Three-Cent Pieces

Three-cent pieces, also known as trimes, are known for being the smallest silver coins ever produced by the United States as well as the first coin to be issued without Lady Liberty in the design. When first released in 1851, these coins served as an intermediate denomination between the cent and half dime. Over the course of the next three years, the federal government replaced the coin’s low-grade silver with a version made from 90 percent silver. A shortage in silver during the Civil War led to people hoarding these high-grade silver versions. Trimes were ultimately retired by the Coinage Act of 1873.

In response to the Civil War era demand for trimes, the U.S. Mint issued a three-cent coin in 1865 made from copper and silver. This coin, with an initial mintage of 11 million, comes with an interesting history. Because it had the same circumference as the dime, it caused mass confusion and rampant scamming with the release of mechanical vending machines. The U.S. Post Office caused the coin’s demise in 1889 when it reduced the postage rate from three to two cents.

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