Welcome to Steve's blog, sharing stories of his professional coin career, 1963 to date. Enjoy stories of Steve's numismatic journey.

Monday, June 17, 2013

Unexpected Harvest in the Inland Empire

I operated a coin shop in Spokane, WA from 1974 to 1978.  The shop was located right across the street from Riverside Park where a major event was held the year I arrived:  Expo ’74.  
Stamp design by
Peter Max

The Expo ‘74 World’s Fair was noteworthy in several ways. Spokane was the smallest city to ever host a World’s Fair and this was the first environmental themed fair (“Celebrating Tomorrow’s Fresh Environment”).  The IMAX theater made its debut at Expo ’74.

Spokane is primarily a farming and light industrial area, serving as a major commercial hub for inland regions, including western Montana, Idaho and northeastern Oregon.  The area is also known as the Inland Northwest or the Inland Empire.

Spokane coin clients are extremely fond of Silver Dollars, so I was right at home there.  I bought lots of Dollars in the coin shop, as well as other interesting things.

One day in 1977 a gent walks in to the shop; he’s a farmer from an area close to Spokane.  He wonders if I’m interested in Lincoln Cents.  Sure am!

He reaches into his pocket and pulls out a roll of 1909-S VDB Cents.  I get out a velvet pad and we carefully lay the coins out on top of a showcase, unveiling 50 BU pieces of this scarce date. 

I ask him where the coins came from, because I need to know their provenance, their story.  His brother worked for a bank in San Bernadino, CA in 1910.  The bank had some rolls left over from 1909 and his brother bought 5 rolls of 1909-S VDB as a keepsake.  This bank teller was clearly a savvy fellow.

There was much hoopla surrounding the new Cent with Lincoln’s image, made to honor the centennial of his birth. 

Victor David Brenner designed the coin which was issued to great public notice on August 2, 1909.  Brenner’s initials (VDB) on the bottom of the coin’s reverse were deemed too prominent and removed from the dies within days of the new design release.

1909-S VDB
Photo by PCGS TrueView; www.coinnews.net
The coin market soon began promoting sales of cents from the original die.   Almost 28,000,000 1909 VDB cents had been created by the Philadelphia Mint and about 484,000 1909-S VDB cents were minted in San Francisco before the die change.  By the time our bank teller purchased the coins they were being sold for around 25 cents each.

So as I continue to chat with the farmer, he provides a few more details.  

His brother had also saved one roll of 1909-S Indian Cents.   In the early 1950s the brother needed money, so he sold one roll of the 1909-S VDBs to Wayte Raymond for $25 per coin.  Five to seven years later the brother once again needed money and sold another roll, this time for $35 per coin.  A third roll was sold in the 1960s for $50 per coin.

What did our farmer friend want for the roll we had spread out on the velvet pad?  $400 per coin was his price; I agreed and purchased the coins.

Before we finished up, it dawned on me there was likely one additional roll of 1909-S VDBs as well as a roll of 1909-S Indians.  I told the farmer to be sure to let me know if he wanted to sell more coins. 

Sure enough, about six months later he walked back into the store.  This time he did not bring 1909-S VDBs, but a half roll of 1909-S Indians.   These were incredibly nice coins, beautiful golden gems, about as pretty as you can imagine.  The farmer didn’t remember what had been done with the other half roll.

The farmer’s son occasionally calls, checking on the current market and value of the remaining coins.


  1. Wow what a great story! I always hope that something similar will happen to me. Not holding my breath but I do keep my eyes open!

  2. What a steal!!! ~DAVE

  3. All I can say is, wow! It's a shame time travel hasn't been invented yet, otherwise I'd travel back to San Francisco in 1909 and buy up all the 1909-S VDB's then go back to 1893 and buy up all the Morgan silver dollars! It's a foolproof plan, just need some physicists to work out the minor details.