s12k3's Blog

26 Sep 2020

The History of the 3 Cent Piece

Coins | s12k3

Hey Guys! This will be a blog on the three cent coin, also known as the trime. The three-cent coin was proposed in 1 8 5 1 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 same coin was later made in nickel because people were hoarding these coins because of 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. The term trimes is often used today for these coins, and was first used by the director of the United States Mint ( James Ross Snowden ) at the time of their production. 

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. 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 narrower. The size of the date numerals also varied through the years, with 1860โ€“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.


Three cent (silver), 1851โ€“1873

  • 1851 (P) โ€“ 5,447,400

  • 1851 O โ€“ 720,000

  • 1852 (P) โ€“ 18,663,500

  • 1853 (P) โ€“ 11,400,000

  • 1854 (P) โ€“ 671,000

  • 1855 (P) โ€“ 139,000

  • 1856 (P) โ€“ 1,458,000

  • 1857 (P) โ€“ 1,042,000

  • 1858 (P) โ€“ 1,603,700

  • 1859 (P) โ€“ 364,200

  • 1860 (P) โ€“ 286,000

  • 1861 (P) โ€“ 497,000

  • 1862 (P) โ€“ 343,000

  • 1863 (P) โ€“ 21,000

  • 1864 (P) โ€“ 12,000

  • 1865 (P) โ€“ 8,000

  • 1866 (P) โ€“ 22,000

  • 1867 (P) โ€“ 4,000

  • 1868 (P) โ€“ 3,500

  • 1869 (P) โ€“ 4,500

  • 1870 (P) โ€“ 3,000

  • 1871 (P) โ€“ 3,400

  • 1872 (P) โ€“ 1,000

  • 1873 (P) โ€“ 600 (all proof)

Three cent (nickel), 1865โ€“1889

  • 1865 (P) โ€“ 11,382,000

  • 1866 (P) โ€“ 4,801,000

  • 1867 (P) โ€“ 3,915,000

  • 1868 (P) โ€“ 3,252,000

  • 1869 (P) โ€“ 1,604,000

  • 1870 (P) โ€“ 1,335,000

  • 1871 (P) โ€“ 604,000

  • 1872 (P) โ€“ 862,000

  • 1873 (P) โ€“ 1,173,000

  • 1874 (P) โ€“ 790,000

  • 1875 (P) โ€“ 228,000

  • 1876 (P) โ€“ 162,000

  • 1877 (P) โ€“ About 510 (all proof)

  • 1878 (P) โ€“ 2,350 (all proof)

  • 1879 (P) โ€“ 38,000

  • 1880 (P) โ€“ 21,000

  • 1881 (P) โ€“ 1,077,000

  • 1882 (P) โ€“ 22,200

  • 1883 (P) โ€“ 4,000

  • 1884 (P) โ€“ 1,700

  • 1885 (P) โ€“ 1,000

  • 1886 (P) โ€“ 4,290 (all proof)

  • 1887 (P) โ€“ 5,000

  • 1888 (P) โ€“ 36,500

  • 1889 (P) โ€“ 18,190


It's Mokie

Level 6

One thing I have noticed over the years with the silver trime is its inherent flimsiness. Many of them are slightly bent and have other damage due to their small size and thinness. The CN trime does not share that problem. Thanks for your interesting and well researched blog.


Level 5

I love the design of this coin, I only have one and I found it in the change slot of a Coin Star machine at the local grocery store earlier this year just before I joined the ANA. Love the info and the Blog, keep up the good work.


Level 5

Woooooooooow! I probably wouldnโ€™t have spotted that!


Level 4

Wow! That must be the luckiest coin star find! I just find canadian pennies and buttons lol.

They are so hard to see if you're not looking for them. I don't know why anyone thought a coin this small would be reasonable, same for the gold dollar. I would lose every one of these.


Level 5

The three cent coins would be a heck of a series to collect. I don't have any and probably would not start collecting them. Would be nice to search around for one of the low mintage years. Very interesting information on this coin.

I. R. Bama

Level 5

I really like Trimes too. The other three cent coin is known as a three cent nickel


Level 6

Nice blog with lots of info. Mike is correct, we need a bibliography. So much more professional, I think. You need to get that coin back. Some friend. he should just give it to you.. Thanks..


Level 6

Beautiful Trimes! Good blog and history lesson. Thanks! ; )


Level 5

I am in love with these coins... I recently traded my 1887 to a friend for $45, an offer which I couldn't refuse... (Hehe, if your reading this buddy... im getting that thing back next time we trade). Again, love the super informative blog! Cheers, NumisMaster


Level 7

Bibliography !!Some of us want to follow up on this!! Thanks

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