Silver Content Nickels for Collectors

By | September 8, 2016
Big Mintmark on Obverse of the War Nickel

Big Mintmark on Obverse of the War Nickel

Most nickels produced by the US are made of an alloy of 25% nickel and 75% copper. During World War II, nickel was deemed necessary for the war effort. Nickel was needed for use in armor plating, and Congress ordered the nickel removed from the five-cent piece, effective October 8, 1942. Consequently, silver content nickels were produced from mid-1942 to 1945. The composition was changed to an alloy composed of 56% copper, 35 % silver and 9% manganese.

For the first time a Nickel would have no nickel in its composition. During this interesting period of time, silver became temporarily “less precious” than nickel, and the composition of the Jefferson nickel was altered.

In addition to the compositional change, the mint marks on these wartime nickels were changed as well. Silver content nickels were produced by the Philadelphia, Denver, and SanFrancisco mints. For each of these mints, a prominent P, D, or S appears on the reverse above the Monticello dome. Interestingly, this is the first time in American coinage that the “P” mint mark was used for the Philadelphia mint. I remember as a kid looking for these coins in loose change and occasionally finding a nickel with a big mintmark “above the dome”. Compared to other nickels, these circulated war nickels looked unusually gray due to tarnish of the wartime alloy. What a find!

Let’s look at War Nickel Mintages:

1942-P  57,900,000    1943-P  271,165,000    1944-P  119,150,000    1945-P  119,408,100

1942-D  0                       1943-D   15,294,000    1944-D  32,309,000    1945-D  37,158,000

1942-S  32,900,000    1943-S  104,060,000   1944-S   21,640,000    1945-S  58,939,000

As can be seen, the scarcest are the 1943-D and the 1944-S, although these numbers hardly qualify as rare.

Error Varieties: Potentially Great Investments

There are a few error rarities in this series. Look for the rare 1943/2 overdate and the “Doubled Eye” varieties in the 1943-P coin. Also, keep an eye out for the Doubled Die Reverse in the 1945-P nickel. These error rarities could command high prices but may be hard to find.

War Nickel Obverse

War Nickel Reverse

Many investors look for war nickels as a way to invest in silver at an affordable price. Collectors enjoy them for their silver content as well as the history behind their creation. Collecting a complete set of silver content nickels is not difficult and should not be too costly for most collectors.  One could even collect a compete uncirculated set. Uncirculated war nickels tarnish easily, therefore a complete set of uncirculated coins preserves their beauty the best. In addition, 27,600 proofs were struck for the 1942-P nickel, making this an excellent investment.

Be sure to check Amazon and eBay for your war nickel purchases. They often have the very best prices.


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12 thoughts on “Silver Content Nickels for Collectors

  1. Chris

    Hey Mike,

    Thanks for the information. I didn’t even know there were silver nickels. How much would a silver nickel go for? I actually have collected silver dimes and silver quarters. I guess now, I need to start looking for silver nickles. Where should I start looking? Thanks again I have enjoyed your website.


  2. Mike Post author

    Hi Chris,

    Thanks for visiting and for your comments. Silver nickels are quite an oddity indeed, although as my article indicates, there was a good reason during WW II. Believe it or not, you can still occasionally find one in general circulation, although this is becoming quite rare. My wife got one earlier this year in change from the grocery store.

    Your best bet is to purchase them though a dedicated broker, eBay or Amazon, as advertised on this page.

    As far as value, today (July 12, 2105) silver is fetching %15.59/oz. The War Nickels have 35% silver, which gives them a current silver value of about 87 cents. Doesn’t sound like much but this is a 1754% increase over face value (5 cents) of the coin. Not bad!

  3. NemiraB

    Hello there. Your website is a goldmine for people who wants to expand their knowledge about investing. Nowadays, when stocks go up and down, investing in real, tangible items like silver and gold coins is tempting. As I am a novice, I wonder if coins with valuable silver content was just in USA coins? Do you know about European currency? I think that value of gold and silver coins will increase over the years. One thing iI wonder: Where to keep these coins? Maybe vault in bank would be good idea or dependable safe could work.

    Thanks for spreading message about this investment, all the best, Nemira

    1. Mike Post author

      Thanks for commenting Nemira. I’m glad you checked in here. Yes indeed, coins of most other countries, including European countries, used to be made of gold and silver. Now they are not, which makes the coins made of precious metals all the more valuable. As far as safety and storage goes, if you are just beginning your collection, storing them in a safe place at home would probably be the best bet. As your investment grows, storing your hoard in a safe or a safe-deposit box might make good sense.

  4. Tammy

    Wow that is interesting! I always look at old looking quarters to see the year but I never thought about any coins being worth money. I thought they were took back up and remade like the older paper money? I will be checking my nickels for now on. Also, I thought the tarnish was from sitting in some liquid or something like a cup holder in a vehicle. Is it illegal to melt coins? I saw on the pawn stars show that the older dad was saving pennies because of copper or something like that. Great article!

    1. Mike Post author

      Thank you Tammy for reading and commenting. Indeed, make it a habit to check your change. Most of it is just the regular stuff, but sometimes you can find something valuable My wife founf a silver war nickel in her change last summer.

  5. Kisha

    This was so interesting. It’s funny I remember trying to collect all fifty states when the new quarters were released just for fun. I never paid attention to nickels. I do remember working in the bank and noticing how the colors of nickels would sometime appear different almost like they were dirty (darker than the others). I didn’t know that it was because the material used to manufacture them was different. I was working around valuable coins and never even knew. Wow you learn something new everyday!

    1. Mike Post author

      Hi Kisha,

      I appreciate you taking the time to comment. Indeed, some of those darker-colored nickels may have been silver war-time nickels. They are worth far more than 5 cents today! Keep looking at your change and visit this site again.

  6. Julius

    I really like your site. I’m not a coin collector but I really like gold chains. I have three of them. I think that precious metals are a very secure investment. I’m looking forward to buying more gold chains. Not only because they look good but also because it’s a good investment.

    Thank you for your effort!

    1. Mike Post author

      Hello Julius, Thanks for your comment. Yes, gold chains, in addition to being beautiful neckware, can have investment value as well, as long as they are made of gold. Click here If you would like to buy gold chains.

  7. Vinnie Prasad

    Hey Mike,

    Great information and I’ve never thought about investing into nickles. It seems like a very interesting topic and one i would consider getting into. How hard do you think these are to find? Would love to start and would love to know where to start.

    Kind regards


    1. Mike Post author

      Hello Vinny,

      These silver war nickels are excellent collectibles, especially for those on a small collecting budget. You can purchase them at any coin shop, but your best deals will be from Amazon and eBay – please check the links on this page. Carefully watch your change. Sometimes even today a Jefferson war nickel is found in circulation. Look for the big mint mark on the back side of the coin.


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