There are two general kinds of three-cent U.S. coins. The first are the silver coins known as trimes among numismatists but called “fish scales” by mid-19th-century consumers due to their diminutive size. These were struck between 1851 and 1873. Three-cent nickel coins designed to replace the silver ones were minted between 1865 and 1889.

The introduction of trimes coincided with the lowering of postal rates from five cents to three. The coin was essentially conceived as a denomination to purchase this postage, which was important because the widely available copper large cents in circulation at the time were routinely refused by merchants, which made them understandably unpopular with the public. In addition, the majority of silver coins in circulation, foremost among them Seated Liberty quarters, were either being hoarded or melted for their bullion value, which was greater than their face value. Small trimes injected a much-needed supply of coinage into the economy.

The three-cent trime was designed by the U.S. Mint’s chief engraver, James Barton Longacre, who also created Flying Eagle and Indian Head cents, Shield nickels, and Liberty Head double eagles. There are three types of silver trimes, beginning with the Type I coins minted in Philadelphia and New Orleans in 1851, as well as those minted in Philadelphia in 1852 (the largest mintage) and 1853 (second largest). These feature a shield within a six-pointed star on the obverse and the Roman numeral III surrounded by a large “C” on the reverse. The composition of these Type I trimes is 75% silver and 25% copper.

Type II trimes were struck between 1854 and 1858. While their silver content was increased to 90% to bring them into line with other U.S. silver coins in circulation, their weight was reduced to discourage bullion speculators. To differentiate these coins from the Type I trimes, Longacre added two rims around the star on the coin’s obverse, as well as an olive branch and bunch of arrows within the “C” on the reverse.

Type III trimes were minted between 1859 and 1873 in far fewer numbers than the Type I and Type II varieties that preceded them. The Civil War was one reason, a period when metal of all type was scarce, making coins prime targets for hoarding. But after the war, the coin was minted concurrently with the nickel three-cent pieces designed to replace them. These featured Longacre’s engraving of Lady Liberty on the obverse and the Roman numeral III, surrounded by a wreath, on the reverse. These new three-cent coins would continue to be struck until 1889, although in generally fewer numbers after 1875. As for the overlapping Type III silver trimes? In 1873, about 74,000 of them, representing nearly all of the trimes produced for circulation between 1863 and 1873, were melted down by the U.S. Mint.


Best of the Web (“Hall of Fame”)

Legendary Coins and Currency

Legendary Coins and Currency

This online exhibition from the Smithsonian's National Museum of American History is a great way to get an overview… [read review or visit site]

Society of U.S. Pattern Collectors

Society of U.S. Pattern Collectors

Home to the Society of U.S. Pattern collectors, this well-organized site provides in-depth information on pattern c… [read review or visit site]



Clubs & Associations

Other Great Reference Sites

Most watched eBay auctions    

1862 Three Cent Silver, Very Sharp Gem Strike, ** Free Shipping!1880 3-cent Nickel Ngc Pf67 - Beautiful Gem++ Proof!1886 Pcgs Three Cent Nickel Proof, Pcgs Pr 65 ** Very Nice Cameo Look, Free S/h!1880 Three Cent 3cn Pcgs Pr 651851 Three Cent Silver Piece, Beautiful Gem Bu++ ** Free Shipping!1851 O Three Cent Silver Piece. Au+ Low Mintage. Key DateLot Of (10) Three Cent Nickels 1865 1866 1867 1868 1869 1870 3cn Nice Type Coins1853 Three Cent Silver Trime Unc Ms-61 Icg1853 Three Cent Silver, Very Nice Choice Bu++ ** Free Shipping!Beautiful 1861 Three Cent Silver Coin**** 1852 Three Cent Silver Piece.............min. Bid .01 & No Reserve!1868 Three Cent Nickel, Nice Near Gem Bu++ ** Free Shipping!1852 Three Cent Silver 3 Cs Ngc Vf 251856 Silver Three Cent Piece 3c Coin - Free Shipping1862 High Grade Civil War 75% Silver Three Cent Piece Trimes Old Us Coin 3c Nr1882 Tough Date 3 Cent Nickel, Pcgs Xf45, Choice & Original Davidkahnrarecoins1861 Silver 3 Cent Piece Au Details Whizzed No Reserve (inv#336)Very Nice Original Extremely Fine/au 1875 Three 3c Nickel Nickle Piece Type Coin1854 3 Three Cent Us Silver Coin1866 Philadelphia Mint Nickel Three Cent Coin Free Shipping1865 Three Cent Nickel - Civil War Era Odd Denomination Type Coin1861 3 Three Cent Silver Piece1857 Silver Three Cent Piece 3c Coin - Free Shipping1879 Key Date Three Cent Nickel 3c Old Us Coin Old 3 Cents Nr Free Ship Very Nice Original Extremely Fine/au 1874 Three 3c Nickel Nickle Piece Type Coin1856 Philadelphia Mint Silver Three Cent Coin Free Shipping1880 Three Cent Nickel - Tough Low Mintage Date, Choice Original, Pcgs Vf 30 CacCollection Of Three Iii Cent Silver Coins, Various DatesThree Cent Nickel 3 Cents Lot Of (2) 1868 And 1874 Silver CoinsDeeply Struck Uncirculated Details 1866 Three 3c Nickel Nickle Piece Type Coin1857 Silver Three Cents Coin No ReserveOld Us Coins Rare Nice 1852 Obsolete Three Cent Silver 3c Piece1852 3 Cent1851-o Three (3) Cent Silver Great Deals From The Tecc Bargain Bin1852 Three Cent Silver Uncirculated! Free Shipping And No Reserve!1868 Three Cent Nickel, Beautiful Gem Bu++ ** Free Shipping!1867 3 Three Cent Nickel Us Coin1867 Three Cent Nickel 3c Old Us Coin Old 3 Cents Nr Free Ship 1851 Three 3 Cent Silver - Rare Coin- You Grade It- No Reserve1869 Three Cent Nickel, Very Nice Gem Bu++ ** Free Shipping!Nice Original Almost Uncirculated+ 1865 Three 3c Nickel Nickle Piece Type Coin1865 U.s. Three Cent Nickel Grades Fine++ Or Better! Nice Coin! Free S+h!Very Nice Original Vf++ Very Fine++ 1870 Three 3c Nickel Nickle Piece Type Coin1852 Silver Three Cent Trime (3c) RareLot Of 3, Three Cent Nickels Various Dates1870 Three Cent Nickel 3c Old Us Coin Old 3 Cents Nr Free Ship 1860 Silver Three Cent Piece 3c Coin - Free ShippingCollection Of (8) 3c Cent Nickles | 1865, (2) 1866, (4) 1867, 1868 Nr | 61981853 Three 3 Cent Silver Piece- F/vf Details- You Grade It- No Reserve1865 U.s. Nickel Three Cent Piece*hhc* Nickel Three Cent Piece, 3c, 1866, Nice Type Coin (inv #12.12)1852 3 Cent Silver Coin Good Condition TrimeLot Of 4 1865, 1865,1869, 1870 Nickel 3 Cent Nickels 3c Various Grading1852 Silver Three Cent Coin (3 Cent) // (st448)1851 O Three Cent Silver High GradeVery Nice Original Extremely Fine Xf 1873 Three 3c Nickel Nickle Piece Type Coin1858 3-cent Silver In Vg+ ConditionCollection Of (5) 3c Cent Nickles | 1870, 1871,1872,1873,1874 No Reserve | 62151853 Three 3 Cent Silver Average Wear No Damage Nice Condition See PicsCollection Of (8) 3c Cent Nickles | (4)1865,1866,1868, (2) No Date Nr | 6213