The Silver Trime: United States 3-Cent Coins

trime-public-domain-photo.jpg The trime… the name surely sounds much like dime.

Well, in terms of small-diameter coins, the trime and dime are pretty much relatives.

However, in terms of buying power, a dime is more than 3 times as strong as the trime.

That’s because a trime is a silver 3-cent piece!

Let’s find out some fun info about America’s 3-cent coin.


The Trime

While small change today consists of the penny, nickel, and dime, small change back in the 19th century meant coins like:

Yes, American coinage 150 years ago was very colorful!

Now, let’s look at a bit of history surrounding the trime — a coin that was born from the need for small circulating silver coinage at a time when silver was scarce and the United States Postal Service charged just 3 cents to mail a letter.

The Trime: A Coin For A Different Era

Back in the 1850s, small change was still a big part of daily life. In fact, usage and hoarding meant a severe shortage of silver coins.

The United States Mint, trying to address the shortage of silver coins while still producing a coin that had a bullion value close to its face value, created the silver three cent coin — the trime.

The trime was first minted in 75 percent silver and 25 percent copper and beginning in 1854 had a composition of 90 percent silver and 10 percent copper.

At only 14 millimeters, the coin quickly became the smallest silver coin in circulation, too.

A 3-cent denomination made sense, especially at the time.

With the United States Postal Service delivering letters for 3 cents, a 3-cent coin was particularly convenient for purchasing postage. Don’t forget, at the time the postal service was really the only communications link between individuals. The use of telegraphs was still in its infancy.

Making The Trime

The 3-cent coin was designed by James Longacre, who was the artistic hand behind many coins of the era, including the famous Indian Head penny.

On the obverse of the 3-cent coin is a star emblazoned with the Union shield.

The reverse depicts the Roman numeral III inside a large C.

Over the course of its life from 1851 to 1873, the 3-cent coin went through a few design variations. Here’s a rundown of the three major varieties:

  • Variety I: 1851 to 1853 — No leaves on reverse
  • Variety II: 1854 to 1858 — Leaves on reverse, bordered star on obverse
  • Variety III: 1859 to 1873 — Thin border around star

None of the varieties is particularly rare, at least within the context of the series.

Trime Values

Overall, there are 11 rare dates among silver 3-cent coins.

In fact, its possible to attain most dates of any variety for less than $50 in grades as high as Fine to Very Fine.

The rare dates are found mainly among the last decade of the series. Here’s a look at those dates and their approximate values in Good:

  • 1863 $375
  • 1864 $375
  • 1865 $390
  • 1866 $375
  • 1867 $400
  • 1868 $400
  • 1869 $400
  • 1870 $400
  • 1871 $400
  • 1872 $400
  • 1873 (Proof) $1,250

Joshua McMorrow-Hernandez

Joshua McMorrow-Hernandez

My love for coins and numismatics began when I was 11 years old. I primarily collect and study U.S. coins produced during the 20th century. I'm a member of both the American Numismatic Association (ANA) and the Numismatic Literary Guild (NLG). I've also been studying meteorology and watching weather patterns for years. I enjoy sharing little-known facts and fun stuff about coins, weather, travel, health, food, and living green.

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  • Anonymous

    You would be very happy if you have a collection of coins and later found out that this old coins are worth a fortune!

    • Anonymous

      So true, Peter! 

  • disqus_FluiJ1lfjn

    The early “Trimes” were not composed of 90% silver, but actually 75%silver and 25% copper. It wasn’t until 1854 that they were minted of 90% silver.