Discussion in 'US Coins Forum' started by SensibleSal66, Dec 3, 2020.
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Top: Type I, 0.750 Ag, 1853
Middle: Type II, 0.900 Ag, 1857
Bottom: Copper-Nickel, 1867
The 3 cent piece was an important step on the road to fiat money. Before that, the US was on a bimetallic system, with both gold and silver coins close to full bodied. The Gold Rush lowered the price of gold relative to silver, and pushed silver coinage out of circulation. The 3-cent piece was only 0.750 fine silver at first, and had a metal content well below face value: 0.60 oz ASW = 20 g of silver per dollar face. The larger silver coinage still had about 24 g of silver per dollar face. So this was some of the first silver "token" coinage issued by the US. It led the way toward the switch to a gold standard after the Civil War, with silver coinage no longer full bodied.
Token silver coinage with reduced metal content solved one of the chronic problems of bimetallism--in that which ever type of coinage, gold or silver, had relatively more metal value at the moment tended to be hoarded and not circulate. But this required building public trust to accept money which not worth as much by metal as the face value claimed, which was a gradual process. There were many missteps along the way!
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