Three Cent Silver (1851-1873)
Published on 11/2/2017 by APMEX
The United States Mint produced the 3-Cent Silver pieces from 1851 to 1873 in very limited quantities. This coin has a fascinating history, born of lowering postage rates from five cents to three cents in 1851. The 3-Cent Silver piece was initially struck in a 75% Silver and 25% copper alloy to discourage the public from melting the coins for their Silver content. These Silver coins, sometimes called “fish scales,” are the smallest Silver coins ever produced by our mint. The Three Cent Silver coins are popularly nicknamed “TRIMES”.
In fact, these coins have a smaller diameter than our contemporary dime and weighed just 4/5 of a gram. In 1854, the coin’s composition was changed to 90% Silver to encourage circulation, while the coin’s weight was maintained at 4/5 of a gram through a reduction in the coin’s thickness. Today, 3-Cent coin values start around $40 in the lowest grade, but prices rise quickly depending on the year of mintage and the coin’s state of preservation.
3-Cent Silver Values
The value of a Silver 3-Cent piece varies based on a few key factors. While an 1851 3-Cent Silver piece in Good condition may be valued at around $40, an 1855-dated coin in Uncirculated condition may command a premium of more than $600. If you have a 3-Cent piece from a desirable year or a coin that appears to be in exceptional condition, you may want to have your coin evaluated by an expert at a reputable coin grading company such as PCGS or NGC.
These grading services will put your coin through a rigorous inspection process, allowing the expert to accurately gauge the coin’s condition to the minutest standards. They will also verify the coin’s Silver content and authenticity. When you have your coin graded, you can rest easy knowing you have the best available information as to the coin’s fair market value.
3-Cent Silver Value and Condition
Because a coin’s condition has a significant effect on its value, you need to closely examine your 3-Cent piece. One easy way to get an idea of the coin’s condition is through a close visual inspection. Start this process by picking a specific detail to examine. For example, look at the shield on the coin’s obverse. If the shield is significantly eroded and is smooth to the touch, the coin may be in Good (meaning Worn) condition.
If the shield still looks fairly crisp but has some slight wear, the coin may potentially be assigned a grade of Fine. If the shield looks new with no visual signs of wear, damage or discoloration, that coin could potentially be in Extremely Fine or higher condition. All other details on the coin, such as any text or other imagery, should be in similar condition.
Seek Out the 1851-O Mintmark
A 3-Cent Silver coin’s mint mark is located on its reverse. If you have an 1851-coin, look to the right of the “C” on the reverse. Any coins that bear the “O” mintmark were struck at the New Orleans mint. It is the only mintmarked coin in the entire series. This coin is sought by dealers and collectors because the 1851-O is the only 3-Cent Silver piece struck at a branch location and not in Philadelphia, where all other 3-Cent Silver pieces were produced. These coins may be valued at $45 for a coin in worn condition, while an Uncirculated coin may be valued at around $400 or more depending on the date.
3-Cent Silver Values in the Future
There is a long-term growth potential for 3-Cent Silver pieces. As these coins are becoming more difficult to find, dealers and collectors may go to greater lengths to acquire them. Many of these coins, even in Uncirculated condition, are still affordable right now and it may be wise to consider adding one to your coin collection sooner rather than later.