The three cent piece, or trime, was a coin that was doomed by our decimal system. There are three and one third trimes in a dime, eight and a third in a quarter, sixteen and two thirds in a half dollar. The Three cent piece does not add convenience to a clerk making change. Nonetheless, the US introduced a silver three cent piece in 1851 and a nickel three cent piece in 1865. In 1851, the price of a postage stamp was reduced to three cents. It was thought useful to have a coin with the same denomination,although the reason this is useful eludes Dr. Planchet. The silver three cent piece was minute -- about a third the size of a dime with a mass of only 0.8 grams. The obverse depicted a shield inside a six-pointed star. The reverse featured the numeral three inside a crescent. They were never popular and were nicknamed "fishscales" by the public.
Composition of the silver three cent piece.The original silver three cent piece (known as Variety 1) was 75% silver and 25% copper.
In 1854, it was changed to 90% silver and 10% copper, which is the same composition as other silver coins. These are Variety 2 three cent pieces. Variety two added olive sprigs around the Roman numeral III on the reverse along with three lines outlining the star on the obverse.
A final variety, Variety 3 started in 1859, reduced the number of lines around the stars to two. Very few silver three cent coins were minted after 1863,and most that were minted were melted. The silver three cent piece was abolished by law in 1873.
The nickel three cent piece
In 1865, a nickel three cent piece was introduced with a composition of 75% copper and 25% nickel. The coin was identical in size to the dime (a fact that helped lead to its demise due to confusion with both people and the newly-introduced vending machines). Unlike the silver three cent piece, the copper nickel version was a minor coin, which by law, was only valid up to ten times face value. After 1881, few three cent pieces were struck. The last year for the three cent piece was 1889.
Collecting Three Cent pieces.There are no coin albums made exclusively for three cent pieces. Dansco combines the silver three cent piece with the twenty cent piece for one album , while combining the copper nickel three cent piece with the two cent piece for another album . For each variety, the first few years are common, but they become rare quite quickly, leaving many blank album slots for the later years. Because these coins are not commonly collected by date, the rarer dates are reasonably priced. For example, an 1876 nickel three cent piece with a mintage of 162,000 can sometimes be found on ebay for prices as low as $15.00 in good condition. Compare this to the 1877 Indian Head Cent with a much higher mintage of 852,500 and a value in good condition of well over $500