» 1909 Wheat Penny Error List & Value

1909 Wheat Penny Error List & Value

Older pennies are coveted for their high copper content, but the 1909 wheat penny holds a value far greater than its copper melt. This year saw a major change that resulted in two variations of the original coin and a high value for all.

The lowest price you see a 1909 penny at is around a dollar, but most in decent condition or greater sell for $2 to $1,283 or greater. The difference in value depends on the grade of the coin as well as its type.

This guide expands on the six types of 1909 wheat pennies you may come across and their tentative values, as well as how to grade the coins and what errors to look out for.

1909 Wheat Penny Value Chart

Mint Mark Good Fine Extremely Fine Uncirculated Proof
1909 No Mint Mark Wheat Penny Value $1.03 $1.94 $8.00 $9.00 /
1909 VDB Wheat Penny Value $3.89 $6.38 $9.50 $15.00 /
1909 S Wheat Penny Value $55.00 $79.00 $106.00 $183.00 /
1909 S VDB Wheat Penny Value $252.00 $678.00 $940.00 $1,283.00 /
1909 Proof Wheat Penny / / / / $325+
1909 VDB Proof Wheat Penny / / / / $7,000+

1909 No Mint Mark Wheat Penny Value

1909 No Mint Mark Wheat Penny Value
Credit: usacoinbook

The most plentiful type of 1909 wheat penny bears no mint mark, and Philadelphia produced 72,702,618 of these. Even as the most plentiful type of coin from this year, many were stashed away by collectors at the time who wanted to preserve the first year coin of the Lincoln wheat cent series.

Value relates to the grade of a 1909 no mint mark wheat penny. Those in simple condition still attract a bit over a dollar, while “Fine” and “Extremely Fine” coins sell for nearly $2 to $8.

“Uncirculated” 1909 wheat pennies without a mint mark may sell for $9, but even that tier covers a wide range of coin conditions. Those at Mint State are most likely to wait until auction, and it’s difficult to determine how the market may respond.

A more recent auction record was a PCGS MS67+ RD 1909 no mint mark wheat penny that sold for $7,200 in 2020.

1909 Wheat Penny Features

The 1909 wheat penny was the first year of the famous Lincoln head obverse and wheat penny reverse designs of Victor David Brenner.

On the front is 16th President Abraham Lincoln facing the right of the coin. Inscriptions on the obverse include LIBERTY to the left, 1921 near his chest on the right, and the mint mark (if applicable) under the year.

Brenner’s wheat reverse is simple but well-loved. It features two sheaves of durum wheat around the ONE CENT denomination and UNITED STATES OF AMERICA inscription in the center of the coin. The Latin motto E PLURIBUS UNUM lines the upper rim of the coin. Early production coins may have a VDB inscription between the wheat stalks, but most do not.

The 1909 wheat pennies have a round 19 mm diameter with a smooth 1.52 mm thick rim. The coins are 95 percent copper and 5 percent tin and zinc, and they weigh 3.11 grams.

Over 103 billion wheat pennies were made in their first year of production, divided between 6 types of coins depending on mintage and whether the designer’s initials are present or not.

1909 VDB Wheat Penny Value

1909 VDB Wheat Penny Value

The majority of the 1909 VDB coins came from the Philadelphia mint and bear no mint mark. A total of 27,995,000 were produced before the reverse design changes early on.

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These coins bear the initials of Victor David Brenner close to the rim, between the two sheaves of wheat on the back of the coin. Because only a small percentage of coins bear this mark, they are incredibly valuable.

The presence of the initials instantly boosts the coins to $3.89, even when they’re well worn. Finer grades sell for $6.38 to $9.50, while “Uncirculated” coins are valued at $15.

These are theoretical values that are mostly blown out of the water when the coins actually make it to auction. The auction record here is a PCGS MS68 RD that sold for $56,400 in 2021.

The VDB Controversy

While it wasn’t uncommon for coin designers to initial their work, Victor David Brenner was ultimately forced to forgo this right.

Initially, Brenner wrote his full surname on the front of his wheat penny design. The Mint Director at the time, Frank Leach, objected, and they settled on the VDB we now see on the back of a few coins.

It wasn’t long until the public voiced their dislike for this, claiming the initials nestled in between the sheaves of wheat were too big and seemed like they were advertising for Brenner on the coin.

A popular suggestion was to replace the initials with a smaller “B”, but the Barber coinage already bore a similar mark and the change would take two weeks. Instead, the mint opted to remove the initials without replacing them, which took only three days.

1909 S Wheat Penny Value

1909 S Wheat Penny Value

The 1909 S wheat penny (without the VDB) is more rare than the no mint mark VDB, reflected by the higher estimated value of such coins.

In “Good” condition, a 1909 S wheat penny is valued around $55. Coins in the middle grades sell for about $79 to $106, while the best examples of the coin start sales at $183.

It’s been nearly two decades since a PCGS MS67 sold for $69,000 and set the auction record for the 1909 S wheat penny. More recent auctions see similarly graded coins sell for a minimum of $9,600.

1909 S VDB Wheat Penny Value

1909 S VDB Wheat Penny Value

Even more valuable than the VDB penny without a mintmark are the S-marked 1909 VDB pennies from the San Francisco mint. Less than half a million were produced, making them especially scarce.

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A 1909 S VDB wheat penny value starts at $252 (252,000 times the original face value of the coin). This means that even the most thoroughly circulated but recognizable S VDB coins can sell for this amount, and collectors are lucky if they can get their hands on one at all.

The most desirable coins of high grade are valued at $1,283, but they often sell for more.

1909 Proof Wheat Penny Value

1909 Proof Wheat Penny Value
Credit: pcgs

The 1909 proof wheat penny bears no mint mark nor designer’s initials. A total of 2,352 proof pennies were minted in Philadelphia in 1909, making them especially rare today.

While most proof coins are in great condition, the record holder for the 1909 proof wheat penny is graded particularly high at PR68. This coin sold for $59,800, and it remains the single highest grade of this coin seen at auction.

1909 VDB Proof Wheat Penny Value

1909 VDB Proof Wheat Penny Value

Similarly, only 1,194 VDB proof wheat pennies were ever made. All of these coins are matte proofs, lacking the mirror polish many look for with a PR grade, and they’re incredibly rare.

The auction record for the S VDB proof penny is also the record holder for penny sales across all years. In 2014, a PCGS PR67+ 1909 VDB proof penny sold for $258,500. This particular coin also has a CAC gold label, and it’s considered the single finest example regardless of color designation in its plus margin.

1909 Wheat Penny Grading

Grading a 1909 wheat penny is easy if you know what to look for; using video or comparing to a high-graded coin is your best way to learn.

Outside of receiving a professional grade along a 70 point scale, you can determine your own general grade. While these are largely open to interpretation and don’t bear much weight in the actual price of a coin, they help you understand the general value of the wheat penny.

Generally, you want to see more details and fewer marks on a coin to increase its value. Low-grade wheat pennies may only bear the silhouette of Lincoln, while higher grades have small details such as his hair, his coat and lapel, and his bowtie.

High areas to pay attention to include the shoulder, the back of the coat, Lincoln’s hair, and his beard.

Rare 1909 Wheat Penny Errors

Mint errors are uncommon, but they may drastically increase the value of a 1909 wheat penny. These issues occur during the production of the coin, and there are a few repeat errors noticed by numismatists for this particular year.

Mint errors due to the breakage of parts are unlikely because this was the first year these designs were struck and the parts had not had time to deteriorate, but you may still see issues such as a double die obverse (DDO) or a repunched mint mark.

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Be wary of mint errors without proper verification; these are often coins marred post-production to mimic valuable errors and trick hopeful buyers.

1909 Double Die Obverse Wheat Penny

1909 Double Die Obverse Wheat Penny
Credit: coinauctionshelp

When a pennies is impressed twice at different angles or positions, it receives a double die designations. We see this most often in the obverse of the 1909 wheat penny, and attribute such coins a DDO designation.

Most issues aren’t too dramatic, and you may not even notice the issue until you look at the coin under a microscope. It’s easiest to see the doubling around numbers and letters, particularly around the round parts of the “B” and “R”.

A DDO 1909 wheat penny commands a small premium on its original value, and this increases alongside the severity of the doubling and the original grade of the coin.

Off Set Doubling

Off set doubling is a variety of a double die error that is unusually common in 1909 wheat pennies. This particular issue sees misalignment from the hub rather than the die, and it’s mostly noticed by doubling on Lincoln’s lips.

One example of this coin sold for $12,000 in MS67 RD condition.

1909 S Over S Mint Mark Wheat Penny

1909 S Over S Mint Mark Wheat Penny

The S over S mint mark is a more specific example of a repunched mint mark error. The San Francisco mint was the only one producing marked pennies this year, and it would be the only mintage to see repunched mint mark errors.

The most dramatic of these issues involves a S over horizontal S stamp where the first mark struck the coin perpendicular to its accurate orientation. The mint worker stamped the coin again to correct the issue, unknowingly boosting the coin’s value for collector’s later on.

Sell Your Coins

These coins are uncommon, and they draw in a 10 percent increase on their original premium in more circulated grades. Higher grade mint states see a smaller percentage increase.

1909 Wheat Penny FAQs

Why Is the 1909 Penny Rare?

The 1909 penny is rare in certain varieties (particularly VDB stamped coins), but age and grade also makes the coins rare. As a first year coin, collectors are more likely to snatch up these coins to complete their sets.

What’s the Most Expensive 1909 Penny?

The most expensive 1909 penny is a VDB proof penny graded PR67+ RB. This particular coin sold for $258,500 at Heritage Auctions in August 2014. Even beyond this specific example, any 1909 VDB penny is more valuable than its non-VDB counterpart.

How Can You Tell If You Have a 1909 VDB Penny?

A 1909 VDB penny features the designer’s initials on the reverse at the bottom center of the coin, below the wheat stalks.

How Many 1909 Wheat Pennies Were Minted?

A total of 103,010,164 wheat pennies were minted in 1909. This number includes about 28.5 billion pennies coined with VDB on the reverse and 78.5 billion without the designer’s initials.

What Is the Rarest Wheat Penny?

The 1909 S VDB is among the rarest wheat penny varieties from any year, and it’s desirable for any collection.

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