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You’ve probably heard about the 1909 VDB wheat penny. You know — the coin that’s worth close to $1,000.
The only problem is you’re not sure if you have the VDB penny everyone is talking about…
In fact, it takes more than just seeing VDB on your penny for it to be rare and expensive. It also takes an S on your coin, along with the VDB, for it to be the key coin that is worth $650 to $1,000… or more.
But what does the VDB and the S mean on the 1909 Lincoln cent?
- The VDB is the designer’s initials – (V)ictor (D)avid (B)renner
- The S is the mintmark for San Francisco
Only 484,000 1909 S VDB pennies were made!
The more common 1909 VDB cent was made in Philadelphia — with over 27 million minted, it’s worth $12 to $25 in circulated grades.
Facts About The 1909 VDB Penny
The 1909 pennies with VDB were the very first examples of the beloved Lincoln cents, which have been made continuously since 1909 — and are by far America’s longest-running coin series.
Even back in 1909, everyone seemed to know the Lincoln penny would be special…
People lined up all around the Philadelphia Mint on the morning of August 2, 1909 — the day the coin was released — for their own shiny specimens of the new coin. In the following days, enterprising young children in Philly and San Francisco sold new 1909 VDB and 1909-S VDB pennies for a nickel or dime apiece (respectively). Some even charged a whopping quarter!
Here’s another interesting bit of trivia behind 1909 VDB pennies…
They were minted for only a few weeks before the public complained about the prominence of Brenner’s initials (VDB) on the reverse of the new penny. The U.S. Mint swiftly removed the initials from the coin, leaving the Lincoln cent without any artist marks at all until 1918 — when “VDB” was restored to the coin in tiny print under Lincoln’s shoulder.
So, whether you have the 1909-S VDB penny or the 1909 VDB penny, you’ve got a pretty historic coin on your hands!
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 CDN Publishing (a trusted source for the price of U.S. rare coins), 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 also authored nearly 1,000 articles here at The Fun Times Guide to Coins — and I welcome your coin questions in the comments below!