Three Cent Silver (1851-1873)

Image Courtesy of David Lawrence Rare Coins

Image Courtesy of David Lawrence Rare Coins

The 3-Cent Silver piece was produced by the U.S. Mint from 1851 to 1873 in very limited quantities. This coin has an interesting history, and came about due to the lowering of postage rates from five cents to three cents in 1851. The 3-Cent silver piece was initially produced with 75 percent silver and 25 percent copper in order to try to discourage the melting of the coins for their silver content. These silver coins, sometimes referred to as “fish scales,” are the smallest coins ever produced by the U.S. Mint. In fact, these coins have a smaller diameter than a modern dime and weighed in at only 4/5 of a gram.

In 1854, the coin’s composition was changed to include 90 percent silver in an attempt to encourage circulation, while the coin’s weight actually was decreased to only 4/5 of a gram through a reduction in the coin’s thickness.

3-Cent coin values can start at $20 and go up quickly from there depending on mint year, condition and other factors.

3-Cent Silver Values and What Dealers Pay

The value of a silver 3-Cent piece can vary based on several factors. While an 1851 3-Cent silver piece in good condition may be valued around $20, an 1855 in uncirculated condition may fetch nearly $600. If you have a 3-Cent piece from a desired year or a coin that appears to be in very well-preserved condition, you may want to have your coin graded by a professional coin grading company such as PCGS or NGC.

These grading services will put your coin through a rigorous inspection process to accurately gauge the coin’s condition. They will also verify the coin’s silver content and authenticity. By having your coin graded, you can rest assured knowing that you have great idea as to the coin’s fair market value based on its condition, year and other factors.

3-Cent Silver Value is Conditional

Because condition has such a significant affect on a coin’s value, you will definitely want to closely examine your 3-Cent piece. One easy way to try to gauge the coin’s condition is through a close visual inspection. A great way to start this process is by picking some of the coin’s details to compare. For example, you can look at the coin’s shield on its obverse. If the shield is significantly eroded and is smooth to the touch, the coin may be in good condition. If the shield still looks fairly robust but has some slight wear and tear, the coin may potentially be assigned a grade of fine. If the shield looks to be hot off the presses with no visual signs of wear, damage or discoloration, then the coin could potentially be in extremely fine condition. Needless to say, you will also want to thoroughly inspect other details on the coin such as any text or other imagery. This is time well-spent considering that the coin’s condition can have a huge impact on its value to dealers and collectors.

Find the 1851-0 Mint Mark

The coin’s mint mark can be found on its reverse. This coin is a favorite among dealers and collectors because the 1851-0 is the only 3-Cent silver piece that was minted at a branch location and not in Philadelphia where all other 3-Cent silver pieces were produced. These coins may be valued at $25 for a coin in good condition. A coin in uncirculated condition may be valued around $400.

3-Cent Silver Values in the Future

The values for 3-Cent silver pieces may potentially climb over the years. As these coins age further and as they become more difficult to find, dealers and collectors may be willing to pay more to acquire them. Many of these coins, even in uncirculated condition, are very affordable and can therefore be purchased by both seasoned collectors as well as those new to coin collecting.

Three Cent Silver

DATE GOOD FINE EXTREMELY FINE UNCIRCULATED
1851 Three Cent Silver $25 $50 $80 $150
1851 Three Cent Silver (O) $40 $75 $175 $250
1852 Three Cent Silver $25 $50 $80 $150
1853 Three Cent Silver $25 $50 $80 $150
1854 Three Cent Silver $40 $60 $120 $225
1855 Three Cent Silver $40 $60 $120 $225
1856 Three Cent Silver $40 $75 $200 $350
1857 Three Cent Silver $40 $50 $120 $235
1858 Three Cent Silver $40 $50 $120 $235
1859 Three Cent Silver $40 $50 $100 $175
1860 Three Cent Silver $40 $50 $100 $175
1861 Three Cent Silver $40 $50 $100 $175
1862 Three Cent Silver $40 $50 $100 $175
1863 Three Cent Silver $300 $350 $435 $550
1864 Three Cent Silver $300 $350 $435 $550
1865 Three Cent Silver $325 $425 $475 $575
1866 Three Cent Silver $300 $350 $425 $500
1867 Three Cent Silver $325 $425 $475 $525
1868 Three Cent Silver N/A N/A $475 $550
1869 Three Cent Silver N/A N/A $525 $600
1870 Three Cent Silver N/A N/A $475 $550
1871 Three Cent Silver N/A N/A $475 $500
1872 Three Cent Silver N/A N/A $500 $600
Source: Red Book