3 CENT NICKELS
Produced between 1865 and 1889, the 3 Cent Nickel was introduced after the nation began hoarding coins during the Civil War.
A rather unusual coin, the 3 Cent Nickel was first struck in 1865 and composed of 75% copper and 25% nickel. The coin was minted at the same time as a silver three-cent piece, which was introduced in 1851 and discontinued in 1873. When the 3 Cent Nickel entered circulation, it was popular with the public and continued to be so until a five-cent nickel was released in 1866.
Designed by chief engraver James Barton Longacre, the 3 Cent Nickel remained unchanged over the course of its run, ending in 1889. On the obverse is a left facing Liberty wearing a beaded coronet inscribed LIBERTY. A portion of her hair is pinned back with a ribbon and the rest is flowing down the back of her neck. Her head is encircled by the engraving UNITED STATES OF AMERICA and the date is displayed below. The reverse features the Roman numeral III surrounded by a wreath.
It was the Act of September 26, 1890 that put an end to 3 Cent Nickels, which eventually made their way back to the United States Mint so that they could be melted and coined into Liberty Nickels.
History of the 3 Cent Nickel
When the production of precious metals and non-ferrous metals collapsed during the Civil War, people began hoarding the silver three-cent piece and the copper-nickel cent. The coins swiftly disappeared from circulation, creating a coinage shortage in America. Much to the dislike of the general public, Congress decided to try using fractional currency, tokens and postal currency to replace the hoarded coins. The fractional paper notes, or “shinplasters” as the public called them, were the worst of them all because they quickly became worn and dirty.
In 1864, Secretary of the Treasury Salmon P. Chase requested the replacement of the three-cent note with a 3 Cent Nickel coin. Congress was already aware that the paper money in circulation was extremely unsuccessful and later passed the bill on March 3, 1865.
The 3 Cent Nickel was made to look more like silver rather than a copper-nickel coin, something that didn’t go unnoticed by the public. They liked the 3 Cent Nickel, which gradually replaced the fractional currency and hoarded silver three-cent coins. Also, first-class stamps were three cents at the time, so it quickly became a useful coin as well.
3 Cent Nickels circulated well in the beginning but became less popular when the Act of May 16, 1866 authorized the five-cent nickel (Nickel). Years later, silver coins began emerging in the West, lowering the price of silver. The silver coins that had been hoarded started to appear again and began pushing the 3 Cent Nickel out of circulation. Then, in 1883, the postal rates changed, ending the need for a three-cent coin altogether.
The last 3 Cent Nickel was struck in 1889 at the Philadelphia Mint, the same facility where all of the previous issues had been made. It was officially discontinued by the Act of September 26, 1890, after which millions were melted and turned into Liberty Nickels. 3 Cent Nickels were produced every year from 1865 to 1889, with the exception of 1887, 1878 and 1886 when only proof coins were minted.
Rarities and Key Dates
Although the design of the 3 Cent Nickel wasn’t ever modified, there are a few rarities, key dates and varieties from the series. The 3 Cent Nickels struck throughout the 1880s when mintage figures were extremely low are very rare. Then there’s the 1873 coin, which can be found in two varieties. The first 390,000 strikes from the year have the “Closed 3” date where the number 3 looks more like a number 8. After chief engraver William Barber made modifications, 783,000 “Open 3” pieces were minted.
The 1887/6 overdate proof is very rare and one of few American proofs to feature an overdate. Then there are the scarce proofs dated 1877 and 1878 with limited mintages of 510 and 2,350 respectively. Proofs struck from 1865 to 1869 are also rare, with the 500 pieces from 1865 being the rarest. Some of the earlier 1865 proofs display the wreath on the reverse much closer to the rim than on the later specimens.
Complete Your Rare Coin Collection with 3 Cent Nickels
Struck for over two decades, the 3 Cent Nickel had a hard life trying to compete with other coins from the same period. As a result, the coin wasn’t used as often as some of the other denominations and can now be found in excellent or uncirculated condition. Having said that, it can sometimes be a real challenge to locate 3 Cent Nickels because most of them ended up in the melting pot.
The rarities and key dates from the series are more desirable to collectors and get snapped up quickly when spotted. While values are much higher for the desired dates and varieties, even the most sought-after examples are affordable at the moment. This won’t always be the case though. As 3 Cent Nickels increase in value as they age, especially those preserved in uncirculated or extremely fine condition, they will eventually become expensive pieces.
If you’re looking to obtain 3 Cent Nickels from a leading coin source, look no further than Capital Gold Group. We offer you one of the safest and most convenient ways to purchase genuine rare coins produced by the United States Mint. Simply call us or send us a message for more information about how we can help you add 3 Cent Nickels to your collection.
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