Three Cent Silver (1851-1873)

The retrieval of vast amounts of gold from California after 1848 depressed the value of this metal, driving up the relative price of silver and forcing United States silver coins from circulation. A stopgap solution to this hardship was found in the silver three-cent piece, or trime. Only .750 fine, its bullion value was low enough to prevent hoarding, and millions were coined during the next few years. When the weights of the conventional silver denominations were reduced in 1853, this largely eliminated the need for such an odd denomination, though trimes continued to circulate extensively through 1861. The Civil War prompted the issuance of non-redeemable paper money, and all gold and silver coins were hoarded. Mintages of the silver three-cent piece thus fell to a trickle. Its passing in 1873 went without notice by the public.

The fineness of this coin was raised to .900 and its weight lowered in 1854. Minor changes were made to the design that year and again in 1859.

Trimes typically are sought by type alone, as the extremely low mintages of 1863-72, combined with the proof-only issue of 1873, weigh heavily against the popularity of this series with date collectors. Few varieties are known for this series, but desirable varieties may be found in the 1862/1 overdate and several repunched dates, the most amazing of which is 1852 with its 1 over an inverted 2.


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