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The Silver US "War Nickel" 5 Cent Coins


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In "Show Us Your Coins on Unusual Metals" in post #10, Finn235 posted a War Nickel and then wondered why more valuable silver was used to replace nickel, rather than replacing the nickel with, say, iron or steel.

 

The answer is that the coin was a propaganda piece. The govenrment told the people that the subsitution was necessary to divert nickel for the production of steel armor plate. However, nickel came from Canada and the supplies were never in jeopardy. By changing the composition of the 5-cent coin and changing the Mint marks (P for the first time), the government could create a constant reminder of the need for sacrifice, etc., for the war effort "on the home front." Of course, in that case, using steel or iron was out of the question.

 

When the coin was struck, silver was about 45 cents per ounce. There was about 2 cents worth of silver in the 5 gram nickel which was 35% silver.

 

Similarly, the 1943 "steel cents" were supposedly necessary because copper was needed for ammunition cases. Then, in 1944 recycled brass from spent ammo was shipped home to be used in cents. Again, all of that was merely publicity and of little real economic or strategic importance.

 

In order to buy a tube of toothpaste, you had to turn in the old tube, ostensibly so that it could be recycled for the metal."Victory gardens" and recycling and scrap donation drives were other engagements to make people feel a part of the war. We today accept that everyone in America pitched in and that all the young men volunteered after Pearl Harbor and so on. However, it is not true. For one thing, the American people had absolutely no idea what the damage was at Pearl Harbor for many months, perhaps two years, into the war. There is a telling scene in a John Wayne movie from the era, perhaps The Fighting SeaBees or The Flying Tigers, where the rich kid who is an officer says that his commission is up and he's going home. "There's a war on, Mister!" says the Duke. The rich kid replies, "It's Mr. Roosevelt's war, not my war."

 

That sentiment was perhaps closer to the mood of the nation, though of course, many, perhaps a numerical majority, did give apparently unquestioning loyalty to the nation in time of trouble.

 

Be all that as it may, the War Nickel helped the government to remind people that there was a war on -- and it was not just Mr. Roosevelt's problem...

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Of course on the internet many say many things without any basis or background statistics. Not that I doubt your statements, but just where do you get that information? What is your source of those statements? Just where is it stated that Copper is not really needed back then? Where does it state that Silver was used as a gimmick? I'd like to see some statistics and actual facts prior to or at least with those statements.

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... Where does it state that Silver was used as a gimmick? I'd like to see some statistics and actual facts prior to or at least with those statements.

 

Well, it is not in the State of the Union message, that's for sure...

 

But, OK.

Cents. 1942 about 948 million struck

Cents. 1943 about 1,092 million struck

Total for two years, call it 2 billion.

Each cent weighs 3.11 grams -- alloyed 95% copper, but let's call it all copper.

That's 6.22 billion grams or 13 million pounds or 6850 tons.

But...

Copper production for 1942-1943 was over 120 MILLION TONS per year.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:Copper_history_USGS.jpg

7000 over 120 million is like 7 over 120,000 or like 10 over 100,000 or 1/10,000 or 0.01% of the total.

 

Coins accounted for very little actual copper.

But coins are used by people. 3 cents for a newspaper. 3 cents for a streetcar ride. 1 cent for a stick of gum or a gumball.

 

For Nickel, the years 1941, 1942 and 1943, the total US coinage of 5 cents was just under 1 billion (299+153+290 Millions) at 5 grams each.

5 billion grams is 5500 tons.

Production from Canada for those years

was between 100,000 and 150,000 tons per year.

http://www.nrcan.gc.ca/smm-mms/busi-indu/c...002/outlook.pdf (scroll down to Page 8 for the Chart).

US coinage accounted for (5500/300,000) less than 2% of the total.

 

But coins are used by people...

 

If copper were in short supply then why were the spent ammo cases recycled into cents, rather than being recycled into new ammunition? (Cents could be made of cardboard like WPA Points.) Why was it necessary only to produce one year of "Steelies"? Why produce steel coins at all, if steel is needed for armor plate and other war materiel? Why discontinue the Silver Nickels after one year? There were no practical reasons for these choices, not economic or strategic reasons. The alloys were changed to bring a message to the people: there's a war on.

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I can agree with you that the production of the "wartime" coins was mostly a way to make the average American feel like they were tightening the belt to help the boys overseas. That's understandable.

 

But my question is: Why the billon mixture of copper/silver/manganese? From what I've read, the steel pennies were discontinued only because people had difficulty telling the difference between a silver penny and a dime at a quick glance. Nickels were going to be silver colored either way, so why not make them out of the same zinc/crude steel mix? Why substitute junk metals for something that has always been a precious metal? When Rome went to war, she didn't replace her bronze coins with billon, silver, or gold to better arm her soldiers with bronze weaponry.

 

And yes, silver was hardly worth anything back then (when compared to today's prices), but the fact remains that silver has pretty much always been regarded as more valuable than the copper or nickel it replaced. Generally when a nation goes to war and needs to tighten the belt when it comes to coin production, they do like Germany did during WWI. Intrinsically worthless coins and paper money. If we were launched into a real war, and needed to make cuts when it came to the metals we put into our coins, we wouldn't start making pennies out of 95% copper again, even if they only contained $0.005 worth of copper each. We'd make copper plated iron/steel coins, or something similar.

 

It makes sense that the Mint produced pennies out of steel for a year to remind people that there was a war going on. It doesn't make sense why they put a precious metal into an historically cupronickel coin to drill in the message "There's a war on; we're cutting back everywhere we possibly can."

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Nice thread,nice info.

 

Affects of war in world standard coin silver,gold and currencies.

 

The collapse of silver content in 1906 and the recession in 1933 world gold standard to pre world warII.

 

they may be different reason why they change the metal content.

 

WWII US trading partner the Canada,central and latin america,africa or russia how did there coin change during that time?

 

the standard weigh of silver during H8 also the debasement of viking coins in there war years.

 

What are the effects of debasement of coins during war to thier trading partner?

 

others will not accept it they like more standard coin on there agreement.

 

Maybe like the sceantas or sterling that became a standard then.

 

Or maybe they like to weigh things,like powder used in alchemy like gun powder.

 

Just a comment.

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Why discontinue the Silver Nickels after one year? There were no practical reasons for these choices, not economic or strategic reasons. The alloys were changed to bring a message to the people: there's a war on.

 

Actually, silver war nickels were produced from the middle of 1942 through 1945, they did not return to their pre-war composition until 1946. Beyond that minor factual error, the rest of what you said makes sense. However, if you really wanted to make a statement, why not return to the fractional currency that circulated from the Civil War though the 1870s? That would really remind people if the had to pay for a stamp with a 3-cent note, plus you could put lots of war related messages on them.

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... But my question is: Why the billon mixture of copper/silver/manganese? ... It doesn't make sense why they put a precious metal into an historically cupronickel coin to drill in the message "There's a war on; we're cutting back everywhere we possibly can."

 

Nickel was needed for steel armor plate. So, the nickel had to go. (That's the party line, anyway.) The thing is, check your Red Book, the nickel weighs five grams. Even. Not 5.00, but integer 5. (Plus or minus as always, but not like the cent at 3.11 or the half dollar at 12.50 grams. So, they had to make the weight come out with some other alloy (ostensibly) not needed for the war, that would alloy and strike up. Silver, while a precious metal was not war material and in fact, the US Treasury had a surfeit of silver. When the Manhattan Project needed silver wire for its magnetic separation of isotopes, they borrowed it from the Treasury. (So, I guess that was a war materiel requirement, after all, but clearly not one they could publicize.)

 

But, I agree with what I understand to be your basic question. The only answer I have is that the choices were not rational because they were not market-driven. They were fiat choices for political goals. Fine, in and of themselves, I suppose, but hard to justify in the market terms you demand.

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... why not return to the fractional currency that circulated from the Civil War though the 1870s? That would really remind people if the had to pay for a stamp with a 3-cent note, plus you could put lots of war related messages on them.

 

Good thought. Perhaps they were afraid of driving all hard money out of circulation, certainly cents, nickels and dimes. The fractional notes of the Civil War were created to solve that problem, the shortage of coins from hoarding. Creating such notes might have been self-fulfilling.

 

Vending machines, perhaps. Candy bars were 5 cents in an automat. Bus fars -- local 3 cents; express or maybe with a transfer 5 cents -- and so on.

 

All in all, hard to say... see above... these were not really economic decisions, so they are not really rational.

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... WWII US trading partner the Canada,central and latin america,africa or russia how did there coin change during that time? ... others will not accept it they like more standard coin on there agreement. ... Or maybe they like to weigh things,like powder used in alchemy like gun powder.

 

I think that at that time minor coins (non-silver; non-gold) were not legal tender or were legal tender only up to a small amount like $1 ro $2. So, it would not have had an impact on foreign trade. While silver dollars still existed, paper was preferred for convenience. Again, no affect there on foreign trade.

 

However, your offhand comment about liking to weigh things was closer to the mark... the nickel had to weigh five grams. It is one of those little laboratory techniques, like making lacquer by dissolving toothbruth handles in acetone. If you need 5 grams or multiples of it, a nickel is pretty close.

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Yes it will have an effect the trade.

 

As far as I know expert to calculate how to change coin and metal content.

 

in those time they are still in bullion,silver pennywieght as other country also change to silver on thier coin still further studies.

 

Currency converter in silver pennywieght for trade as a standard.

 

today term even the introduction of decimal in 70 and calculating the value of dollar today.

 

gold and silver speculation in times of trouble not even reaching ww today.

 

those who collect silver currency coin today,what will happen if the US penny or dime today is made of silver up thus this will effect the value of dollar.

 

Maybe in the past it does.

 

trade-war, war- trade difficult combination.

 

 

They are wieghing there profit and all goods in trade thru standard silver content that is agreed and accepted by traders in those turbulent time.

 

the question who did initiate it,as today who will value the dollar as an international currency like a silver pennywieght standard in the past.

 

only expert can calculate any bad news will have an effect in the world unlike pre world war gold and silver is the international currency by a pennywieght or by silvernickel.just a comment

 

what a small profit since the pennywieght in the past in europe as latter adopted by other nation in the past,standard for coins and all the goods and trade that goes with it.

 

now international currency in dollar but gold is in fort knox and no silver coins in circulation,just a comment.

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Interesting proposition being put forth. Definitely something plausible.

 

Opinions on the steel cent blanks used for Belgian 2 franc pieces and war nickel blanks being used for Dominican 5c pieces?

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Opinions on the steel cent blanks used for Belgian 2 franc pieces and war nickel blanks being used for Dominican 5c pieces?

 

Opinions? Facts!

  • Indeed, in 1944 the US Mint struck 25 million Belgian 2-franc coins on zinc-coated steel planchets, the same as used for the US 1-cent coins.
  • In 1945, the Mint produced 2 million 5-centavo coins for the Dominican Republic apparently on planchets preparted for the US 5-cent coins: .560 copper, .340 silver and .09 Manganese.
    (Domestic and Foreign Coins Manufactured by the Mints of the United States 1793-1970, Washington DC: Department of the Treasury, Bureau of the Mint, 1972.)

The Krause Standard Catalog calls the Belgian coins a "U.S. occupation issue." To what extent the US "occupied" Belgium may be debatable, but the fact is that the US minted coins also for The Netherlands to pre-war standards:

In 1944

105 million 1 gulden 10 grams .720 fine

40 million 25-centstucken 3.58 grams .640 fine

180 million 10-centstucken 1.40 grams .640 fine (P,D and S work for those, the others all Philly)

Different numbers, same idea for 1945

 

In 1944, the US Mint struck 50 million French 2-franc coins (bronze), but probably not up to their artistic standards :ninja:

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Thats a lot of info.

 

Like to ask about the exchange rate of Canada dollar to US in WWII, nation north of US.

 

Like to ask about the exchange rate of Mexico dollar to US in WWII,nation south of US.

 

Like to ask about the exchange rate of GBP to US in WWII,nation east of US.

 

Like to know the equivalent denomination of each to the smallest to a silver dollar or pound.

 

Like to know which smallest denomination with silver to the largest denomination to a dollar or pound content is co-equal among all denomination of four nation.

 

Or both by denomination but also by silver content.

 

It might end up that a small content of silver in US nickel in WWII became much stronger value or stronger US dollar currency unlike any other Canada or Mexico dollar or GB pound that have a silver content and still minting those dollar and puond up to 1943 or even 44

 

Next will be ratio ratio minimum wage in US and its purchasing power.

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Like to ask about ... Like to ask about ... Like to ask about ... Like to know ... Like to know ... Next will be ...

 

 

Dude, I get paid for that kind of research. I don't mind participating in the hobby, sharing what I have access to, but at some level, all I do is what anyone else can do, but are too lazy to do. And I rely on others the same way.

 

Michael Hodder once nailed me sayjng that "he makes his bones from the work of others." He meant that unlike himself and Robert Julian and Robert Leonard and some few others, I am not an original researcher. Even my dear old enemy Reid Goldsborough excoriates me for not weighing hoardes of coins and studying die cracks. I just report what others have found. You can do it, too.

 

I encourage you.

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Yea I do labour.

 

You like your sweat of an eyebrow represent in silverpenny. Or pay a tribute.

 

I agree to that.

 

No job dont eat.

 

Can search it on the web or wikipedia as all the link that I posted in different topic in several forum.

 

Since you are fast in repliying about the mintage and the metal content of coins much better than searching you reply.

 

But others info and reply is for free depending on who is giving it.

 

Canada according to Krause. US Mexico GB

 

Smallest denom. 1 cent. 1 cent centavo farthing

 

5 cents 5 cent 5 centavo 3 pence

37-42 nickel 42-45 CSN 36-42 CN 37-48 NB

 

dollar 37-38 silver 35 silver peso 20-45 silver crown 37-38 silver

 

 

It is only US have a silver content in 5 cents this small amount of silver is enough for me to increase the purchasing power of dollar to its 2nd lowest denomination to the goods purchase in US weather the goods is imported and break down to retail prices ,small amount onced collected turn up to be plenty in a way increase the purchasing power of dollar and US is just preparing its offensive for war,US can get its supply from from Canada and Mexico there 5 cents have no silver all products of US sold retail in Canada and Mexico is expensive.

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Import and export.

 

The history of alcohol and cigarette in 1933 it is in the web.

 

in 1940 low tax on US cigarette exporting to other nations in billions,a product or vice strong as other international currency others are gambling on it big time.

 

Good info mmarotta,silver war nickel a bordeline denomination.

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Just posting.

 

What a time line.

 

From a silver tribute penny,from a centralized roman mint and treasury for war to standarlization of sceantas or sterling from history of gun powder to standarlization of trade dollar,from bullion to paper money to international currency from all of its history a coin tells a story.

 

for future ref.

 

http://wiki.answers.com/Q/How_much_did_cig...es_cost_in_1940

 

http://www.tobacco.org/resources/history/T...istory20-1.html

 

Now electronic or digital banking,what they are trading now info.

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I am not sure how the exchange rates operated during the war in particular. I know the Canadian dollar was usually between 80-90 cents US, the peso on the other had was more of an enigma. Based on the 50-peso gold at 37.5g pure, then that would be about 1.206 ounces, which would be about $42 US at Roosevelt's $35 devalued dollar, putting the peso at about $0.84 US, but if you look at the silver coins, the silver peso had about 0.38 oz pure silver compared with about 0.77 oz in a silver dollar, which would make the peso worth about $0.50 (ironically, this would be roughly equal to the gold exchange rate before Roosevelt's devaluation, $20.67 x 1.206 = $24.93 = 50 pesos, so 1-peso = about $0.50). Not sure about the European exchange rates since they were all mucked up in the war.

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Thank you very much.

 

Thats why US has all the advantage they are far from war, and as far as I know the gold was already secure in fort knox or US is gathering gold on that time and issuing bonds and certificate.

 

And trade in US have no problem there ships can go to Canada and mexico with no problem of sort unlike in GB they have to be escorted.

 

Even GB has a silver content in 6 pence they are near at war.

 

 

US have an advantage in there gold reserve top of currency,advantage of silver content in silver nickel war time for retail imported or export product sold in US, also avantage of thier products for trade.almost everything.they have it.

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To back mmarotta's point, I did a quick research about metal prices back then.

 

The USGS is an awesome site for this: http://minerals.usgs.gov/minerals/pubs/metal_prices/

 

It turns out that both copper and nickel prices didn't change much from the prewar to WWII. It only did increase after post WWII - most likely for reconstruction and baby boom era. Therefore, it does seem likely that some form of propaganda is going on as it makes no sense to increase the cost of production especially a time in WWII.

 

Very entertaining and worthwhile reading - thanks for bringing this topic up!

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To back mmarotta's point, I did a quick research about metal prices back then.

 

The USGS is an awesome site for this: http://minerals.usgs.gov/minerals/pubs/metal_prices/

 

It turns out that both copper and nickel prices didn't change much from the prewar to WWII. It only did increase after post WWII - most likely for reconstruction and baby boom era. Therefore, it does seem likely that some form of propaganda is going on as it makes no sense to increase the cost of production especially a time in WWII.

 

Very entertaining and worthwhile reading - thanks for bringing this topic up!

 

But the price doesn't have to go up to prove a bottleneck exists. The copper industry may have been under pressure to keep prices from climbing but the supply was still small enough (vs. demand) to require some rationing (and hence the steelies).

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Thedeadpoint, I thought of that too but mmarotta has already removed that possibility with his earlier post here: http://www.coinpeople.com/index.php?s=&amp...st&p=449126

 

Supply did increase during WWII and figures do show very interesting data.

 

USGS has more specific data on copper supply and demand. I urge you to analyze this pdf file when you have time: http://minerals.usgs.gov/ds/2005/140/copper.pdf

 

Production increased, scrap production increased, imports increased, export decreased - I'm not too sure how else I'm supposed to inteprete this data unless coin recycling was part of a national scrap production which I don't think it existed back then.

 

Nickel on the other hand seems to be another story - demand did go up, import did go up BUT prices fell. More details here: http://minerals.usgs.gov/ds/2005/140/nickel.pdf

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