PCGS Coin of the Week: 1909-S VDB Lincoln Cent

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1909-S VDB Lincoln Cent

The 1909-S VDB Lincoln cent is easily the most storied 20th-century coin in American numismatics, and one example graded by Professional Coin Grading Service (PCGS) recently took $3,121.20 at a recent Heritage Auctions sale. This example of the 1909-S VDB Lincoln cent, graded PCGS MS65RB (Red-Brown), features a sharp strike, satin-like surfaces, and semi-woodgrain toning with warm red and brown coloration. There’s no question about the specimen’s originality. It’s a stunning beauty and a true treasure for any Lincoln cent connoisseur’s cabinet.

A key-date coin, the 1909-S VDB Lincoln cent saw a mintage of just 484,000 pieces and is considered “the holy grail” for penny collectors. PCGS estimates that perhaps 50,000 pieces still exist today, but that’s a tiny number as compared to the literal millions who seek this famous coin for their Lincoln cent collections. The rules of supply and demand mean this coin sells for upward of $500 even in cull condition and much more in nicer circulated grades. Uncirculated specimens are four-figure coins, with exquisite examples like the 1909-S VDB Lincoln cent featured here drumming up intense bidding action when crossing the auction block.

When the 1909-S VDB Lincoln cent hit circulation in August 1909, the coins, along with their Philadelphia-mint counterparts, became hot collectibles thanks to their “VDB” calling card — designer Victor David Brenner’s initials. Some thought the letters were too prominent and appeared too much like advertising. Thus, “VDB” was removed from the reverse of the coin only a few weeks after production began on the 1909 Lincoln cent, leaving a relatively small mintage for both the Philadelphia and San Francisco VDB issues. The popularization of the penny board in the 1930s brought the rarity of the 1909-S VDB Lincoln cent into greater focus, and the coin has been considered one of the most desirable issues among all United States coins for more than a century.

Images courtesy of Heritage Auctions, www.HA.com.

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