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Viewpoint: Tired of Mint State? Try lowball coins

By Mike Walker

For those who believe the only way to collect coins is to always be hunting for the highest grade and quality, I would suggest that you can have the same amount of enjoyment and intrigue building your coin sets in lowball grades.

Two primary issues come into play when building a competitive high-end set: 1) the cost increases with each upgrade, sometimes very significantly, and 2) one never knows for sure if your Top Pop 1 coin might be matched or even surpassed. The beauty of collecting coins in low grade is that once you have a PO01 (also known as a “poor one”), the worst that can happen is that your coin becomes a Top Pop as opposed to a Top Pop 1 because it can only be matched but not ever exceeded. Again, the reverse is not true for your Mint State coin, as it can always be passed up.

Go onto the PCGS Registry and spend some time perusing all the various lowball sets. As of this writing, there are 33 total sets in competition (11 type sets and 22 denomination sets). Over time, some highly difficult sets have been been built and awarded accordingly. The lowball category also boasts a Hall of Fame.


Lowball collecting is not as easy as you might have heard. Most people think that these coins are just laying around in junk buckets at nearly every local coin shop. The truth is most dealers do not have a clue what it takes to build up a lowball set and certainly know even less when it comes to the dynamics of coin grading below about the G4 level.

I would certainly encourage you to consider starting a lowball set in a category of interest. You just might like it a lot and become a player in this wide open category on the Registry. Keep in mind that reverse rarity is still as challenging as Mint State rarity but without the high expense.

This “Viewpoint” was written by Mike Walker, a hobbyist from Illinois.

To have your opinion considered for Viewpoint, write to David C. Harper, Editor, Numismatic News, 5225 Joerns Drive, Suite 2, Stevens Point WI, 54481. Send email to

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More Collecting Resources

• The Standard Catalog of World Coins, 1901-2000 is your guide to images, prices and information on coinage of the 1900s.

• The Standard Catalog of United States Paper Money is the only annual guide that provides complete coverage of U.S. currency with today’s market prices.