The disappearance from circulation of silver three-cent pieces during the Civil War resulted in the issuance of fractional paper currency replacements. At the urging of nickel producer Joseph Wharton, a copper-nickel coin of slightly larger size was introduced in 1865 to retire the unpopular notes. Under the circumstances, this coin was initially quite successful, but the large number of minor coins minted 1864-69 created redundancies that saw a drop-off in production from 1870 onward. With just occasional spikes in output, the copper-nickel three-cent had already outlived its usefulness, and this denomination was quietly retired in 1889.
The popularity of this series with date collectors is hampered a bit by the proof-only issues of 1877-78 and 1886, though none of these coins are truly rare. The most visible varieties are the Closed 3 and Open 3 coins of 1873 and the 1887/6 overdate, but quite a number of lesser varieties attract specialists. Perhaps the most appealing of these the 1869/1869, with its completely doubled date.