1888 3 Cent Nickel NGC PR64
From about 1832, the U.S. Congress repeatedly addressed the desirability (or lack of it) for coinage based on “3’s”. Several proposals came and went until March 3, 1851. That’s when the debased silver (75% Silver, 25% Copper) ‘Trime’ or ‘Fish Scale’ was authorized. It was intended to buy 1 of the recently reduced in price 3¢ postage stamp (first authorized in 1845 at 5¢).
Next came the $3 Gold coin, authorized by the Act of Congress of February 21, 1853. It was minted on May 1, 1854, and consisted of 77.4 grains of .900 Gold. Supporters listed the intended purpose as redemption of a ‘roll’ of 3¢ Silver coins or to buy a sheet of 100 Postage Stamps.
Finally came the 3¢ ‘Nickel’. It was authorized by the Act of Congress of March 3, 1865. Coinage shortages of all denominations, hoarding of the debased ‘fish scale’ coins, and other factors played into its authorization. Its main use turned out to be the redemption of the unpopular series 1863 3¢ Fractional Notes also known as ‘Shinplasters’.
Interestingly, all 3 were designed by James B. Longacre. He was, in the mid-19th century, one of America’s most prolific coin designers. He was in the right place at the right time!