The United States three-cent coin (also called a trime) 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 from 1851 to 1873 and was abolished by the Coinage Act of 1873.
A bronze replacement was briefly considered in 1863, but the silver version (and a three-cent paper note which had appeared during the Civil War) was finally replaced with a copper-nickel coin first issued in 1865; for several years, silver and copper-nickel were issued in parallel. The advocates for the new alloy were led by Pennsylvania industrialist Joseph Wharton, who then controlled the domestic supply of nickel ore. On the last legislative day of the congressional session, March 3, 1865, a bill for a three-cent piece in copper-nickel alloy was introduced in Congress, passed both houses without debate, and was signed by President Abraham Lincoln.
The act that authorised the three-cent nickel contained a provision requiring the use of the motto In God We Trust on all pieces large enough to bear it, but the new coin was deemed too small.
The coins were only struck by the Philadelphia Mint, with no mint mark. Note that the composition is copper-nickel (75% copper, 25% nickel) but the coins is popularly known as a "nickel"; the name later transferred to the five-cent piece.
The three-cent nickel piece initially circulated well, but became less popular when the five-cent nickel was introduced in 1866 - a larger and more convenient coin, with its value of five cents better fitting the decimal system; additionally, the 3 cents were only legal tender for sums up to 60¢, while the five-cent piece could be redeemed to any amount by the government if presented in $100 lots pursuant to a provision in the authorising legislation. After 1870, most years saw low annual mintages for the three-cent nickel, and in 1890 Congress abolished it. The last were struck in 1889; many were melted down to coin more five-cent pieces.
The series is not widely collected, and the pieces remain inexpensive relative to other U.S. coins of similar scarcity.