While there have been a number of coins minted over the years with silver contents of 90% and 40%, there has been just one coin with a silver content of 35%. While the increase in the value of silver in the 1960s lead to the US government to reduce the amount of silver in coins from 90% to 40% in 1965, the opposite is true of the coins with 35% silver content.
Origin of the 35% Silver Coin
Initially the 5 cent nickel coin was composed of 75% copper and 25% nickel. However, during World War II, priorities quickly changed and nickel was becoming increasingly sought after in the United States, for use in armour plating. This new demand for the metal prompted Congress to order the end of its use in the production of these coins. This change took effect in 1942 and thus, the 1942 – 1945 Silver Jefferson Nickel was born.
This coin wasn’t entirely made from silver however, and a composition of 35% silver, 56% copper, 9% manganese was settled on, giving the coin a weight of 5 grams.
To help distinguish these silver ‘war nickels’, as they known, from the pre-war composition, that contained actual nickel, they were decorated with a large mint mark. The mint mark used for these war nickels referred to the mint they were struck at. As the mints that struck these coins where Denver, Philadelphia and San Francisco, the coins were marked with a D, a P or an S.
The large mint mark can be found above the Monticello on the reverse of the coin. The reason the coins were marked so prominently was because it was expected that they would be recalled once the war was over and the demand for nickel was over. A clear mint mark would make this task easier as the coins would be simple to spot. After the war, these coins reverted to their pre-war composition of 75% copper and 25% nickel.
Availability of the 35% Silver Wartime Nickel
As these coins were intended for general use and were widely circulated, they are often listed as junk silver due to their condition. The term junk silver refers to their value as a raw piece of silver, rather than as a collectible or numismatic coin.
While these coins are listed on many online coin dealer websites, they are often out of stock. The reason for this is speculated that the majority of these war nickels were melted down during the silver spike of 1980, in order to release their silver. However, there are some stores with these coins available to buy in a range of packages and quantities:
- Unsearched Roll of 40 Silver War Nickels 35% silver: this roll of 40 coins dated from 1942 to 1945 comes in circulated condition. With a face value of $2, this roll of silver Jefferson nickels will set you back almost $90.
- $200 Face Value Bag of US Mint 35% Silver War Nickels: this bag of 4,000 coins has a face value of $200 and contains over 225 Troy ounces of pure silver. The dates of these coins range from 1942 to 1945 and the coins are from all three mints that produced these coins giving them a mixture of D, P and S mint marks. This bag will cost you around $6,120.
- $1 Face Value US Mint 35% Silver War Nickels: these 20 coins, with a face value of $1, cost $33 and are a great way to purchase some of these small denomination silver coins. This pack contains over 1.125 Troy ounces of silver and the coins have a selection of dates and mint marks.
Due to the low denominations of these 5 cent coins, they are perfect for those who want to collect precious metal coins for use as a backup for fiat currencies such as modern day paper money.