Three Cents, Coin Type from United States - detailed information

Three Cents, Coin Type from United States (issued 1851 - 1889)
Coin TypeThree Cents

The United States three-cent coin was a short-lived denomination of a United States dollar.

It was a tiny silver coin at first; designed by James B. Longacre, the silver version was produced for circulation from 1851 to 1872 and for as proof only in 1873.

After a massive importation of gold bullion during the California Gold Rush, silver could be traded for increasing amounts of gold, so U.S. silver coins were exported and melted for their metal. This, and the reduction of postage rates to three cents, prompted Congress in 1851 to authorize a coin of that denomination made of .750 fine silver, rather than the conventional .900. The three-cent silver was the first American coin to contain metal valued significantly less than its face value, and the first silver coin not to be legal tender for an unlimited amount. The coin saw heavy use until Congress acted again in 1853, making other silver coins lighter, which kept them in circulation. Congress also lightened the three-cent silver, and increased its fineness to 900 silver.

With the return of other denominations to circulation, the three-cent silver saw less use, and its place in commerce was lost with the economic chaos of the American Civil War, which led to hoarding of all gold and silver coins. It had circulated well while other silver coinage was being hoarded and melted, but once that problem was addressed, became less used and was abolished by the Coinage Act of 1873.

A bronze replacement was briefly considered in 1863, but the silver version was finally replaced with a copper-nickel coin first issued in 1865 (for several years, the two versions were issued in parallel). Known at the time as a "nickel" (the nickname later transferred to the 5¢ coin), it was struck until 1889. The three-cent nickel piece initially circulated well, but became less popular when the five-cent nickel was introduced in 1866 - a larger, more convenient coin, with its value of five cents better fitting the decimal system. After 1870, most years saw low annual mintages for the three-cent nickel, and in 1890 Congress abolished it too.

The denomination was only struck by the Philadelphia Mint, with no mint mark, with the exception of the first year of issue (1851) when some of them were minted at New Orleans with mint mark O.

The series is not widely collected, and the pieces remain inexpensive relative to other U.S. coins of similar scarcity.

Obverse
United States / Three Cents - obverse photo

The silver and nickel coins had different designs.

For the silver coins: at the centre of the obverse, a six-pointed star within which the Union Shield of the United States, with seven horizontal stripes above and six vertical stripes below, representing the 13 original states forming the United States.

Around, within a plain rim, the legend UNITED STATES OF AMERICA; below, the date of issue: [year]. There are three varieties based on the outline of the star, which could have single line, a triple line or a double line.

The nickel coins: at the centre of the obverse, the portrait of Miss Liberty facing left. She wears a coronet, on which the inscription LIBERTY is incuse.

Around, within a toothed border, the legend UNITED STATES OF AMERICA; below, the date of issue: [year].

Obverse Inscription UNITED STATES OF AMERICA [year]
Reverse
United States / Three Cents - reverse photo

The silver and nickel coins had different designs.

For the silver coins: at the centre of the obverse, a large decorative letter C - abbreviated from "cent", within which the Roman numeral III for the value of 3 cents.

Around, within a plain rim, thirteen stars represent the 13 original states forming the United States.

1854 and later: Within the C and above the numeral, an olive spring symbolising peace; below, a bundle of three arrows bound by a ribbon, a symbol of war.

The nickel coins: at the centre of the obverse, surrounded by a laurel wreath tied by a ribbon below, a large Roman numeral III for the value of 3 cents.

The rim is denticled (toothed). There is no mint mark.

Reverse Inscription C III *************
EdgePlainEdge InscriptionNone
Coin Type: Three Cents - (48) Coins
Coin NameReverseObverseDetails
Three Cents 1851 United States / Three Cents 1851 - reverse photo United States / Three Cents 1851 - obverse photo Material: 0.750 Silver
Mints:
- Philadelphia Mint: 5,447,400
- New Orleans Mint: 720,000
Total Mintage: 6,167,400
Three Cents 1852 United States / Three Cents 1852 - reverse photo United States / Three Cents 1852 - obverse photo Material: 0.750 Silver
Mint: Philadelphia Mint
Mintage: 18,663,500
Three Cents 1853 United States / Three Cents 1853 - reverse photo United States / Three Cents 1853 - obverse photo Material: 0.750 Silver
Mint: Philadelphia Mint
Mintage: 11,400,000
Three Cents 1854 United States / Three Cents 1854 - reverse photo United States / Three Cents 1854 - obverse photo Material: 0.900 Silver
Mint: Philadelphia Mint
Mintage: 671,000
Three Cents 1855 United States / Three Cents 1855 - reverse photo United States / Three Cents 1855 - obverse photo Material: 0.900 Silver
Mint: Philadelphia Mint
Mintage: 139,000
Three Cents 1856 United States / Three Cents 1856 - reverse photo United States / Three Cents 1856 - obverse photo Material: 0.900 Silver
Mint: Philadelphia Mint
Mintage: 1,458,000
Three Cents 1857 United States / Three Cents 1857 - reverse photo United States / Three Cents 1857 - obverse photo Material: 0.900 Silver
Mint: Philadelphia Mint
Mintage: 1,042,000
Three Cents 1858 United States / Three Cents 1858 - reverse photo United States / Three Cents 1858 - obverse photo Material: 0.900 Silver
Mint: Philadelphia Mint
Mintage: 1,604,000
Three Cents 1859 United States / Three Cents 1859 - reverse photo United States / Three Cents 1859 - obverse photo Material: 0.900 Silver
Mint: Philadelphia Mint
Mintage: 365,000
Three Cents 1860 United States / Three Cents 1860 - reverse photo United States / Three Cents 1860 - obverse photo Material: 0.900 Silver
Mint: Philadelphia Mint
Mintage: 287,000
Three Cents 1861 United States / Three Cents 1861 - reverse photo United States / Three Cents 1861 - obverse photo Material: 0.900 Silver
Mint: Philadelphia Mint
Mintage: 498,000
Three Cents 1862 United States / Three Cents 1862 - reverse photo United States / Three Cents 1862 - obverse photo Material: 0.900 Silver
Mint: Philadelphia Mint
Mintage: 343,550
Three Cents 1863 United States / Three Cents 1863 - reverse photo United States / Three Cents 1863 - obverse photo Material: 0.900 Silver
Mint: Philadelphia Mint
Mintage: 21,460
Three Cents 1864 United States / Three Cents 1864 - reverse photo United States / Three Cents 1864 - obverse photo Material: 0.900 Silver
Mint: Philadelphia Mint
Mintage: 12,470
Three Cents 1865, Silver United States / Three Cents 1865, Silver - reverse photo United States / Three Cents 1865, Silver - obverse photo Material: 0.900 Silver
Mint: Philadelphia Mint
Mintage: 8,500
Three Cents 1865, Nickel United States / Three Cents 1865, Nickel - reverse photo United States / Three Cents 1865, Nickel - obverse photo Material: CuproNickel
Mint: Philadelphia Mint
Mintage: 11,382,500
Three Cents 1866, Silver United States / Three Cents 1866, Silver - reverse photo United States / Three Cents 1866, Silver - obverse photo Material: 0.900 Silver
Mint: Philadelphia Mint
Mintage: 22,725
Three Cents 1866, Nickel United States / Three Cents 1866, Nickel - reverse photo United States / Three Cents 1866, Nickel - obverse photo Material: CuproNickel
Mint: Philadelphia Mint
Mintage: 4,801,725
Three Cents 1867, Silver United States / Three Cents 1867, Silver - reverse photo United States / Three Cents 1867, Silver - obverse photo Material: 0.900 Silver
Mint: Philadelphia Mint
Mintage: 4,625
Three Cents 1867, Nickel United States / Three Cents 1867, Nickel - reverse photo United States / Three Cents 1867, Nickel - obverse photo Material: CuproNickel
Mint: Philadelphia Mint
Mintage: 3,915,625
Three Cents 1868, Silver United States / Three Cents 1868, Silver - reverse photo United States / Three Cents 1868, Silver - obverse photo Material: 0.900 Silver
Mint: Philadelphia Mint
Mintage: 4,100
Three Cents 1868, Nickel United States / Three Cents 1868, Nickel - reverse photo United States / Three Cents 1868, Nickel - obverse photo Material: CuproNickel
Mint: Philadelphia Mint
Mintage: 3,252,600
Three Cents 1869, Silver United States / Three Cents 1869, Silver - reverse photo United States / Three Cents 1869, Silver - obverse photo Material: 0.900 Silver
Mint: Philadelphia Mint
Mintage: 5,100
Three Cents 1869, Nickel United States / Three Cents 1869, Nickel - reverse photo United States / Three Cents 1869, Nickel - obverse photo Material: CuproNickel
Mint: Philadelphia Mint
Mintage: 1,604,600
Three Cents 1870, Silver United States / Three Cents 1870, Silver - reverse photo United States / Three Cents 1870, Silver - obverse photo Material: 0.900 Silver
Mint: Philadelphia Mint
Mintage: 4,000
Three Cents 1870, Nickel United States / Three Cents 1870, Nickel - reverse photo United States / Three Cents 1870, Nickel - obverse photo Material: CuproNickel
Mint: Philadelphia Mint
Mintage: 1,336,000
Three Cents 1871, Silver United States / Three Cents 1871, Silver - reverse photo United States / Three Cents 1871, Silver - obverse photo Material: 0.900 Silver
Mint: Philadelphia Mint
Mintage: 4,360
Three Cents 1871, Nickel United States / Three Cents 1871, Nickel - reverse photo United States / Three Cents 1871, Nickel - obverse photo Material: CuproNickel
Mint: Philadelphia Mint
Mintage: 604,960
Three Cents 1872, Silver United States / Three Cents 1872, Silver - reverse photo United States / Three Cents 1872, Silver - obverse photo Material: 0.900 Silver
Mint: Philadelphia Mint
Mintage: 1,950
Three Cents 1872, Nickel United States / Three Cents 1872, Nickel - reverse photo United States / Three Cents 1872, Nickel - obverse photo Material: CuproNickel
Mint: Philadelphia Mint
Mintage: 862,950
Three Cents 1873, Silver (Proof only) United States / Three Cents 1873, Silver (Proof only) - reverse photo United States / Three Cents 1873, Silver (Proof only) - obverse photo Material: 0.900 Silver
Mint: Philadelphia Mint
Mintage: 600
Three Cents 1873, Nickel United States / Three Cents 1873, Nickel - reverse photo United States / Three Cents 1873, Nickel - obverse photo Material: CuproNickel
Mint: Philadelphia Mint
Mintage: 1,174,100
Three Cents 1874 United States / Three Cents 1874 - reverse photo United States / Three Cents 1874 - obverse photo Material: CuproNickel
Mint: Philadelphia Mint
Mintage: 790,700
Three Cents 1875 United States / Three Cents 1875 - reverse photo United States / Three Cents 1875 - obverse photo Material: CuproNickel
Mint: Philadelphia Mint
Mintage: 228,700
Three Cents 1876 United States / Three Cents 1876 - reverse photo United States / Three Cents 1876 - obverse photo Material: CuproNickel
Mint: Philadelphia Mint
Mintage: 163,150
Three Cents 1877 (Proof only) United States / Three Cents 1877 (Proof only) - reverse photo United States / Three Cents 1877 (Proof only) - obverse photo Material: CuproNickel
Mint: Philadelphia Mint
Mintage: 510
Three Cents 1878 (Proof only) United States / Three Cents 1878 (Proof only) - reverse photo United States / Three Cents 1878 (Proof only) - obverse photo Material: CuproNickel
Mint: Philadelphia Mint
Mintage: 2,350
Three Cents 1879 United States / Three Cents 1879 - reverse photo United States / Three Cents 1879 - obverse photo Material: CuproNickel
Mint: Philadelphia Mint
Mintage: 41,200
Three Cents 1880 United States / Three Cents 1880 - reverse photo United States / Three Cents 1880 - obverse photo Material: CuproNickel
Mint: Philadelphia Mint
Mintage: 24,955
Three Cents 1881 United States / Three Cents 1881 - reverse photo United States / Three Cents 1881 - obverse photo Material: CuproNickel
Mint: Philadelphia Mint
Mintage: 1,080,575
Three Cents 1882 United States / Three Cents 1882 - reverse photo United States / Three Cents 1882 - obverse photo Material: CuproNickel
Mint: Philadelphia Mint
Mintage: 25,300
Three Cents 1883 United States / Three Cents 1883 - reverse photo United States / Three Cents 1883 - obverse photo Material: CuproNickel
Mint: Philadelphia Mint
Mintage: 10,609
Three Cents 1884 United States / Three Cents 1884 - reverse photo United States / Three Cents 1884 - obverse photo Material: CuproNickel
Mint: Philadelphia Mint
Mintage: 5,642
Three Cents 1885 United States / Three Cents 1885 - reverse photo United States / Three Cents 1885 - obverse photo Material: CuproNickel
Mint: Philadelphia Mint
Mintage: 4,790
Three Cents 1886 (Proof only) United States / Three Cents 1886 (Proof only) - reverse photo United States / Three Cents 1886 (Proof only) - obverse photo Material: CuproNickel
Mint: Philadelphia Mint
Mintage: 4,290
Three Cents 1887 United States / Three Cents 1887 - reverse photo United States / Three Cents 1887 - obverse photo Material: CuproNickel
Mint: Philadelphia Mint
Mintage: 7,961
Three Cents 1888 United States / Three Cents 1888 - reverse photo United States / Three Cents 1888 - obverse photo Material: CuproNickel
Mint: Philadelphia Mint
Mintage: 41,083
Three Cents 1889 United States / Three Cents 1889 - reverse photo United States / Three Cents 1889 - obverse photo Material: CuproNickel
Mint: Philadelphia Mint
Mintage: 21,561
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Three Cents: Details
CountryUnited States
CurrencyUS Dollar
Sub-types Three Cents, Silver
Three Cents, Nickel
From1851
To1889
Face Value3 (x Cent)
CurrentNo; withdrawn 1890
Material
DesignerJames Barton Longacre
TechnologyMilled (machine-made)
ShapeRound
OrientationCoin Alignment (Axis 6)
Size
Mass