Three Cent Silver – Three Cent Silver, Type 2, 1854-1858
Though the initial production of three cent silver coins helped meet the need for small denomination circulating coins, the greater problem of rising silver prices (relative to gold prices) was still an issue. This was resolved by an 1853 Act which reduced the weight of all silver coins except the dollar, but also raised the silver content of the three cent coin from 75% to 90%. The design of the coin was modified to signify the change and to correct striking problems with the original design. Unfortunately the striking problems remained, even became worse, so well-struck coins of the Type 2 style are hard to find. Overall production for the five-year Type 2 coins was only about ten percent of the Type 1 total. All silver coins circulated more abundantly following the 1853 weight reduction, a situation that probably contributed to a reduced demand for the trime.
Photos used with permission and courtesy of Heritage Auction Galleries
The obverse of Type 2 coins displays the words “United States of America” around the periphery of the field, with the date centered at the bottom. In the center is a national shield superimposed on a six-pointed star, which has three outlines (sometimes called a double outline because of the perception of the spacing of the outlines relative to the main body of the star; one outline followed the rim of the star, two were separated from it). 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 2 trimes were produced at Philadelphia so none displays a mint mark.
Type 2 three cent silver coins are relatively affordable in lower circulated and mint state grades but prices and scarcity increase substantially for coins at higher mint states. Reflecting mintage numbers, 1855 coins are the most expensive, approximately twice the price as the others, and the date is considered a key of the series. Type 2 proofs are scarce but generally more available and affordable, with fewer than 100 produced for each of the years 1854 through 1857 (1854 the lowest at 20 coins), and 200-300 for 1858. Cameo proofs are listed in population/census reports and command slightly higher premiums.
Designer: James Barton Longacre
Mintage: 4,914,000 circulation; 375-475 proof (estimated)
Denomintion: Three cents (3/100)
Diameter: ±14 mm, plain edge
Metal content: 90% silver, 10% copper
Weight: 0.75 grams
Varieties: Not extensively studied, with no varieties 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.