Silver Three Cent Pieces - The smallest silver coin ever made by the U.S. Mint!
Three cent pieces or "fish scales" as they were commonly
called circulated from 1851 to 1889. The need for small denomination silver coins increased when postal rates decreased from 5 to 3 cents. Since half cents and large cents were very heavy and inconvenient they were seldom used. Minting a silver coin
seemed to make sense because silver was worth more and the coin could be smaller.
Most people used Spanish and Mexican coins for daily commerce but these coins had to be weighed to be sure they contained the correct metal content. This process was very
tedious and did not help with return business.
The silver version of this denomination is distinguished as being the smallest coin ever produced by the U.S. Mint. Three different varieties of these silver coins were produced with each slightly different design. This series
also had a copper-nickel design as well that was made between 1865 and 1889.
This denomination comprises four distinct varieties. The first three of these are coined primarily of silver. The last one is made of a copper-nickel alloy. They are listed in order from top to bottom at the right.
No lines on star Var. 1 (1851-1853)
Three lines on star Var. 2 (1854-1858)
Two lines on star Var. 3 (1859-1873)
Nickel Three-Cent (1865-1889)
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