Coin Fake Detection – 1909 S VDB Lincoln Cent


The purpose of this guide is to help you avoid buying or selling a fake or counterfeit 1909 S VDB Lincoln cent.  This guide could also help you determine if a coin you have in your possession is a fake.  This guide is limited to coins that have not been graded and slabbed by a third party grading company (such as PCGS or NGC).  I am not saying you can’t possibly run into a fake slabbed coin, but I’ll leave that for another guide.
Here are some coins I have seen on eBay that are fakes, but are being sold as genuine coins.  Not all fake 1909 S VDBs have the characteristics of each of the fake coins shown here, but all genuine coins have the characteristics of the genuine coins shown here.
Figure 1 – Date
Fake: The 1 of the date has a serif.  Genuine: The 1 does not have a serif.
Fake: The tail of the final 9 is not curved, but flat.  Genuine: Both nines are smoothly curved.
Fake: The loops of the nines are almost closed.  Genuine: Nines have open loops.

Figure 2 – Wheat Stalk Tip
Fake: Blunt wheat tip, most noticeable on the right wheat stalk.  Genuine: Pointed wheat stalks.

Figure 3 – Position of VDB
Shown: A straight line drawn vertically through the left part of the N in CENT.
Fake: The line intersects the D of VDB.  Genuine: The line is just barely to the left of the B in VDB.

Figure 4 – Characteristics of VDB
Fake: The period after D is close to the D.  Genuine: The period is about midway between the D and the B.
Fake: Taller V, than either D or B.  Genuine: The V is about the same height as the D.
NOTE: Genuine Philadelphia mint V.D.B. coins had the period close to the D.  A coin with an S mint mark, and the period close to the D, has had the mint mark added to a Philadelphia mint coin and is therefore a fake (altered).

Figure 5 – Mint mark characteristic and another date characteristic
Fake: Mint mark sides are not parallel.  Genuine: Mint mark sides are parallel (sometimes slightly slanted, but still parallel).  See genuine mint mark positions below.
Fake: Second nine has blunted end.  Genuine: Nines have pointed ends.
If the shape of the mint mark differs from that of the Genuine coin shown, it is not a genuine coin.

Genuine coins have only one mint mark shape and only four mint mark positions.
The mint mark on genuine coins was made by the same mint mark punch, but they punched it in just four slightly different locations.  All genuine 1909 S VDB cents will have the same shape mint mark and in one of the exact positions shown below.

Note that mint mark is slightly slanted to the right in three of the four mint mark positions.  In the fourth position, it is vertical.  No genuine coin’s mint mark is slanted to the left.  Again, if the mint mark in not in one of these four exact positions, it is not a genuine coin.

Practice what you learned
QUIZ:  Name two things that tell you the coin in the photo below is fake.
Answer below.

FREE ADVICE to buyers:

  • If the coin you are considering looks like the pictures of the fake coins, don’t buy it.
  • If the picture is not detailed enough to clearly make out the mint mark or its position, don’t buy it.
  • If the picture is not detailed enough to clearly make out the VDB, don’t buy it.
  • If the picture is not detailed enough to clearly make out the date, don’t buy it.

FREE ADVICE to sellers:

  • If your coin resembles the pictures of the fake coins, don’t sell it (instead, destroy it).
  • Provide large, high resolution, in focus photos of your coin in your eBay listings.

What to do if you bought a fake coin:

  • Ask the seller for a refund.
  • If that doesn’t work, file with eBay/PayPal for a refund as Significantly Not As Described (describe the coin as not authentic).
  • Leave an appropriate negative feedback comment (or a follow up comment if you already left a positive feedback) and appropriate DSR for description as a service to the eBay community.

Answers to quiz:
1) The 1 of the date has a serif.
2) The mint mark is the wrong shape.
3) The loop on the nines are almost closed.
4) The mint mark is not in one of the four valid positions.
5) The nines are not smoothly curved.

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