Designed by: James Barton Longacre
Issued Date: 1851-1853
Composition: 0.75 parts silver, 0.25-part copper
Diameter: 14 mm
Weight: 12.35 grains (.8 gram)
Total Business Strike mintage: 36,230,940
Total Proof Strike mintage: Fewer than 60
The silver three-cent piece appeared in 1851 and was intended to facilitate the purchase of three-cent stamps at various post office outlets. The obverse of the 1851-1853 style bears a six-pointed star at the center, upon which is a shield. UNITED STATES OF AMERICA and the date are around the border. The reverse employs a C-shaped ornament enclosing the Roman number III, with 13 stars surrounding. From the very outset, difficulties were experienced in striking the pieces up properly, with the result that many examples seen today are lightly impressed in one area or another or show adjustment marks (made at the Mint during the planchet preparation process). The small diameter of the coin evoked criticism. Although large quantities were produced during the early years of the series, particularly in 1852 and 1853, subsequent production declined, and the denomination never achieved widespread popularity.
With the exception of the 1851-O (New Orleans Mint) issue, the only branch mint issue of the denomination, all varieties of the 1851-1853 coinage are readily available in grades from Good through Extremely Fine. As noted earlier, sharply struck pieces are elusive. AU coins are scarce, Uncirculated pieces are scarcer, and superb Uncirculated coins are quite rare.