Spelling It Out for a 13-Year-Old

Question: My friend has recently acryard (sic) a 1909-S VDB for his birthday and he mite give it to me (or sell) but he wants to know its value befor he makes any comitments (because he is 13 and so am I.) I read your colum every thursday and am facinated. But back to the point. How much is it worth, cause I’ve seen many prices from $400 and up up up. Now I would like to know what its value is. The grade is about AU or better because he got it from his nintey-year-old grandmother. So what is the coin worth? Also I am planing to buy a st. gaulden gold 20 piece. How much is it worth? (Please put initial only. Thank you (for me and my friends safety). --J.W. and J.P.

Answer: Thirteen is a great age to begin collecting coins. It’s also the time to concentrate on spelling, math and the rest of your schoolwork. (End of lecture.)

The coin in question, a 1909-S VDB, is a Lincoln cent and is the key to the entire Lincoln series, although it is not the most expensive coin in the series. The S stands for the San Francisco Mint. VDB are the initials of the coin’s designer, Victor David Brenner.

Because the Lincoln cent series is so popular, the 1909-S VDB has attained almost legendary status. But it is far from being a rarity. Nearly 500,000 were minted and many still survive. Still, the coin commands respect in the marketplace. The one you described as AU (almost uncirculated) is probably worth about $290 to $325 if accurately graded. A slightly better Mint State 60 (uncirculated) is worth about $335. Even low-grade 1909-S VDB cents cost as much as $250.


You also wanted to know about a “st. gaulden.” You’re actually referring to a $20 gold piece (double eagle) designed by Augustus Saint-Gaudens and issued from 1907 to 1933. Common date pieces graded AU are about $430; MS-60 are priced at $510 and MS-65 cost about $2,750.

Coin News

Canada’s latest offering in its $100 gold series is the 1989 commemorative honoring the 350th anniversary of Sainte-Marie Among the Hurons, the first European settlement in Ontario. The quarter-ounce gold piece alloyed with silver (pictured) is limited to 65,000 mintage. The purchase price is $210. Also available is the 1989 commemorative silver dollar honoring Sir Alexander Mackenzie’s 1789 canoe expedition. The 50% silver piece is $18.80 in proof and $13.90 uncirculated. It can be ordered from the Royal Canadian Mint, Box 457, Station A, Ottawa, Ontario K1N 9H3.

More than 1,400 pieces will be sold at Auction XXXIV beginning at 10:30 a.m. April 2 at the Century Plaza Hotel. Highlights include Islamic gold coins from the Frank Linville collection and ancient coins from the Dr. Richard Ainley collection. Catalogues are $15 from Joel L. Malter, P.O. Box 777, 16661 Ventura Blvd. No. 518, Encino, Calif. 91316; telephone (818) 784-4726.


The Chicago International Coin Fair will feature an auction of ancient and foreign gold, silver and copper coins of the world. Late Roman and Byzantine pieces are included, along with Spanish and Latin American coins from the Parana Collection. The auction is April 8 in the Hyatt Regency Chicago. Catalogues are available from Stack’s, 123 W. 57th St., New York, N.Y. 10019; telephone (212) 582-2580.

Alpert cannot answer mail personally but will respond to numismatic questions of general interest in this column. Do not telephone. Write to Your Coins, You section, The Times, Times Mirror Square, Los Angeles 90053.