1909 S VDB Penny – How Rare And How Valuable?



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1909-s-vdb-Lincoln-wheat-cent-photo-public-domain-on-Wikimedia.jpg In coin collecting, there are certain rare coins that even the general public knows are expensive and elusive.

But perhaps the one coin that really seems to keep getting attention (and deservedly so) is the 1909 S VDB penny.

Here’s the story behind this rare but popular coin. See why it’s so rare, and what it’s worth today…

 

Why All The Fuss?

So, why is the 1909 S VDB penny so special?

Perhaps the most important part of the story all comes down to the initials on the back of the coin.

V.D.B. are the initials for Victor David Brenner, the renowned designer of the Lincoln cent. Brenner placed his initials on the reverse of the Lincoln cent, near the bottom rim on the reverse below the wheat stalks on the back of the coin.

S, by the way, is the mint mark for the San Francisco mint.

While the public generally loved the Lincoln cent when it was first released, one particular problem some had with the coin was the prominence of Brenner’s initials on the coin.

People simply thought the initials were too obvious and large. The U.S. Mint responded to the outcry by removing Brenner’s initials altogether. But the situation was that the U.S. Mint had already produced millions of the pennies with the prominent VDB initials.

While most of the 1909 VDB cents were produced in Philadelphia, only 484,000 of the VDB pennies  rolled out of the San Francisco mint. 484,000 specimens of a coin may not sound like a number low enough to be considered rare, but think about the immense popularity of the Lincoln cent. Seemingly countless people collect Lincoln cents!

Therefore, the demand for the key-date 1909 S VDB penny becomes all too obvious. In fact, of all the modern coins produced, the 1909 S VDB penny is certainly among the most popular and relatively scarce.

 

Value Of 1909 S VDB Pennies

The 1909 S VDB penny is indeed one of the most expensive regular-strike (non-error) rarities of modern U.S. coins. It is also one of those coins that has seen virtually nothing but upward trends in values for the last several decades.

The value of a 1909 S VDB cent is around $700-800 in Good, and upwards of $1,800-2,000 in Uncirculated grades. There have been some badly worn, even damaged, 1909 S VDB pennies that can be occasionally found on eBay and in coin dealers’ catalogs.

Yet, even these unsightly pieces often go for at least a few hundred dollars. These cull coins make great filler pieces, but stick to the problem-free coins for a better chance of reaping rewards on your investment when buying rare coins such as the 1909-S VDB cent.

 

What Ever Happened To The 1909 S VDB Penny?

The initials that caused so much controversy in 1909 were absent from the coin until 1918.

In 1918, the initials were restored to the coin — this time, in much smaller characters under Lincoln’s bust on the obverse of the coin.

The initials are still there to this day, but it may take some people a magnifying glass to see the tiny letters!

One of the best books for collectors of Lincoln pennies is A Guide Book of Lincoln Cents, by Q. David Bowers.Ev

 

Joshua

I'm the Coin Editor here at TheFunTimesGuide. My love for coins began when I was 11 years old. I primarily collect and study U.S. coins produced during the 20th century. I'm a member of the American Numismatic Association (ANA) and the Numismatic Literary Guild (NLG) and have won multiple awards from the NLG for my work as a coin journalist. I'm also the editor at the Florida United Numismatists Club (FUN Topics magazine), and author of Images of America: The United States Mint in Philadelphia (a book that explores the colorful history of the Philadelphia Mint). I've contributed hundreds of articles for various coin publications including COINage, The Numismatist, Numismatic News, Coin Dealer Newsletter, Coin Values, and CoinWeek. I've authored nearly 1,000 articles here at The Fun Times Guide to Coins (many of them with over 50K shares), and I welcome your coin questions in the comments below!

56 thoughts on “1909 S VDB Penny – How Rare And How Valuable?

  1. I have a 1909 S penny great condition.
    I have a 1909 S VDB in great condition
    i have a 1877 in ok condition some ware
    i have the hole a collection with every penny from 1857-1972
    If you are interested please call 859-396-2868 and ask for mikey
    or email me at [email protected]

    1. Jeff,

      You’ll also find quick results if you offer the set to a local coin dealer or sell the set on eBay. Good luck!

    1. These are kind of tough.
      If you can send this to about 5 different error dealer.
      See who will give you the highest offer.

      Jack Later

    1. Aragon,

      Your coin was once part of a piece of jewelry. A 1949 Lincoln cent without the ring is worth a few cents, and the application of the ring most likely damaged your coin.

    1. Hi, Tissa –

      You will probably get a higher price if you sell those coins on eBay, where lots of people who specialize in collecting those specific coins would be looking. Here’s some advice about selling coins: http://coins.thefuntimesguide.com/sell_coin/

    1. Hi, Fred,
      Do you have a picture of it, both the front and the back sides? You could take it to a coin shop near where you live and have the coin graded, Fair, Good, Very Good, Fine, Extremely Fine, Uncirculated, Brilliant Uncirculated. Also I wouldn’t clean it as this could cause damage to the finish. Let me know if you get anywhere with this. [email protected]

  2. i have a 1989 penny that looks to be a silver or aluminum color that was plated to the color of normal pennies. is that worth anything
    I also have a 1950 and 1965

    1. Hello, Jenna –

      May I see a photo of your 1989 penny, please?

      While you’re waiting for a response to the photo, here’s some more info on silver-colored pennies: https://coins.thefuntimesguide.com/silver-penny/

      Your 1950 penny is worth 5 cents and your 1965 has a collector value of 1 cent, if it has been found in pocket change and has signs of wear on it.

        1. Hi Jenna,

          What happened here is the copper coating on the high points of this Lincoln cent were rubbed away, exposing the zinc core within.

          This could have happened in a variety of ways, but, judging from striations/rub lines, this coins was sanded or rubbed on a very abrasive surface.

          Thanks for your question!

    1. Hello, KDS —

      The value will depend on whether or not the set (which sounds incredible by the way!) has the 1922 plain Lincoln cent or not, which often is considered as part of a “complete set”; some even consider the 1955 doubled die cent as necessary for a set, though in my book I’d say it’s an accessory coin and not needed to complete a regular business-strike, date-and-mintmark set. Incidentally, I wrote an article arguing against the inclusion of the 1922 no mintmark penny in a complete basic set (https://coins.thefuntimesguide.com/1922_cent/), but I digress.

      So, assuming your set does NOT include the 1922 plain penny or 1955 doubled die (it’s just a basic date and mintmark set), the value in MS 63 is roughly $16,000-$19,000 depending on the color and overall surface quality of said MS 63 pieces.

      I hope this answers your question. If you need any further clarification, please feel free to let me know.

      1. Joshua My set is MS60 Mint and includes the 1922 plain. I do not have the 1955 double die. Could you guestimate this set? My husband had a stroke and heart attack on the same day and is terminal. We have 17 complete coin sets complete with lots of other coins. I appreciate your response and won’t intrude further. I will need to sell all of them in the future. KDS

        ——————————

        1. Hello, KDS —

          This is no intrusion at all and I’m glad to assist. If the set includes the 1922 and all coins grade MS 60, the set should be worth a minimum of $13-15,000, though could be worth slightly more or less based on the color and toning of individual coins.

          Please let me know about the other sets and I’ll do my best to provide estimates, granted this is sight-unseen. Do you have a coin dealer that you know?

          Here’s some helpful links for finding reputable coin dealers:

          PNG Coin Dealer List: http://www.pngdealers.org/component/jtagmembersdirectory/?view=browselist&Itemid=544
          How To Find A Good Coin Dealer: https://coins.thefuntimesguide.com/coin_dealer/

          Most of all, I’m sending my very best to you and your family. Please take care and let me know if you need any further assistance.

          Warmest regards,
          Joshua @ TheFunTimesGuide

          1. Joshua. Thank you. I will review the sites you gave me. I also have a complete set of MS60 Peace Dollars, have all the half dollar sets complete except the Walking Liberty. MS60 on them. All the quarters. Kathy

            ——————————

  3. have a framed set of Lincoln Head cent pennies in a sealed frame with glass on front and glued paper on back. can i break the integrity of the paper on the back to check the back of the 1909 s vdb and not damage the value of the collection?

    1. Hi, Glen —

      Usually, the value of the set would be in the coins, and not so much the holder (unless it’s government sealed, which yours would not be). I can tell you right here that the “S” part of the “1909-S VDB” can be seen under the date on the obverse (heads side). So, unless you see an “S” there, it won’t be a 1909-S VDB cent. The only other coin it might be is the far less valuable 1909 VDB (no S), which is worth around $4.

      I hope this helps,
      Joshua @ TheFunTimesGuide

      1. I found a coin I believed it to be a 2005 commutative coin Lewis & Clark 1805 one side says in ocean view of the joy its perfect but the face side only showed his nose an mouth and has a circle around it and the rest is blank an smooth .does it have any value to it and if so do you know what its worth

        1. Hello, Scotty –

          Would you please post a photo of your coin, if you can, so I can get a closer look, please?

          Thank you!

    1. Nice find, Todd! Given the coin is worth at least $600, let’s hope it’s the real McCoy. A photo of your coin might prove helpful in my giving you some indication whether it’s authentic or a replica.

      Congrats!
      Josh

          1. Hi, Todd —

            I always get a little nervous when I see a “raw” 1909-S VDB cent — one that’s outside of a certified holder from a major third-party coin grading company like PCGS, NGC, ICG, or ANACS.

            There are four basic mintmark varieties known to numismatists, and it appears that the placement of the “S” mintmark might be off just a tad from any of the major known die varieties. However, I’m not a professional coin authenticator and am merely going by my knowledge. Assuming the piece to be authentic, I would grade this coin approximately Choice Very Fine 30, which means it would have a retail value of about $800.

            If I were you, I would get this coin certified to ensure its authentic.

            Best of luck!
            Josh

          2. I have a 1909 VDS penny in the original certified holder.
            On the bottom right of the holder is what looks like .7 and maybe a very small s. Have you seen this one? I am told it is worth $4000+. Ellen

          3. Hi, Ellen —

            1909-S VDB Lincoln cents actually weren’t issued in any types of holders, so you probably have a certified slab. The question I ask is what type and is what the assigned grade for the coin? If you don’t mind posting some photos of this coin in its holder I’d be glad to assist you further!

            Best wishes,
            Josh

          1. Hi, Marites —

            Is what bullion coinage? Do you have a picture of some coins to accompany this question, please?

            I hope to help you further!
            Josh

  4. I have a set of 1909 – 1940. Where do you recommend I could take to find out what their worth near Atlanta?

    1. Hi, Sherri —

      I might be able to give you some idea what these are worth. Does the collection have any of the following coins:

      *1909 VDB cent
      *1909-S VDB cent
      *1909 VDB (no S)
      *Any S-mintmark coin from 1910-1915
      *1922 no D
      *1922 light D
      1931-S

      Generally, Lincoln wheat cents made from 1910-1940 are worth 5 to 20 cents each in worn condition UNLESS you have any of the pieces listed in this link: https://coins.thefuntimesguide.com/valuable-pennies/

      As for finding a good coin dealer in your area, I recommend you check out the Professional Numismatists Guild site under “Atlanta” dealers: http://www.pngdealers.org/

      You might also want to check out this page for more tips on finding a good coin dealer: https://coins.thefuntimesguide.com/coin_dealer/

      Good luck,
      Josh

  5. Hello Josh! I’m new here. I was just looking up information on this iconic coin. I thought your readers might like to see the specimen I recently acquired. My Dad and I used to go through bags and bags of “unsearched” wheats when I was a kid. I can’t tell you how many times I heard him say how much he wanted to find one. Of course, we never did, but not for lack of trying. My Dad passed in 2009 and after that I promised myself if I could ever afford to get one, I would do it in his honor. So, though i may own this coin, I really consider it my Dad’s. I will cherish it as the rare gem that it truly is. It is PCGS graded MS66RD. I just wanted to show your readers what beauties are out there to be had if you get to the point you can afford one. Coins like these will only be more and more sought after as time passes, in my opinion. Now I want to get more nice coins like this, but affording them is quite another matter. 😉
    Thanks and take care.

    1. Oh my goodness, Mike — that is an outstanding coin. It is truly a beautiful specimen of a well-storied rarity. I think making the coin even more incredible is the essence behind why you purchased it. I don’t know about you, but I believe your dad is smiling down from above on the amazing gesture you made in his honor. What a wonderful piece to own, and a great heirloom coin to pass on down through the generations if you choose to do that.

      Indeed, the 1909-S VDB Lincoln cent in any grade — even “cull” — is a coin with a ready market, but you, sir, have a piece that will always have a willing buyer, should you decide to sell it down the road.

      All my best to you and yours, and thank you for sharing those photos of your gorgeous coin here at The Fun Times Guide.

      Cheers,
      Josh

  6. Hi it’s me again. So I was at the bank cashing some checks (I got some for my birthday two days ago) and I desided to get some penny rolls. I told the bank person how I collect coins and she said that she used to also. So she said she resently just rolled up a wheat penny. So she unwrapped the roll and she found the wheat penny. I gave her a regular shield penny in return. So I then looked at the date and it was a 1909 vdb wheat penny! https://uploads.disquscdn.com/images/c45e7db280f655144379cb1c98ae33ec1951a638edcf2668645c52ebd16d817c.jpg https://uploads.disquscdn.com/images/365c443633b82c85a16b41d2a965519b8cab468f6120a9d6698cb3de2b624c39.jpg https://uploads.disquscdn.com/images/45c3074fd945f2eda7c0d9e18cf03ca004711dde84951742659edc7c1e47febe.jpg https://uploads.disquscdn.com/images/1cfa90c478b4eafa537ed75e8754c6ff1ebd35a657650fbdbeaf8517deb7aaea.jpg

    1. Well, Caleb — it looks like you scored an excellent birthday gift! What an incredible find. This piece is worth at least $5 to $7, but what’s more it is one of the best roll finds I’ve heard about in a little while.

      Great work,
      Josh

    1. Hi, Harold —

      One can only speculate on this, because we’ll never really know exactly how many were made and then escaped the U.S. Mint. Here are a few encouraging stories of the coin turning up in circulation, including in case as recently as 2010: https://www.pcgs.com/top100/coin7.aspx

      Good luck!
      -Josh

  7. Has there ever been a coin 1909 found with V.D.BRENNER under Lincolns shoulders. I heard 46 were made but never came out. That they chose the V.D.B. on the reverse. And if so what would a coin be worth, if one had one ??

    1. Hi, Floyd —

      There are a variety of patterns out there and, yes, coin designer Victor David Brenner initially wanted his entire name, BRENNER, on the Lincoln cent. If you have a piece like this, it might be worth having authenticated. Do you have a photo of the coin/pattern in question?

      I look forward to hearing more from you about this when you get a chance…

      Best wishes,
      Josh

  8. Hello Josh I have a question. I hav
    e a pcgs graded 1909 vdb penny with a 67red grade in the first year holder. Today I was really inspecting the coin and I noticed something the grader misses a very huge error on his/her part. First off it looks like a ms68 beautiful coin but the major error they made, it’s an S-VDB. This I am sure of its barely visible but it’s there along with other markers that determine an S vdb. My question to you is I would like to auction this coin in it’s first year holder but with the wrong type on it how can I assure everyone to it’s S type and get the most value. Because I believe it’s a quite valuable piece for a registry set maybe close to 6 figures I hope. Let me know your thoughts and ideas. I also have an 1897proof Indian we call the crying Indian. The Indian appears to be a young female crying. It is an amazing coin with the most beautiful toning you’ve ever seen . It’s way under graded at a ms64red.Thank you for your time and valuable knowledge

    1. Hi, Travis —

      If you’re looking to auction the 1909 Lincoln, that’s a question perhaps better answered by the auction firm with which you wish to consign it. I suggest you reach out to an auction firm(s) for an answer that will help you better make your decision as you move forward on possibly selling it.

      I’m not professionally involved in coin grading, so I don’t feel an expert enough to advise on the 1897 Indian cent but to say I defer to the grading experts on the topic. Your piece nevertheless sounds like a beautiful coin!

      Best of luck,
      Josh

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