Most circulating silver coinage throughout history was minted to relatively high standards, whether .800, .835, .900, or .925. Even when silver coins were debased they still were minted to a .625 fineness or, in Canada, eventually to .500. But there’s one type of silver coin that has even less silver than that: the war nickel.
The war nickel is the name given to US nickels minted between 1942 and 1945 that were actually made with silver rather than with nickel. Because the standard composition of 75% copper and 25% nickel used up valuable metals that were crucial to the war effort, the US Treasury decided to test different compositions of the nickel to save hundreds of tons of important strategic metals. The war nickel ended up being composed of 56% copper, 35% silver, and 9% manganese.
Once the war was over the nickel reverted to its original composition, so war nickels quickly became an interesting curiosity. War nickels were easily distinguished by the placing of mint marks above Monticello on the reverse of the nickels, unlike on normal Jefferson nickels. Today war nickels can often be spotted easily because the silver and manganese in them causes them to tarnish, unlike with normal nickels.
While war nickels have long since left circulation, they may still occasionally be encountered in pocket change. And of course collectors and investors continue to buy them too, as they are a fun source of silver to acquire.
Because of their low silver content and corresponding bulk, war nickels don’t command high premiums. In fact, you can generally find them for sale just above the spot price of silver or even right at spot. That makes them an easily affordable piece of history.
Because of their low silver content, war nickels are unable to be purchased as part of a silver IRA or precious metals IRA. But if you’re looking for an affordable source of silver that won’t be getting less valuable anytime soon, you can’t go wrong with war nickels.
- Purity: 35% silver
- Weight: 5.00 g
- Silver Content: 0.056 troy oz.
- Diameter: 21.2 mm
- Thickness: 1.95 mm