World War II was easily the largest armed conflict in the history of the United States, and arguably the entire world. Every nation the world over was faced with a shortage of war-time material, and the United States of America was no exception. The two largest shortages we faced were copper and nickel, two materials integral to the production of our cent and five-cent coinage denominations. In response to this, the United States Mint decided to change their composition for the duration of the War. The copper cents became the well-known “Steel Cents,” but what many forget is that the five-cent piece was changed as well. They went from nickel to silver! That’s right, during WWII Nickel was more valuable to the war effort than silver!
The Silver Nickels that Time Forgot
Produced from 1942 to 1945, a total of eleven silver nickels were produced at all three major United States Mints (Philadelphia, Denver, and San Francisco). To help tell the silver & nickel compositions apart the mint altered the design slightly. They moved the placement of the mint mark from below the coins year to above the dome of Monticello...this was also the first time ever that the Philadelphia Mint used a mint mark. Once the war had ended, they switched back to their initial nickel-based composition and retired the “Silver Nickels” and their special mint-mark locations...making these 11 coins the only ones of their kind in the history of the United States Mint!
From Melt to Melt - Few Remain
Over the past 4 decades we have seen three major runs on silver. There was one in the early 1980's (when silver hit $50 an ounce for the 1st time), then another short run in the 1990's, and finally we reached another high point in 2011 when silver hit $50 an ounce. Due to all these surges in silver-melting, very few of these special “Silver Nickels” still remain, and those that do still exist rarely leave a collection once they are found.
This item is for one 1942 Silver War Nickel from the Philadelphia Mint in uncirculated condition.