James Barton Longacre
75% Copper, 25% Nickel
In 1883, the mintage of the Three-Cent Nickel dropped precipitously to a mere 4,000 pieces. This was the first time in the history of the denomination that the mintage of the circulation strikes was lower than that of the Proofs, a situation that would continue through 1886, after which the mintages returned to their normal relationship. As might be expected, this date is hard to find in any grade, and it is actually easier, and less expensive, to locate a Proof than it is to find a circulated example.
Most of the circulated examples have a small die crack at the top of the reverse, connecting the border and the left tip of the wreath, and another at 3:00. This may be a diagnostic for the Mint State versions, but we've seen some certified Proofs with these same cracks. It could be that at least one pair of dies was used to strike Proofs, then followed by some circulation strikes. If that is the case, there will be some coins of questionable intent, including those that are poorly made Proofs and/or Prooflike early strikes.