Adam Starkey

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Three Cent Nickel Pieces

Legislation for the three-cent nickel was passed on the morning of March 4th, 1865—the last day of the 1864-65 congressional session. Abraham Lincoln signed the bill authorizing the new three-cent piece just minutes before being sworn in for his second term as President. Advocates for a new nickel coin were led by Pennsylvania industrialist Joseph Wharton, who then controlled the U.S. domestic supply of nickel ore. The coin was initially successful in circulation, at a time when a postage stamp cost 3 cents. Demand fell sharply only one year later, with the introduction of the nickel 5-cent piece in 1866. This larger coin was deemed more practical and better suited to the decimal system. Mintage figures of the 3-cent nickel slumped considerably after 1870 and were later produced only in proof versions for collectors before being discontinued entirely in 1889.

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