3 cents coins that collectors are looking for

Today I tell you a lot of details about those great unknowns: the American 3 cent coins. This article is short, but juicy.

I assure you that in a few minutes you will be able to talk to any collectible dollar specialist about the American 3 cent coins. Just as you did with my text on 2 cent coins that I published some time ago.

I say specialist, because most ordinary people have no idea about these coins. By the time you finish reading the article you will already be ahead of many in numismatic knowledge, about the 3 centavo coins.

Do 3 cent coins exist?

Yes, there are American 3 cent coins, although they are no longer minted. Therefore, it is not a piece that you are going to receive in change for your purchase in the market. I don’t think you’ll find one easily in Grandpa’s drawer either.

3-cent coins are scarce and hard to come by. This makes them highly desirable pieces for coin collectors and numismatists. Especially those who collect old U.S. coins.

There are at least 3 types of 3 cent coins:

  • Silver 3 cent coins.
  • Nickel 3-cent coins
  • Bronze 3-cent coins

Although it is valid to note that the latter is actually an 1863 coin pattern. They are extremely rare pieces, minted by George Eckfeldt in a very low quantity.

When were the American 3 ctvs coins minted?

The 3 cents coins were first minted in 1851, and their production was extended on a regular basis in 1889.

At the beginning the coins were minted only in silver. From 1865 until 1873, silver and bronze 3-cent coins coexisted. After 1874 only nickel/bronze coins were minted until their disappearance in 1889.

Most of the 3 cent coins were minted at the Philadelphia Mint.

Moneda 3 centavos 1851 Ceca Nueva Orleans
3 centavos coin 1851 New Orleans Mint

In 1851 alone, 720,000 such coins were struck at the New Orleans Mint. These pieces can be recognized by having the letter O on the reverse of the piece.

Characteristics of the three-cent coins

Originally designed by James B. Longacre, the silver three-cent coin was actually only 75% silver and 25% copper. The idea behind the alloy was to discourage these pieces from ending up in any metal smelter.

The 3 ctvs coins, a diameter of 14 mm is the smallest silver coin ever minted by the U.S. Its small size and the dark hue the metal acquired with use (due in part to the alloy), were reason enough for the nickname “fish scales” to be given to the circulating 3 cent coins.

Let’s talk about the design of the coin.

On the obverse of the 3 centavo coin we can see the nationalist coat of arms over a six-pointed star. The coin’s legend is composed of “UNITED STATES OF AMERICA” and the year of issue.

There are 3 known variants of this obverse design of the three U.S. cents. Each variant corresponds to a specific time period.

Moneda de 3 centavos Versión 1 (1851 - 1853)
Front version 1 (1851 – 1853)
Moneda 3 centavos Versión 2 (1854 - 1858)
Front version 2 (1854 – 1858)
Moneda de 3 centavos  Versión 3 (1859 - 1873)
Front version 3 (1859 – 1873)

But, there is also a different obverse design, on 3-cent coins minted between 1865 and 1889. In this case, the nickel and copper three-cent coins.

Versión de Moneda de 3 centavos (1865 - 1889)
Obverse version of 3 centavos coin (1865 – 1889)

On the other hand, the reverse of the coins featured a stylized “C” and inside the Roman numeral III that informs the face value of the piece. The reverse design is quite stable among the three models mentioned above.

Around the “C” thirteen stars can be seen along the reverse edge. An important clarification is that variants 2 and 3 add an olive branch and a bundle of arrows that the first design did not have.

Moneda de 3 centavos Versión 1 (1851 - 1853)
Reverse version 1 (1851 – 1853)
Moneda de 3 centavos  Versión 2 (1854 - 1873)
Reverse version 2 (1854 – 1873)

The 3-cent nickel coins also change the reverse design. The “C” disappears and the Roman numeral III gains prominence, as well as the olive branch that embraces it.

Reverse version of 3 centavos coin (1865 – 1889)

At first glance it may seem that there are many variations of these coins. This is not the case.

Any novice collector, or numismatic enthusiast like myself, knows that one of the characteristics of antique American coins is the sheer number of designs and variants available throughout U.S. numismatic history.

What are 3-cent coins worth?

Now that we’ve gone over all the details, so many that you can pass for a 3 cent coin specialist, let’s review how much these pieces actually are.

Before looking at the numbers, you should consider that 3 centavos coins are scarce, but not as scarce as a 1933 Double Eagle, or the 8 reales of Carlos and Juana of 1538. In a coin with a certain demand by collectors and a number of minted pieces that will remain unchanged, because they are no longer produced. Therefore, the value tends to rise, although not very fast.

Prices range from   $200   for an 1852 and 1853 3-cent specimen, to   $4750   for an 1884 nickel piece. Of course, coins that are in MS-60 condition. In better condition they can cost much more.

So…what is the most valuable three-cent coin?

According to “A Guide Book of United States Coins 2022” the most expensive 3-cent coin would be a piece minted in 1854, and presenting a PF-63 state of preservation.

Moneda de 3 centavos de 1854
3 centavos coin of 1854

The price of this coin would be in excess of   10 thousand   US dollars. It is true that few coins are priced so high, surely it is a unique and surprising specimen.

Did you know about the existence of the US 3 cent coins?

You may have heard about them, and that’s why you ended up in this article about these wonderful pieces. If so, I hope you liked the article, and the facts I shared with you will further fuel your interest in collecting old coins.

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