Three-cent piece (United States coin)

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Three-cent piece
Three Cent Silver (United States)
1852 3 Cent Silver - Type 1.jpg
Value:0.03 US dollars
Mass:(1851–53) 0.8 g (12.3  gr )
(1854–73) 0.75 g (11.6 gr)
Diameter:14 mm (0.55 in)
Thickness:0.6 mm (0.024 in)
  • (1851–53) 75% Ag, 25% Cu
  • (1854–73) 90% Ag, 10% Cu
Design:shield on six-pointed star
Designer: James Barton Longacre
Design Date:1851
Design: Roman numeral III
Designer:James Barton Longacre
Design Date:1851
Three Cent Nickel (United States)
1866 3 Cent Nickel.jpg
Value:0.03 US dollars
Mass:1.94 g (29.9 gr)
Diameter:17.9 mm (0.70 in)
Composition:75% Cu, 25% Ni
Design: Liberty Head
Designer:James Barton Longacre
Design Date:1865
Design:Roman numeral III
Designer:James Barton Longacre
Design Date:1865

The United States three cent piece was a unit of currency equaling 3100 of a United States dollar. The mint produced two different three-cent coins for circulation: the three-cent silver and the three-cent nickel. Additionally, a three-cent bronze coin was made as a pattern in 1863. During the period from 1865 to 1873, both coins were minted, albeit in very small quantities for the silver three-cent piece.

United States federal republic in North America

The United States of America (USA), commonly known as the United States or America, is a country composed of 50 states, a federal district, five major self-governing territories, and various possessions. At 3.8 million square miles, the United States is the world's third or fourth largest country by total area and is slightly smaller than the entire continent of Europe's 3.9 million square miles. With a population of over 327 million people, the U.S. is the third most populous country. The capital is Washington, D.C., and the largest city by population is New York City. Forty-eight states and the capital's federal district are contiguous in North America between Canada and Mexico. The State of Alaska is in the northwest corner of North America, bordered by Canada to the east and across the Bering Strait from Russia to the west. The State of Hawaii is an archipelago in the mid-Pacific Ocean. The U.S. territories are scattered about the Pacific Ocean and the Caribbean Sea, stretching across nine official time zones. The extremely diverse geography, climate, and wildlife of the United States make it one of the world's 17 megadiverse countries.

United States dollar Currency of the United States of America

The United States dollar is the official currency of the United States and its territories per the United States Constitution since 1792. In practice, the dollar is divided into 100 smaller cent (¢) units, but is occasionally divided into 1000 mills (₥) for accounting. The circulating paper money consists of Federal Reserve Notes that are denominated in United States dollars.

A coin is a small, flat, (usually) round piece of metal or plastic used primarily as a medium of exchange or legal tender. They are standardized in weight, and produced in large quantities at a mint in order to facilitate trade. They are most often issued by a government.



The three-cent coin was proposed in 1851 both as a result of the decrease in postage rates from five cents to three and to answer the need for a small-denomination, easy-to-handle coin. The three-cent silver featured a shield on a six-sided star on the obverse and the Roman numeral III on the reverse. The coin was initially composed of 75% silver and 25% copper to ensure that the coin would be considered real currency yet not worth melting down for the silver. The coins were physically the lightest-weight coins ever minted by the United States, weighing only 4/5 of a gram and with a diameter smaller than a modern dime and only slightly greater than the smallest gold dollars. The silver coins were known as "fishscales". [1] The term "trimes" is often used today for these coins, but that was first used by the director of the United States Mint (James Ross Snowden) at the time of their production.

Copper Chemical element with atomic number 29

Copper is a chemical element with symbol Cu and atomic number 29. It is a soft, malleable, and ductile metal with very high thermal and electrical conductivity. A freshly exposed surface of pure copper has a pinkish-orange color. Copper is used as a conductor of heat and electricity, as a building material, and as a constituent of various metal alloys, such as sterling silver used in jewelry, cupronickel used to make marine hardware and coins, and constantan used in strain gauges and thermocouples for temperature measurement.

Gold dollar

The gold dollar or gold one-dollar piece is a gold coin that was struck as a regular issue by the United States Bureau of the Mint from 1849 to 1889. The coin had three types over its lifetime, all designed by Mint Chief Engraver James B. Longacre. The Type 1 issue has the smallest diameter of any United States coin minted to date.

United States Mint produces circulating coinage for the United States

The United States Mint is a unit of the Department of Treasury responsible for producing coinage for the United States to conduct its trade and commerce, as well as controlling the movement of bullion. It does not produce paper money; that responsibility belongs to the Bureau of Engraving and Printing. The Mint was created in Philadelphia in 1792, and soon joined by other centers, whose coins were identified by their own mint marks. There are currently four active coin-producing mints: Philadelphia, Denver, San Francisco, and West Point.

Starting in 1854, the three-cent silver had its silver metal content raised to 90% to encourage circulation. At the same time, its weight was reduced to 3/4 of a gram by reducing thickness. The coin went through a design change at the time such that two lines were now used to border the star on the obverse and an olive sprig was added above and a bundle of arrows below the Roman numeral III on the reverse. [2] A final design change occurred in 1859 because of striking problems: the number of lines bordering the star was reduced to one, and the font was made taller and slightly more narrow. [2] The size of the date numerals also varied through the years, with 1860–1863 featuring the smallest date numerals of any US coin. In 1851 only, the New Orleans Mint struck some of the silver three-cent coins. It was minted from 1851 to 1873 at the Philadelphia Mint. Later years had very small mintages and the 1873 issue was in proof state only, commanding prices upwards of $400. However, an earlier-date silver three-cent piece can be bought in worn condition for a relatively low price. The silver three-cent pieces can be purchased for around $25 if they are in decent shape and before 1862, depending on the mintage. The silver three-cent piece (along with the half dime, and the two-cent piece as well as the temporary suspension of the standard silver dollar in favor of the Trade Dollar) was discontinued by the Coinage Act of 1873.

New Orleans Mint mint

The New Orleans Mint operated in New Orleans, Louisiana, as a branch mint of the United States Mint from 1838 to 1861 and from 1879 to 1909. During its years of operation, it produced over 427 million gold and silver coins of nearly every American denomination, with a total face value of over US$ 307 million. It was closed during most of the American Civil War and Reconstruction.

The Philadelphia Mint was created from the need to establish a national identity and the needs of commerce in the United States. This led the Founding Fathers of the United States to make an establishment of a continental national mint, a main priority after the ratification of the Constitution of the United States.

Proof coinage refers to special early samples of a coin issue, historically made for checking the dies and for archival purposes, but nowadays often struck in greater numbers specially for coin collectors (numismatists). Nearly all countries have issued proof coinage.

Civil War-era silver shortages led to widespread hoarding of all silver coins, and most one- and five-cent coins, as well. Various alternatives were tried, including encapsulated postage and privately issued coinage. The Treasury eventually settled on issuing fractional currency. These small denomination (3 to 50 cent) notes were never popular, as they were easy to lose and unwieldy in large amounts. The answer to this issue was reached in 1865 with the introduction of the three-cent nickel coin, composed of copper and nickel and larger than the silver coin of the same denomination. The coin featured a Liberty head obverse and another Roman numeral III reverse. The three-cent nickel was never intended as a permanent issue, only as a stopgap measure until the wartime hoarding ceased. Production began to taper off in the 1870s (except for an anomalously large coinage in 1881), but mintage of the denomination did not finally end until 1889. One reason often given for the discontinuation of the three-cent nickel piece in 1889 is that this coin and the dime (10-cent silver coin) were identical in diameter, hence caused confusion upon the introduction of mechanical vending machines.[ dubious ] Another factor may have been that in 1883, the letter postage rate dropped to 2 cents, thus removing the justification for this coin. [3]

American Civil War Civil war in the United States from 1861 to 1865

The American Civil War was a war fought in the United States from 1861 to 1865, between the North and the South. The Civil War is the most studied and written about episode in U.S. history. Primarily as a result of the long-standing controversy over the enslavement of black people, war broke out in April 1861 when secessionist forces attacked Fort Sumter in South Carolina shortly after Abraham Lincoln had been inaugurated as the President of the United States. The loyalists of the Union in the North proclaimed support for the Constitution. They faced secessionists of the Confederate States in the South, who advocated for states' rights to uphold slavery.

Hoarding behaviour of gathering and storing of goods

Hoarding is a behavior where people or animals accumulate food or other items.

Fractional currency

Fractional currency, also referred to as shinplasters, was introduced by the United States federal government following the outbreak of the Civil War. These fractional notes were in use between 21 August 1862 and 15 February 1876, and issued in 3, 5, 10, 15, 25, and 50 cent denominations across five issuing periods. The complete type set below is part of the National Numismatic Collection, housed at the National Museum of American History, part of the Smithsonian Institution.

The three-cent nickel was only minted in Philadelphia, and except for a larger date on the 1889 pieces, had no design differences throughout its run. Over the course of the series, mintage declined, and some of the dates are scarce, but with an 1865 mintage over 11 million, a type piece can be inexpensively obtained.

Glass Coins

There was some discussion of minting a glass 3-cent coin to relieve the demand on copper during the World War II [4] . It is possible other denomination glass coins were being considered as well.

Mintage figures

Three cent (silver), 1851–1873

  • 1851 (P) – 5,447,400
  • 1851 O – 720,000
  • 1852 (P) – 18,663,500
  • 1853 (P) – 11,400,000
  • 1854 (P) – 671,000
  • 1855 (P) – 139,000
  • 1856 (P) – 1,458,000
  • 1857 (P) – 1,042,000
  • 1858 (P) – 1,603,700
  • 1859 (P) – 364,200
  • 1860 (P) – 286,000
  • 1861 (P) – 497,000
  • 1862 (P) – 343,000
  • 1863 (P) – 21,000
  • 1864 (P) – 12,000
  • 1865 (P) – 8,000
  • 1866 (P) – 22,000
  • 1867 (P) – 4,000
  • 1868 (P) – 3,500
  • 1869 (P) – 4,500
  • 1870 (P) – 3,000
  • 1871 (P) – 3,400
  • 1872 (P) – 1,000
  • 1873 (P) – 600 (all proof)

Three cent (nickel), 1865–1889

  • 1865 (P) – 11,382,000
  • 1866 (P) – 4,801,000
  • 1867 (P) – 3,915,000
  • 1868 (P) – 3,252,000
  • 1869 (P) – 1,604,000
  • 1870 (P) – 1,335,000
  • 1871 (P) – 604,000
  • 1872 (P) – 862,000
  • 1873 (P) – 1,173,000
  • 1874 (P) – 790,000
  • 1875 (P) – 228,000
  • 1876 (P) – 162,000
  • 1877 (P) – About 510 (all proof)
  • 1878 (P) – 2,350 (all proof)
  • 1879 (P) – 38,000
  • 1880 (P) – 21,000
  • 1881 (P) – 1,077,000
  • 1882 (P) – 22,200
  • 1883 (P) – 4,000
  • 1884 (P) – 1,700
  • 1885 (P) – 1,000
  • 1886 (P) – 4,290 (all proof)
  • 1887 (P) – 5,000
  • 1888 (P) – 36,500
  • 1889 (P) – 18,190

See also

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Three-dollar piece

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Three-cent nickel copper-nickel coin worth three cents

The copper-nickel three-cent piece, often called a three-cent nickel piece or three-cent nickel, was designed by US Mint Chief Engraver James B. Longacre and struck by the United States Bureau of the Mint from 1865 to 1889. It was initially popular, but its place in commerce was supplanted by the five-cent piece, or nickel.

Three-cent silver

The three-cent silver, also known as the three-cent piece in silver or trime, was struck by the Mint of the United States for circulation from 1851 to 1872, and as a proof coin in 1873. Designed by the Mint's chief engraver, James B. Longacre, it circulated well while other silver coinage was being hoarded and melted, but once that problem was addressed, became less used. It was abolished by Congress with the Coinage Act of 1873.


  1. CoinWorld Silver 3 Cents
  2. 1 2 Silver Three Cents: 1851–1873
  3. "The Three-Cent Piece" (PDF). The New York Times. September 2, 1883.
  4. "Glass 3-Cent Piece". The Ottawa Journal. 1942-10-31. p. 36. Retrieved 2018-04-06.

Further reading

Q. David Bowers American numismatist

Quentin David Bowers is an American numismatist. Beginning in 1952, Bowers’s contributions to numismatics have continued uninterrupted and unabated to the present day. He has been involved in the selling of rare coins since 1953 when he was a teenager. A 1960 graduate of the Pennsylvania State University, Q. David Bowers was given the Alumni Achievement Award by that institution's College of Business Administration in a ceremony in 1976.