This denomination was introduced in conjunction with the bronze cent midway through 1864. Its sole purpose was to accelerate the replacement of copper-nickel cents with bronze coinage. Once there were enough of the new cents in circulation, production of this odd coin dropped off and was soon discontinued. Perhaps its greatest success was the attractiveness of its design, a far more satisfying rendition of the Union Shield than on the five-cent piece of 1866.
With no key dates aside from the experimental Small Motto variety of 1864 and the proof-only issue of 1873, this short series is moderately popular with date collectors. Most dates are scarce only in gem, fully red condition.
The early dates, due to their high mintages, are rich in varieties. Several reference books are available, though the most desirable varieties are included in The Cherrypickers’ Guide and attributed by NGC. In addition to the 1864 with Small Motto, these include 1864 with clashmarks from an Indian Cent, very obvious doubled-die obverses in 1867, 1870 and 1871, as well as a number of repunched dates and misplaced dates.