From the NGC Archives: 1864 Silver Three-Cent Piece

Posted on 4/15/2009

This month's feature is an unquestionably rare currency or circulation example, made more intriguing by this issue's story.

1864 Silver Three-Cent piece (Obverse)
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The silver three-cent piece experienced a checkered career that witnessed only limited success. Introduced in 1851 as the first subsidiary coin, its bullion value was deliberately set well below its face value to permit it to circulate during a temporary run-up in the price of silver. To achieve this without making the coin impossibly small, its fineness was only .750, as opposed to .900 silver for the other coins of this metal. When the weight of all the silver issues was reduced in 1853, the three-cent piece's fineness was upgraded to .900.

1864 Silver Three-Cent piece (Reverse)
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In 1864, there were no silver coins circulating in most of the USA, due to the depreciated value of the federal paper money. Thus, the small number (12,000) of trimes coined for circulation were simply stored at the Philadelphia Mint, where most were later melted. For generations, collectors failed to appreciate the rarity of currency strikes, and only in recent years have they become highly sought. Though a prooflike cameo, this dazzling gem is unquestionably a rare currency piece. White at its centers, this gave way to gorgeous peripheral toning of gold, magenta and cobalt.

Are you interested in Three Cent Silver pieces? Click here to visit the NGC Coin Encyclopedia and read more.