Following the California gold rush that began in 1849 and the Australian gold rush that began in 1851, a larger amount of gold was put into commerce than could be easily absorbed by the normal channels. This resulted in a decrease in the value of gold and an increase in the value of silver. As a result, silver coins rapidly disappeared from circulation due either to hoarding or melting. In response, Congress authorized the Mint to reduce the quantity of silver in all denominations except the three-cent piece and silver dollar. Beginning in the 1860s, silver production rose and the price decreased. During this time, silver coins largely disappeared from circulation and were replaced by paper and copper currency.
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