Only 2,000 strikes were made for circulation of the 1872 three dollar, the denomination having already outlived its usefulness in commerce--if indeed it ever was useful. Bowers and Winter estimate that between 150 and 215 pieces are known today in all grades, but a mere 20 to 30 examples are extant in Mint State.
In the 1960s Walter Breen made a study of the three dollar series, and he noted the existence of two dies for business strikes and one for proofs. The strikes for circulation he separated into two groups:
1. On the first die pairing, he noted that on the obverse there are outlines around ITED and AMERI. The reverse is the same as the proof die with the date slanting slightly down to the right. 2. The second die pairing shows no outlining around ITED and AMERI. The reverse is different with the date
Bowers and Winter note that high-grade strikes for circulation always show die striations, particularly on the reverse, and of course, with such a low mintage, prooflike examples are often seen.
Description and Analysis courtesy of Heritage Auctions and may not be republished without written permission.