Wartime Nickels

Posted by on March 9, 2012

Coin Weight (g) Composition Silver Melt Value Full Melt Value
Jefferson (1942-1945) 5 35% silver, 56% copper, 9%
SC 1945 Jefferson Five Cents Obverse 300x300 Wartime Nickels

1945 Jefferson Five Cents obverse

SC 1945 Jefferson Five Cents Reverse 300x300 Wartime Nickels

1945 Jefferson Five Cents reverse

Nickels are called “nickels” because they are made with the metal nickel.  Before “nickels” silver half dimes were used, but there size and the problems with silver supplies during the United States Civil War caused the Mint to substitute the silver with nickel.   Nickels started being minted by the United States in 1866 even though the silver half dime wasn’t finally phased out until 1873.

The Jefferson Nickel series started in 1938 composed of 75% copper and 25% nickel.  They are still in production although in recent years there have been changes in design.  World War II caused a high demand for nickel which was being used to make the armor of the various war machines. The “Wartime Nickels” or Jefferson WWII silver nickels were struck from mid-1942 to 1945.  They are composed of 56% copper, 35% silver and 9% manganese.

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This was the first time that the United States used manganese in their coins.  Since then manganese has only been used in are the Sacagawea and presidential dollars.  The Wartime Nickels have the same characteristics of the earlier coins.  They are 5 grams, 21.2 millimeters in diameter with a plain edge.

SC 1944 WWII Nickel MS68 obverse 300x296 Wartime Nickels

1944P WWII Nickel MS68 obverse

Felix Schlag won the national contest for the nickel which is used for the Wartime Nickels.  The obverse has a bust of Thomas Jefferson facing left.  On the left side of the coin along the rim “IN GOD WE TRUST” arches and likewise on the right is “LIBERTY” then a small star and the date.

SC 1944 WWII  Nickel MS68 REV 300x298 Wartime Nickels

1944 WWII Nickel MS68 reverse

On the reverse is Jefferson’s house, better known as Monticello, in the center with “MONTICELLO” directly underneath running horizontally and encircling underneath is “UNITED STATES OF AMERICA” along the rim.  “FIVE CENTS” follows the curve of the legend between them.  “E PLURIBUS UNUM” encircles the top of the coin along the rim.  The only difference with the Wartime Nickels and the rest of the series is that the WWII silver five-cents have the mint mark directly above the Monticello’s dome as large as possible.  For the first time ever in the United States Mint’s history Philadelphia uses a “P”, then Denver its regular “D” and San Francisco its “S”.

Tens of Millions and some time a few hundred million of these silver nickels were minted each year from each of the three Mints in operation.  The lower grade Wartime Nickels are probably ‘Junk Silver’ depending on the current silver spot price.  These are easily available and besides some miss-strike variations are only ‘collectible’ in Extremely Fine condition or better it is not uncommon for collectors to build a Mint State series collection.  1942 is the only year for this period when a Proof coin was struck, 27,600 were coined from the Philadelphia Mint.

One of the more desirable features for a collectible Jefferson WWII Silver Nickel has to do with the step on the reverse for the Monticello (Jefferson’s home).  Most of coins in this series do not show all of the steps.  The steps are the deepest part of the die and opposite the obverse’s deepest design feature.  The Mint Luster is another, and of course strike strength should be considered when choosing a Mint State coin.

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2 comments on “Wartime Nickels

  1. Aymen on said:

    if the 1921 canadian nekicl is real then it could be worth a fortune. i know somsone who got one sold to the roadshow last week that is in winnipeg this week and they bought it for just under $10,000. they apparently will go upwards of 70k for mint cond ones.. it because 1921 canadian nekicls were made of real silver. they stopped mintin them that year and changed to nekicl in 1922 so 1922 on are probably not worth much but pre 1921 could be worth tonnes..good luck!

  2. Stephen Halkovic on said:

    Good day Aymen,

    There are definitely collectable Canadian five cent coins, and they were silver as you said before 1922. We have just posted our first article about Canadian circulating silver coins and we will be expanding these to cover the denomination: five cents, ten cents, twenty five cent, fifty cents, and dollars.

    Thank you,


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