Christopher Lane has aimed high in numismatics by building some of the most challenging low ball sets around. Lane, whose low ball passions compelled him to build complete sets of coins in the lowest-possible grade obtainable, began his numismatic journey many decades ago as a six-year-old who emulated his older brother Bob, who also collected coins.
“I started collecting coins because my older brother was collecting Mercury Dimes. So, being six years old and not having a bunch of disposable income, I started with Lincoln Cents. This evolved to Indian Cents years later.” He said low ball collecting didn’t arrive on the scene until decades later. “I always admired coins that were completely worn out. Something that to this day still holds an allure no matter what the coin is.”
Pursuing low ball coins can be just as challenging as seeking top-grade coins, and sometimes even more so, as is the case with modern coins. It’s that thrill of the chase in finding those tough pieces that appeals to Lane. Another aspect that he appreciates is the unique combination of color and eye appeal that he finds unique to low ball coinage. “Some Draped Bust Quarters, for example, show a beautiful black / grey / silver contrast on the obverse when they are in the Poor and Fair grades. This is not a look found in higher grades!”
Lane has been working on many sets, including those involving Indian Cents and Liberty Seated Quarters. He joined the PCGS Set Registry years ago and is chasing many goals, including one of the crown jewels of his cabinet: the 97-piece Copper, Nickel, Silver Type Set Low Ball. “This is probably one of the more challenging sets, as it has some coins which didn’t circulate all that much – coins that were pulled from circulation almost immediately due to being unique or one-year type coins.” Among these is the 1883 “NO CENTS” Liberty Nickel. “Right now, there are only three examples graded PO01!”
He added that another tough type coin is the Copper Nickel Indian Cent, issued from 1859 through 1864. “The 1859 Indian Cent is a one-year type coin with only six graded PO01. The 1860-through-1864 Indian Cents are way tougher – there are only two coins graded by PCGS in PO01 among these copper-nickel cents!” Lane identified another challenging type coin – one that, “Dare I say in the top five of tough low ball coins,” he declared. “That’s the Three Cent Nickel. With 27 different dates to choose from, you’d think there would be a large supply to choose from. Well, that would be incorrect; PCGS has only graded two PO01 out of the entire series – a single 1865 and 1866, period!”
Indeed, Lane’s low ball type coin set has proven a hill to climb. “Chasing coins for a low ball set is no different than any other quest in numismatics, with one big difference: dumpster diving – sometimes hours spent going through dealers’ junk boxes and bargain bins where the majority of the coins are a dollar or two…” He continued, “Chasing a collectible is the age-old quest that every collector has experienced, whether it’s baseball cards, stamps, pottery, old cars, barn finds, etc. This is the thrill that every collector, young or old, experiences.”