HomePricesCoin ValuesCoins' rarity not sole driver of market prices: Collecting patterns can influence...

Coins’ rarity not sole driver of market prices: Collecting patterns can influence demand and values

By Steve Roach – www.steveroachonline.com
First published in the June 4, 2012, Special Edition issue of Coin World

A reader recently asked how a 1909-S Lincoln, V.D.B. cent could be worth considerably more than a 1982-P Roosevelt, No P dime. Both are well-known coins, with variations visible to the unaided eye and both are listed in mainstream references. The reader’s question is prompted by the knowledge that the dime is considered the scarcer of the two, yet sells for much less.


A collector asks why the 1982-P Roosevelt, No P dime, which is scarcer than the 1909-S Lincoln, V.D.B. cent, brings prices well below the levels reached by the cent. Several factors drive the prices of the two coins.

The answer illustrates how collecting patterns can influence demand.

The Lincoln cent was first issued in 1909 and designer Victor David Brenner placed his initials prominently on the reverse of his new cent. The V.D.B. initials were removed later in the year and the majority of 1909 Lincoln cents don’t carry the initials.

The Philadelphia Mint struck nearly 28 million 1909 V.D.B. cents while the San Francisco Mint struck 484,000 pieces — an extremely low mintage for a regular-issue 20th century coin.

The Lincoln cent series is widely collected, and the 1909-S V.D.B. cent enjoys widespread demand as a legendary key issue that is perhaps the best-known 20th century U.S. coin rarity. It is a coin that collectors save up to buy and, for many, represents their first “big” coin purchase.

Even with a conservative 15 percent survival rate of the original mintage, that leaves more than 70,000 available for collectors to purchase.

Many 1909 Lincoln cents — including 1909-S V.D.B. issues — were plucked out of circulation because of their novelty as a new design, thus a surprisingly high number remain available in Mint State. Collectors can expect to pay around $1,000 for a Fine example and $2,100 for a mid-range MS-63 red brown example.

The 1982-P Roosevelt, No P dime also has an interesting story — it was a regular issue coin that left the Philadelphia Mint without the “P” Mint mark that it should have carried above the date. A Mint employee didn’t punch the Mint mark into the die.

The variety surfaced in late 1982 and was well-publicized in both coin collecting and mainstream publications upon its discovery. The next year a second 1982 No P dime type surfaced, characterized by a weaker strike, especially at the 2 in the date, and these sell at substantial discounts to the “strong” variety.

Estimates seem to hit around 10,000 to 15,000 as the number of strong 1982 No P dimes that are available today to collectors and they are widely available in high grades. A collector might pay $175 for a typical MS-64 example.

Does the 1982 No P dime have room to grow to become a high-priced rarity of tomorrow? It is the key to the Roosevelt dime series and its future is largely tied to the popularity of the Roosevelt dime series. A limiting factor is that it is generally collected as a variety of 1982-P Roosevelt dimes and is not universally considered a necessary part of the complete Roosevelt dime set.

The 1909-S Lincoln, V.D.B. cent has long been established as a required part of the Lincoln cent set and is likely to endure as a widely collected rarity in the next century. It’s one of the few coins that even noncollectors may recognize as being special.

Steve Roach
Steve Roach
Each week Steve writes the hobby’s most widely-read coin market analysis in Coin World, the world’s largest coin publication where he is associate editor. Steve has worked with ANACS, Christie's, Heritage Rare Coin Galleries and Heritage Auctions. He is also an art appraiser and dealer with experience in estate planning and collectibles, and is an accredited member of the International Society of Appraisers. Visit him online at www.steveroachonline.com or follow him on Twitter @roachdotsteve

Related Articles


  1. Like other varietal issues such as the 1922 ‘no D’ Lincoln cent, which some of which were also ‘broken’ Ds, due to filled dies there were also Lincoln cents of many eras creating similar excitement. Depending on when one began collecting, there were always the older and highly prized low-mintage ones like the ’09 S-VDB at 1/4M, the ’14-D at 1.2M and the 31-S at 3/4M mintages. That one, when I began collecting went for $4.50 in Unc. from Macy’s in NY, no less. A bit expensive, considering your local hobby shop’s going rates. I couldn’t yet afford to pay that much for a penny, or I’d get yelled at. So I settled for finding whatever came my way in change. Being a paper boy had definite advantages, as well as having a keen interest in looking at every Lincoln cent through (all silver) quarters I could afford to keep. Don’t forget, Barber and Liberty standing quarters were still among the Washingtons !!
    Finding the 1950-D Jeffersons (2.5M) I had no trouble, as they were still scarce, but somehow there weren’t enough collectors to find them then. This was about 1953, so they were still bright and shiny. And…remember, Proof sets came directly from the mint at $2.10 a set, and the “full steps” were amazingly sharp on the Jefferson Memorial. The standard issue ones were much less so, due to higher and higher mintages every succeeding year.
    It was great to be a young collector, and to be able to find such choice specimens then. The later Lincoln 1955 ‘double die’ errors were still circulating in 1959-60. I remember a fellow who I got interested where I worked in NYC, was even finding them in rolls searched during our lunch hour. Whoever said “persistence pays off” must have realized what this guy was experiencing after going downstairs to the first floor bank, up to the office, and then back to the bank to return the ‘ordinary’ ones later that day.
    Having seen so many different eras in our hobby, as well as who collected, and now seeing how the masses collect, it’s not so much about making a “find” as it is to make a “buy” whenever an auction comes along, with sometimes pretty stiff competition for that “one special” and “highly desirable” coin. Still, I think there will always be random mint errors, ‘unauthorized’ mistakes, and even those legendary ‘unscrupulous’ mint employees who know when something slips by, and don’t catch it. Right?
    I hope younger collectors today aren’t too easily discouraged by how hard it is to ‘fill in’ the blanks and will always trade with each other, and scan those classifieds for the elusive ones still in the hands of dealers ‘unloading’ their long stored ‘surplus’ items.
    I know the tradition of our great country’s beautiful coinage and those who keep the hobby going will always prevail. Let’s keep Numismatics alive for the generations to come !!

  2. Personally I would only want to collect junk silver coins because for me at least they have value in their in the actual silver in the coin. I have a nice collection of pre 1964 coins, they look so much better with the silver content anyway.


Please enter your comment!
Please enter your name here

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.