Coming close is good, but not as good as winning. This is the case of the 1911-S Lincoln cent as it came oh so very close to becoming one of the elite Lincoln cents.
There are a lot of factors to consider regarding the 1911-S Lincoln cent, not the least of which is the fact that it was a very early Lincoln cent. This has an impact on the level of saving by collectors at the time. Everyone agrees the number of collectors was growing, but how many of were attempting to assemble Lincoln cent sets by date and mint?
The question is not as easily answered as you might think. Collectors of the time did not routinely collect by date and mint. The collectors of cents in 1911 would have been more certain than most since cents had only been made at San Francisco since 1908. The first Denver Lincoln cents would be made in 1911. Simply put, collectors were not used to cents from San Francisco and Denver because it had only been recently that the law was repealed that forbade the production of coins containing no silver or gold outside of the main facility in Philadelphia.
Simply removing the restrictions was not about to set off a wave of collecting, although the 1909-S VDB helped by sending a message that coins from branch mints could be far better than those from Philadelphia.
All that said, the situation in 1911 was one of some confusion when it came to collecting.
The 1911-S had a mintage of 4,026,000, which today we know is definitely low. However, two of the three previous San Francisco Lincoln cents had lower mintages, so the 1911-S would not have impressed many.
We have to assume that there was not a lot of saving of the 1911-S, because there were not a lot of collectors and because the 1911-S would not have seemed all that special.
In the years that would follow, the 1911-S would receive much greater respect. It was not seen all that often in circulation. Generation after generation understood that the 1909-S VDB, 1909-S and 1931-S were better, but among the San Francisco Lincoln cents the 1911-S was definitely a much better date.
Today the 1911-S has a G-4 price of $49. All things considered, this is a very reasonable price. In MS-60, the 1911-S is at $175, which suggests there were some small supplies set aside at the time as that price is pretty typical of the lower mintage San Francisco dates of the period. Also fairly average is the current $2,850 MS-65 price.
Realistically, there is not a lot of excitement surrounding the 1911-S. It is simply a good value as it’s a lower mintage Lincoln cent that came very close to being one of the key Lincoln cents. Keep an eye on it, though, because it has the potential to enter a very strong period.