From the Dark Corner: An "Authenticated" 1909-S VDB Lincoln Cent
To Catch a Fake 1909-S VDB Lincoln Cent.

By Jack D. Young, Early American Coppers (EAC) ……

Again, from my year-end review and organization of my archive folders and images comes another installment in this series! And as always, I will start with the certified “Dark Corner” example: a 1909-S VDB, one of the most cherished of Lincoln cents:

1909-S VDB Lincoln Cent. Image: Jack Young
Image of the Dark Corner subject example. Image: Jack Young.

This example first reared its head in a popular online coin forum, with the OP posting and immediately rationalizing why it was good despite mounting membership comments to the contrary.

There are several keys to consider when authenticating a true ’09-S VDB – including the “S” mint mark shape and position, the shape and position of the “VDB” on the reverse, as well as the shape of the “N” in UNITED.

There are four known obverse/mint mark positions known for genuine examples, and I use the following template with which to compare the suspicious specimens among us:

1909-S VDB Mintmark Locations
1909-S V.D.B. Mintmark Locations

And although the image is in low resolution, it can still be noted that the “N” of UNITED does not match either authentic position. Genuine examples have the “shallow N” on the far left:

1909-S VDB Cent Diagnostic. Shallow N. Image: CopperCoins.
1909-S VDB Cent Diagnostic. Shallow N. Image: CopperCoins.

And the “VDB”? Well, again, a swing and a miss!

V.D.B. Comparison on Countrefeit and Real coin.
V.D.B. Comparison on Countrefeit and Real coin.

After some silly attestations from the owner that this is a little-known fifth obverse variety and a so-called “whispering VDB”, we began to question whether the item features a “VDB” added to a genuine 1909-S Lincoln and the discussion quickly turned to that.

NGC actually had some cool images in the counterfeit detection section of their website, including this one of a documented added mint mark:

NGC-provided image of genuine 1909-S VDB reverse versus counterfeit example.
NGC-provided image of genuine 1909-S VDB reverse versus counterfeit example.

One Member of the group who has done CAD drawings for me went through the exercise of comparing the subject example to a genuine 1909-S and generated these images:

CAD images of 1909-S V.D.B. Lincoln Cent and 1909-S Lincoln Cent.
CAD images of 1909-S VDB Lincoln Cent and 1909-S Lincoln Cent.
1909-S VDB Lincoln Cent Counterfeit Detection.
1909-S VDB Lincoln Cent Counterfeit.

Case closed: not a genuine 1909-S VDB. It is my understanding that the coin was returned to the seller; I do not know what happened from there but can state that the cert was deactivated.

As always, research on this and all of the other counterfeit coins I write about has been a team effort, with friends and fellow members of Early American Coppers (EAC) and the Dark Side Group instrumental in the effort as well as others, including my wife (who puts up with me and this)!

Best as always,


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  1. Jack, you may want to see my overlays on the different positions of the VDB on the reverse design (a) and (b). You would find it very interesting how the V and B move from one design to the other. The (a) design is the correct design for all S mint 1909 S VDB coins.


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