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Low Ball Sets Within The PCGS Set Registry

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The PCGS Set Registry went online in 2001 with a variety of sets involving some of the finest coins around in the highest grade known. However, in the years since, another aspect of collecting has gained steam on the Set Registry: low ball sets. Low ball coins have been referred to as a “slick,” or “slicks,” “culls,” “pocket pieces,” etc., and all of these terms essentially are describing coins with smooth surfaces devoid of most visible design details. In low ball collecting, the less you can see of the coin, the better off you are in terms of winning an award within the Set Registry. The first low ball sets hit the PCGS Set Registry on September 13, 2007, and included three low ball sets.

For those of you who are not familiar with these types of sets, the lowest-graded examples of coins are sought to create sets with the lowest overall grade-point average. In the scope of a low ball set, the “finest” grade a member may score PO01 or Poor-1, which is defined by PCGS Grading Standards as “identifiable as to the type, date, and mintmark.” Then we can go up the grading scale to the next grade being an FR02 or Fair-2, AG-3 or About Good-3, and so on.

A look at the U.S. Coin Forum on PCGS.com shows that one of the most controversial comments was this one: “Buying lowball [sic] coins are [sic] a mistake. They seem to be a hyped collectible that was promoted in this forum. In a few years the hype will have worn off and the promoters will have exited.” Among the rebuttals was this one from another member: “Nonsense, the appeal of worn coins will always exist within this hobby. It harkens [sic] back to collecting as kids for those old worn coins in change.”

Liberty Head Gold, 1842 $5, PCGS AG03. Image courtesy of PCGS. Click image to enlarge.

Some low ball sets have taken multiple decades to complete. Picture anyone viewing one MS67/MS68 Morgan Dollar after another within the finest PCGS Registry Set displayed online. Each example is almost as perfect as the next, which is quite an accomplishment in numismatics and anyone would be in awe looking at these near-perfect examples in a single set. The price tag to assemble a collection of such superlative coinage may be daunting for the average collector. “Two roads diverged in a wood, and I – I took the one less traveled by, and that has made all the difference.” This snippet of a poem titled “The Road Not Taken,” written by Robert Frost, may potentially resonate with the low ball collector.

Indian Head Gold, 1910 $2.50, PCGS PO01. Image courtesy of PCGS. Click image to enlarge.

The barriers to entry for low ball sets are lower than establishing the finest high-grade sets, as these sets are the polar opposite of trying to find the highest-graded examples to collect and finding the best of the worst may prove to be a lifelong challenge. Collectors don’t necessarily have to embrace perfection within coin collecting all the time. What really is “perfect” in this world? Maybe a slice of piping-hot thin, foldable New York City pizza? Or perhaps a hefty, cheesy Chicago deep-dish slice? To each their own!

If one were to Google the phrase “science and charity,” one of the first entries returned is a painting by Pablo Picasso. This is a work by him that is classified under the category of “realism.” At some point in Picasso’s career, he possibly got bored with the norm for the sake of crafting the finest imitation that he could produce. In the early 1900s, Picasso is known for being one of the pioneers of a technique known as “Cubism.” This new movement was a deviation from the norm and participants within the first PCGS low ball sets listed are similar in some ways. These new collectors helped build the PCGS Set Registry into what it is today, among them the 2,800+ (and counting) low ball Registry Sets built by our fervent members. We thank you! Collect whatever you want to collect, and remember – there’s a set for almost anyone to build at PCGS! Happy Collecting!

Set Registry Grading

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