Ron Guth: The 1865 Three-Cent Nickel was the first year of a completely new coin type and the first year of a new metal type. The Philadelphia Mint produced more than 11 million examples of this date, a mintage that had not been seen since 1853, when an almost identical amount of Three-Cent Silver pieces were struck. The Three-Cent Nickel eventually replaced the Three-Cent Silver, but both types were made continuously up until 1873, after which the Three-Cent Silver was discontinued.
The 1865 is easily the most common of all the Three-Cent Nickels. PCGS has certified well over 1,000 Mint State examples, with most falling in the MS-63 to MS-64 grade range. Gem examples are slightly scarce but can be found with relative ease. Superb examples are very rare, the finest of which are two PCGS MS-67s. This date is characterized by weak central strikes (look at the lines in the Roman numeral 3 on the reverse) and numerous die cracks.
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