American Three Cent Nickels

Three cent nickels are odd enough I label them in my displays, because  it prompts at least a couple questions every show I do.

The thing is, we only call our five cent piece a nickel because it is made of nickel. In the 1800s, the five cent piece was made of silver, and it was called a half dime. But there was a nickel coin worth three cents, and it was known as a nickel.

Originally, three cent coins were made of silver. Then the Civil War broke out, and people started hoarding gold and silver, creating a coin shortage. Some people started cutting up bills to provide change, which, of course, is completely illegal. The eventual answer was “fractional currency:” paper money worth less than a dollar. The smallest denomination was a three cent note measuring 2.5 x 1.5 inches, which everyone hated as it was too easy to lose. So, in 1865, the three cent nickel was produced. It lasted until 1889.

Calling these coins nickels is a bit misleading, because they are only 25% nickel. The other 75% is copper. This 25/75 mix is also applicable to our modern five cent nickels!

Does the novelty of a three cent nickel piece appeal to you? Pieces are coming soon, and custom orders are always available. In the meantime, consider some of my other American pieces, including the notably large one cent pieces.

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