US War Nickels – 35% silver coins

Posted by on May 06 2009, in silver

During the Second World War, the USA need to use its Nickel and other alloys for the war cause. So during the war, the Nickel, or the five cent piece, was made of 35% silver, 56% copper and 9% Manganese. Production for the war Nickel began in 1942 and ended in 1945.

These are some of the cheapest investments in Junk Silver. Here are some unique facts about the War Nickel:

  • War nickels have the largest Mint Mark of any coin featured on the back of the coin
  • The coins tend to be darker and ‘tarnish’ easier than regular nickels
  • Francis LeRoy Henning, a counterfeiter, tried to copy the 1944 War Nickel, but in doing so he forget the Mint Mark, therefore the fakes are easy to distinguish (and ironically of high value to collectors!)
  • An error in minting the 1943/2 War Nickel – is a sought after war nickel
  • There is an estimate that says 50-60% of all war nickels were lost to the smelters for their silver and copper contents. Read more about the great smelting of coins during the early 1980’s here.
  • Due to the small size and silver, its considered an excellent ‘survivalist’ coin.

Below is the list of years and Mintage of war Nickels:

Year – Mintage

1942 P – 57,873,000

1942 S – 32,900,000

1943 P – 271,165,000

1943 D – 15,294,000

1943 S – 104,060,000

1943/2 P – unknown

1944 P – 119,150,000

1944 D – 32,309,000

1944 S – 21,640,000

1945 P – 119,408,100

1945 D – 37,158,000

1945 S – 58,939,000

war_nickle-5556149For New Zealanders, this coin is an excellent entry into the Silver market. You can still pick up rolls of War Nickels very cheaply – check Ebay for the best deals (be sure to check postage as well, you should be able to have shipped to New Zealand for about 4 usd ($6.35 NZD).

Personally, I like this humble little coin. Most of the ones I’ve collected are well circulated, but despite of the wear, I think these little coin are deals. If the price of silver really spikes, these little coins would be the one least expensive investments to buy!

The USA, by far, seems to have the most ‘Junk Silver Around’. Here are some popular coins to look out for and their silver content:
  • 1942-45 ‘War Nickel’ – These are some of the best values you can pick up for ‘Junk Silver’ They contain 35% silver, so the content is lower than any other American junk silver coin, however you can buy rolls of this quite cheaply, below the melt value. I like this coin because its the cheapest entry into Junk Silver for New Zealand. Buy in Bulk!
  • 1964-1970 – Kennedy Half Dollar. These are 40% silver – but because of their larger size, they contain more silver and more expensive than above war nickels. Hard to buy in bulk, and shipping charges to New Zealand are often the price of the coins themselves.
  • 1971 – 1976 Eisenhower Dollar – San Francisco mint. The San Francisco mint produced 40% silver 1 dollar coins. Make sure the coin is stamped ‘S’ as other mints in the US produced the same coin during these years without silver content. These are Big Ol’ American Sized coin, bulky and can be expensive to ship.
  • 1916-1964 Dimes – These dimes (from 1916 – 1945 they are known as Barber dimes, 1946-64 they are Roosevelt dimes) have 90% silver. They are small coins, like above, buy in bulk!
  • 1932-64 – Washington Quarters. We are getting into the mid-range junk. These coins are also 90% Silver. Rolls can be a bit pricy, but their still good deals to be had on the internet.
  • 1916 – 1964 Half Dollars. During this time span their where 3 different designs (Standing Liberty: 1916-47, Franklin:1948-63, and Kennedy:1964) . Expensive to buy in rolls, however you can often find sets of 3 to 5 coins that are more within range.
  • 1871 – 1935 Morgan Dollars and Peace Dollars. These are one of my favourite coins. Beware, there are alot of copies of this one around (I’ll provide sites later so you can help identify ‘fakes’. 90% silver. These are often sold by themself, lots are available. Often you can find good deals on these – sometimes below the silver content value. Morgans where produced 1878 – 1921; Peace Dollars (my favourite) where produced from 1922 – 1935.

This is not an exhaustive list of American Junk Silver but these are coins that are found commonly in the market place and are easily recognised.

A special note, if you are travelling to the USA – check your pocket change. Silver quarters, dimes and War nickels look identical to current currency. I’ve found several dimes, a few nickels and the odd silver quarter in my change.