public alike. As the first U.S. portrait coin struck for circulation, with the bust of the universally popular president on the obverse, the new design was greeted with unprecedented enthusiasm.
The August 1909 edition of The Numismatist notes: ” … the advance demand at the Mint for this piece was far greater than that accompanying any previous coin issue.” ( This included the 1909-S VDB )
When the coins were released on August 2, long lines formed at banks, the Philadelphia and San Francisco Mints ( where the 1909-s VDB was struck ) the Sub-Treasury facilities in Chicago, Boston, New York, and St. Louis, and the Treasury building in Washington, D.C. Individual purchases were limited to 100 examples per person. Despite the purchase limits, the advanced mintage of approximately 25 million coins of the new design was exhausted in just three days.
One feature of the coin that was initially overlooked by the general populace was the prominent designer’s initials “VDB” (for Victor D. Brenner) on the reverse. Unfortunately, controversy about these initials soon developed in official circles, causing the Secretary of the Treasury to order their removal. Coinage of the new cents was halted after the Philadelphia Mint had issued more than 27.9 million pieces with the offending initials, but the mintage of the 1909-s VDB at the San Francisco facility was only 484,000 examples when the coinage was discontinued.
Fortunately for present-day collectors, news of the small mintage caused contemporary collectors to hoard many high-quality specimens of the San Francisco coinage for numismatic and investment purposes. Today, the 1909-S VDB is not difficult to locate in an absolute sense, but intense collector demand ensures that any offering will command high premiums. Of course, at the lofty MS67 grade level and with Red surfaces, the 1909-S VDB is a prime condition rarity, and no Red coins have been certified in higher numeric grades by either major grading service.
Our current June 6-9 Long Beach Signature Auction features a spectacular PCGS-graded Superb Gem of the 1909-s VDB cent with sharply detailed design elements throughout and bold designer’s initials. The original red surfaces are virtually flawless, with just a few microscopic specks of carbon on the reverse, only visible with a loupe. Vibrant mint luster radiates from both sides and overall eye appeal is terrific. Undoubtedly, this coin is destined for only the finest of Lincoln cent collections.