The Type 2 design modification of the three cent silver coin failed to improve striking quality so additional, apparently successful, modifications were done to alleviate the problem, giving us the third type of the series. However, a growing surplus of small denomination coins since the mid-1850’s combined with the start of the Civil War resulted in decreased use, circulation, and production of three cent silver coins. Most of the Type 3 coins were produced from 1859 through 1862, with mintages dropping significantly from 1863 through 1872. The last year of the series, 1873, was a proof-only issue.
Photos used with permission and courtesy of Heritage Auction Galleries
The obverse of Type 3 coins displays the words “United States of America” around the periphery of the field, with the date centered at the bottom. Compared to Type 1 and Type 2 coins, these letters are narrower and more widely spaced (considered by some indication of assistant designer Paquet’s influence) and the date numerals are smaller. In the center is a national shield superimposed on a six-pointed star, which has two outlines. Slight ridges radiate from the shield to each point of the star, giving the star a beveled appearance. The reverse has thirteen equally spaced six-pointed stars around the periphery of the field. The center displays a stylized, beaded letter “C”, almost Arabic in style, which encloses the Roman numeral three; thus identifying the denomination as three cents. An olive branch or sprig is located above the Roman numerals, with a bound cluster of three arrows below. All Type 3 trimes were produced at Philadelphia so none displays a mint mark.
Type 3 three cent silver coins are relatively affordable in lower circulated and mid-mint state grades. Reflecting mintage numbers, 1863 and later coins are the more expensive than the 1859 through 1862 dates, at four to ten times the price, and collectively are considered key coins of the series. Type 3 proofs are generally more available and affordable than either Type 1 or Type 2 proofs (and even Type 2 circulation strikes), with mintages ranging from a low of 460 in 1863 to a high of 1,000 in each of the years 1860, 1861, and 1870. Cameo and deep cameo proofs are listed in population/census reports and command slightly higher (cameo) to substantially higher (deep cameo, MS66 and above) premiums. Repunched varieties are listed in both circulation and proof coins, and generally list for significantly higher prices than the standard issues.
Designer: James Barton Longacre, assisted by Anthony C. Paquet
Mintage: 1,573,400 circulation; 10,840 proof
Denomintion: Three cents (3/100)
Diameter: ±14 mm, plain edge
Metal content: 90% silver, 10% copper
Weight: 0.75 grams
Varieties: Not extensively studied, but several repunched varieties are listed in population/census data.
Additional Resources :
The Official Red Book: A Guide Book of United States Coins. R.S Yeoman (author), Kenneth Bressett (editor). Whitman Publishing.
A Guide Book of United States Type Coins. Q. David Bowers. Whitman Publishing.
The Experts Guide to Collecting & Investing in Rare Coins. Q. David Bowers. Whitman Publishing.
Walter Breen’s Encyclopedia of U.S. Coins. Walter Breen. Doubleday.