The 1909 Lincoln cent was struck to commemorate the 100th anniversary of Abraham Lincoln's birth. The designer was Lithuanian immigrant sculptor Victor D. Brenner. The original design featured the designer's initials "V.D.B" at the bottom of the reverse and those initials were relatively large. The placement and appearance of the initials was widely criticized in the newspapers of the day. The Mint responded by removing the initials. For the rest of 1909 and until 1918 when they were placed much less noticeably on the bottom truncation of Lincoln's bust, the designer's initials were nowhere to be found on the Lincoln cent. But before the initials were removed, 27,995,000 1909 "VDB" Lincoln cents were struck.
This coin was saved in huge quantities by first year of issue souvenir savers, Lincoln and history lovers, and maybe by a few speculators feeling the VDB initials would soon be dropped. Over the years I have seen many original Uncirculated rolls and mini-hoards of this coin. Today, there are probably 30,000 to 40,000 Mint State survivors and maybe as many as 20,000 full Red Gems. The coin is usually very well struck. The full Red Gems are often "very Red" in appearance, not subdued at all. This is by far the easiest of the early Philadelphia Lincoln cents to find in Gem full Red condition.