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Do you own a 1909 Lincoln VDB penny and wonder how much it is worth?
There’s a lot of hype around the VDB penny, and that’s expected. This 1-cent coin was quite controversial when it was first released into circulation.
In fact, the United States Mint had to pause production and change some design elements before bringing the Lincoln Cent back into circulation.
In this article, we explore the 1909 VDB penny value in the current market. You will learn a bit about the coin’s history, unique features, and, more importantly, how much it is worth.
As you will find, some Lincoln VDB errors can be worth hundreds of dollars depending on the rarity and condition of the coin.
So, without further ado, let’s jump in and learn more about the controversial yet popular 1909 VDB Lincoln penny.
1909 VDB Penny Value Chart
|Mint mark||Good||Fine||Extremely Fine||Uncirculated|
|1909 P VDB Penny Value (Brown)||$8||$12||$15||$375|
|1909 P VDB Penny Value (Red Brown)||$30||$30||$32||$2,000|
|1909 P VDB Penny Value (Red)||$35||$40||$45||$25,000|
|1909 S VDB Penny Value (Brown)||$700||$1,100||$1450||$22,500|
|1909 S VDB Penny Value (Red Brown)||–||–||–||$28,500|
|1909 S VDB Penny (Red)||–||–||–||$90,000|
|1909 P VDB Proof Penny Value||–||–||–||$60,000|
History of 1909 VDB Penny
Abraham Lincoln was the 16th president of the United States of America. His Emancipation of Proclamation, which he issued on January 1, 1863, marked the beginning of the end of slavery. This momentous accomplishment makes him one of our nation’s most popular historical figures.
Lincoln was born on February 12, 1809, into a low-income family. He rose to the ranks and was elected president in March 1861. However, Lincoln’s second presidential term was abruptly cut short on April 14, 1865, when he was assassinated.
The U.S. Mint produced the 1909 Lincoln Cent to commemorate the late president’s 100th birthday anniversary. The coin’s designer was Victor D. Brenner, a Lithuanian immigrant with impeccable sculpting skills.
When designing the coin, Victor included his initials, VDB, at the bottom of the reverse. These initials were rather large, and much of the public felt it took away from the coin’s historical and esthetic value.
The public outrage was so widespread that the United States Mint removed the VDB initials from the pennies. Before the Mint made this decision, close to 28 million pennies with the initials VDB had already been struck.
For the rest of 1909 to 1917, the Mint struck Lincoln circulation coins without the VDB initials. The initials were reintroduced in 1918, but this time they were smaller and placed on the obverse.
Due to the controversy, collectors hoarded millions of Lincoln pennies with VDB initials. At the time, speculation was rife that these coins would be worth a fortune.
As we’ll discover,1909 VDB pennies are an excellent addition to any decent coin collection.
Also read: 12 Most Valuable Lincoln Penny Worth Money
Features of 1909 VDB Penny
Now let’s look at the unique features of the 1909 Lincoln VDB penny.
The obverse of the 1909 VDB Penny
The obverse features a right-facing portrait of Abraham Lincoln. The coin’s designer, Victor Brenner, used an image of Lincoln he had previously used to design a desk plaque for a private client.
The country’s motto, IN GOD WE TRUST, appears around the top rim. To the left of Lincoln’s portrait is the word LIBERTY while the release date of 1909 appears to the right of the portrait.
Where applicable, you will notice the mint mark just below the date.
The Reverse of the 1909 VDB Penny
On the reverse side, two wheat leaves flank the right and left sides of the coin.
The words ONE CENT, which describe the coin’s denomination, appear in the middle between the two wheat ears. Underneath, you will find the words UNITED STATES OF AMERICA.
The motto EPLURIBUS UNUM appears at the top around the coin’s rim.
Importantly, you will notice the initials VDB around the lower rim. As mentioned, the initials stand for Victor D. Brenner, the coin’s designer.
The first 28 million Lincoln pennies minted in 1909 have the initials VDB, and these coins have gained considerable interest over the years among collectors.
Other Features of the 1909 VDB Penny
The 1909 Lincoln penny comprises 95% Copper and a 5% Zinc and Tin alloy.
It weighs 3.11 grams, measures 19.00 millimetres in diameter and is 1.4 millimeters thick. The penny has a smooth edge.
VDB pennies can be red, brown or red-brown. Coins in mint condition are likelier to retain their brilliant red copper tint. But circulated coins and those exposed to the elements are usually brown or brown-red.
Also read: 13 Most Valuable Wheat Penny Worth Money
1909 VDB Penny Value Guides
In this section, we’ll answer the question: How much is a 1909 VDB penny worth?
The 1909 VDB draws a lot of attention among collectors. After all, this coin was shrouded in considerable controversy and was kind of a limited edition, given that only a few were produced before being pulled out of circulation.
Only the Philadelphia and San Francisco minting facilities produced the VDB penny in 1909.
There are two main varieties of this coin and a proof. They are:
- 1909 P VDB Penny
- 1909 S VDB Penny
- 1909 P Proof VDB Penny
It is also worth noting that pennies can be red, brown or brown-red, a quality that can affect the coin’s value. As a general rule, red pennies are more valuable than brown and red-brown coins, with red-brown varieties being the least valuable.
Let’s look at the value of each variety of the 1909 VDB Lincoln penny.
1909 P VDB Penny Value
The U.S. Mint struck approximately 27,995,000 Lincoln pennies with the VDB initials on the reverse in 1909 to commemorate the president’s 100th anniversary.
The majority of these coins were released into circulation. But instead of being used in day-to-day transactions, people hoarded millions of these coins at the height of the VDB controversy believing the coin would be worth a fortune one day.
Today, the 1909 VDB penny is among the few coins you can easily find in mint, uncirculated condition despite being a general circulation currency.
Red pennies are not just appealing to the eye but are worth much more than face value, even in lower grades. For example, a brown 1909 P VDB penny graded Extra Fine (XF) 45 is worth about $15, while one graded MS65 can fetch as much as $375.
One brown 1909 P VDB penny graded MS62 was sold in 2002 for $4830. A Red Brown penny graded MS68, at the highest end of the coin grading scale, sold for $22,800, while a Red penny graded MS68 fetched a whopping $56,400.
1909 S VDB Penny Value
The 1909 S VDB penny is among the 100 greatest U.S. coins. It is among the most favourite in the Lincoln penny series and American coins generally and is highly sought after among collectors.
When the U.S. Mint decided to remove the VDB initials from the penny, the San Francisco Mint had already struck 484,000 of these coins. As you might have guessed, this is an extremely low mintage, which makes the 1909 S VDB penny scarce and, therefore, quite valuable.
On the lower end of the grading scale, a coin graded Very Fine (VF) 30 is worth $1,100, while one graded About Uncirculated (AU) 50 is worth about $1,525.
In mint state, a brown 1909 S VDB penny can bring in as much as $25,000 for a coin-graded MS67, while a red-brown can fetch an impressive $50,000. A red penny-graded MS67 is worth about $175,000.
1909 P VDB Proof Penny Value
In addition to regular strike coins, the Philadelphia minting facility struck proof coins for the 1909 VDB penny.
The mint uses special dies to strike proofs, resulting in coins with extra-shiny surfaces and pronounced designs compared to regular strike coins.
That year, the mint struck only 1,194 Matte Proof Lincoln pennies which became the scarcest Lincoln matte-proof coins between 1909 and 1916.
There are several things to look out for to identify a genuine VDB Lincoln Matte Proof penny. You should look for coins with square edges and sharp rims.
You should also check for a die marker under the R and T of the word LIBERTY and at the back of Lincoln’s coat. You will also notice some die scratches under the president’s nose.
A 1909 VDB Matte Proof graded PF62 can fetch up to $12,000, while one graded PF66 is worth about $60,000.
1909 VDB Penny Grading
When grading the 1909 VDB penny, there are two factors to consider. One is the coin’s condition.
Worn, circulated coins with visible dents and marks are graded lower and will fetch less than uncirculated coins with a shiny luster and appealing appearance.
The second factor to consider is the coin’s color. Red pennies tend to be graded higher than red-brown and brown ones, therefore, worth more.
Rare 1909 VDB Penny Error List
There are several minting errors in the 1909 VDB Lincoln penny series. Errors can be worth a lot, but not all are valuable; it helps to know what to look for to identify a high-value coin error.
Here are common 1909 VDB penny errors worth good money:
1909 VDB Double-Die Obverse Penny Error
Double-die errors are very common. This error happens when the die used to strike the coin or blank planchet shifts a bit during the striking processes, creating a double effect on the design, figures or letters on the coin.
In the case of the 1909 VDB penny, the double-die error is most visible on the word LIBERTY and the date of issue, 1909.
A specimen with a double-died obverse error was auctioned for $70. A Lincoln VDB error can fetch as much as $1,500 in mint state.
1909 VDB Offset Penny Error
An offset error occurs when the die used for striking coins is not centered squarely over the receiving anvil die. This results in an off-centred image on the obverse and a centered reverse.
In 1909, the offset appeared on the coin’s uppermost rim. The error also cuts off the L and I in LIBERTY, making this an eye-catching error coin.
A specimen sold in 2018 and graded MS67 fetched $15,000.
Also read: 11 Most Valuable Wheat Penny Errors
How much is a VDB 1909 penny worth?
The value will largely depend on the coin’s condition. In circulated condition, a 1909 VDB penny is worth about $12, but this can increase to $375 or more for coins in mint state.
How do you identify a 1909 VDB penny?
The most immediate way to identify a VDB penny from 1909 is to check for the VDB initials on the coin’s reverse. Compared to the pennies struck starting in 1918, the VDB initials on the original 1909 pennies are significantly larger.
What is the most expensive VDB penny?
The 1909 P VDB Proof penny is the most popular and the rarest in the Lincoln penny series. Only a few of these coins can be accounted for today, making them extremely hard to find. Expect at least $150,000 for this proof penny.