Monday, January 23, 2017

Identifying Silver Nickels The Easy Way

U.S. silver nickels had a very short life. They would have had no life at all if one of their metals, nickel, hadn't been critical to the war effort during WWII. So in late 1942, the composition of the Jefferson nickel was changed from .750 copper/.250 nickel to .560 copper/.350 silver/.090 manganese.  The gross weight remained the same at five (5) grams so the .350 silver content equates to .05626 troy ounces of silver.

Three U.S, Mints produced the silver nickel: Philadelphia (mint mark P); Denver (D mint mark); and San Francisco (mint mark S). Lucky for us, the government decided to make it easy to identify these coins from those that preceded them as well as those that followed. Even the Philadelphia mint used their P identifier for the first time whereas before a blank mint space meant a Philadelphia coin.

At right is a picture of a silver Jefferson nickel - reverse view. Notice the P above the dome of Monticello. This is where the mint marks of P, D, or S will appear to identify it as a silver content nickel. If the nickel has a date of 1943, 1944 or 1945 and is missing a mint mark, it is counterfeit.  

Compared to the vast ocean of nickels in circulation today, silver nickels are just a small pond. But that pond still has several million coins associated with it.  Consider these silver nickel totals by year for all three mints: 1942 > 90,773,000; 1943 > 390,519,000; 1944 > 173,099,000; 1945 > 215,505,100. It should be noted that prior to the composition change to silver, the Philadelphia and Denver mints produced 63,727,000 non-silver nickels with the 1942 date. These will have no mint mark in the location described above. And don't look for 1942 D silver nickels as the Denver mint didn't produce any until 1943.

Will you get rich by saving these coins and turning them in later? Not likely unless you find one or more in pristine condition. However, the current worth for the average silver nickel is about 19 times their face value as listed by Coinflation which you can see here. And those nickels don't wear out easily so there are most likely a bunch of them still in circulation. If you are motivated to start looking for these nickels, don't bother squinting at the date. Just quickly scan every nickel you receive for the special mint mark location, looking for a D, P, or S.

One last item, finally my ebook Buying and Selling Peace & Morgan Silver Dollars is now available in paperback. You can find it here.

Thanks for reading.  JA