1909-S VDB Penny - NGC MS 65

Sold For: $4,406

Auction Year: 2010 spring

Lot: 1589

Item Year: 1909

Category: Pop Culture/Americana

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Magnificent high-grade example of one of the rarest and most famous coins of the modern era: the 1909-S VDB penny. Graded MS 65 by NGC. Every kid or adult who has ever collected coins, or has had even a passing interest, is familiar with the 1909-S VDB. It is one of the icons of the collecting world. Just as a T206 Ty Cobb or 1933 Goudey Babe Ruth is a universally recognized classic in the world of baseball cards, or a Lincoln ferrotype is a rare but still obtainable prize in the world of political campaign collectibles, so too is the famous 1909-S VDB in the world of coin collecting. There is something amusing about the rarity and value of the 1909-S VDB Lincoln cent that has played a role in its undeniable imprint on the consciousness of collectors and popular culture. Perhaps it is simply because it is a mere one-cent coin, and from a series that is so popular and has served as the introduction to coin collecting to millions of youngsters over the years. It is clearly a rare and valuable coin, but its fame transcends the world of coin collecting. The VDB penny is so named because it bears the initials of its designer, Victor David Brenner, in tiny letters on the reverse. Brenner was specially chosen by President Teddy Roosevelt to design the new Lincoln penny after Augustus Saint-Gaudens, who had redesigned the ten- and twenty-dollar gold coins, passed away unexpectedly before he could begin work on the penny. While most people liked the design of Brenner's 1909 Lincoln penny, a vocal contingent of critics were offended that the artist chose to place his initials so conspicuously on the coin. After strenuous objections were voiced by in-house designers at the U.S. Mint, officials hastily removed Brenner's initials from the coin shortly after production had begun; hence the scarcity of the coin today. Even though it was pulled in mid production, millions of VDB pennies had already been put in circulation; however, nearly all of those were minted in Philadelphia. The San Francisco mint only produced 484,000 of the pennies before production was shut down, making the San Francisco VDB penny, designated S VDB (a small "S" on the front of the penny identifies it as having been struck at the San Francisco mint), one of the rarest American coins of the twentieth century. Interestingly, Brenner's initials were later restored on the penny in 1918, albeit in a much more inconspicuous spot (under Lincoln's bust on the front) and remain there to this day. Reserve $500. Estimate $1,000++. SOLD FOR $4,406

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