The 1909-S VDB Lincoln Cent is the famous key date coin created during the inaugural year of the Lincoln Cent series. The rarity was created by the removal of the designer Victor D. Brenner’s initials “V.D.B.” after as few as five working days at the San Francisco Mint. This issue has been popular since the public became aware of it, due to its perceived scarcity and its widely recounted back story.
The Lincoln Cent was the replacement for the Indian Head Cent, which had been introduced 50 years earlier in 1859. The new series was released in 1909 to coincide with the 100th anniversary of the birth of Abraham Lincoln. The likeness of the 16th President was designed by Victor David Brenner, a Lithuanian immigrant who had created a bronze plaque in 1907 featuring a bust of Lincoln. The current President Theodore Roosevelt, who had sat for Brenner for a Panama Canal commemorative medal, liked the work of the artist so much that he chose the image of Lincoln from the plaque as the design for the new cent.
The reverse design for the coin, which would also be designed by Brenner, featured two wheat stalks and required inscriptions. The designer’s initials “V.D.B” were placed on the lower reverse in capital letters. The design would be struck at the Philadelphia and San Francisco Mint for a very short period before it was decided that the designer’s initials were too prominent on the coin and they were removed. While it is often mentioned in numismatic literature that the public opposed the prominent placement of the designer’s initials on the coin, it has also been suggested that Chief Engraver Charles E. Barber opposed them strongly, as he did with other coin designs as well.