Though the three dollar gold denomination had already fallen into near-irrelevance by 1861, the year the first shots of the Civil War were fired, the onset of that conflict was the tipping point. As noted by Q. David Bowers and Douglas Winter in their The United States $3 Gold Pieces 1854-1889, 1861 '... was the last year, until 1879, that gold coins were paid out at face value by the Philadelphia Mint. After this time, $3 coins did not circulate at all in the East and Midwest.' Bowers and Winter continue, noting that the odd denomination had become the province of 'bullion dealers, banks, and exchange offices,' which charged high rates to give out gold or silver coinage instead of paper money. The needs of those gold-vendors was not great, particularly for the peculiar three dollar gold piece, and even the paltry mintage of 5,959 pieces for the denomination in 1861 seems positively gargantuan compared to the token output of certain later years.
Description and Analysis courtesy of Heritage Auctions and may not be republished without written permission.