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Nickel Usage in WWII


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When reading about the nickel replacement in the coinages of WWII the mention is always made that nickel was needed for war time production. What is less clear is precisely what was made out of the nickel. My guess would be it was used to make high grade steel for battleships and tanks? Does anyone know the primary usage of nickel during the war time economy?

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When reading about the nickel replacement in the coinages of WWII the mention is always made that nickel was needed for war time production. What is less clear is precisely what was made out of the nickel. My guess would be it was used to make high grade steel for battleships and tanks? Does anyone know the primary usage of nickel during the war time economy?

 

World War II prompted the rationing of many commodities. Nickel was highly valued for use in armor plating, and Congress ordered the removal of this metal from the five-cent piece, effective October 8, 1942. From that date, and lasting through the end of 1945, five-cent pieces bore the regular design but were minted from an alloy of copper, silver and manganese. It was anticipated that these emergency coins would be withdrawn from circulation after the war, so a prominent distinguishing feature was added. Coins from all three mints bore very large mintmarks above the dome of Monticello, and the letter 'P' was used as a mintmark for the first time on a U. S. coin.

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An interesting take though not all the numbers add up. For one the nickel in nickels was only 25% but the Canadian production ramped up quickly and was not necessarily known when the US entered the war. There were efforts underway to spend $20,000,000 to open a nickel mine in Cuba and production of small appliances including radios was halted in 1942 to save similarly small amounts of metal. I can't say I'm convinced that the removal of nickel in the US and Canada was solely a ploy to get the public aware of the War. I'm guessing the rationing did that pretty well.

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The beneficial thing was that silver was then low in value - but appreciated after the war. I never have a problem pulling a $1.61 worth of metal coin out of circulation. I have pulled some 300+ war nickels from roll searches in the past couple of years. Crazily enough I have found a couple of hundred 1943 steel cents from roll searches also.

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Silver actually increased so much in 1942 that the original plan of 50/50 silver/copper had to be adjusted to the final result. That's part of why it took until September to get the new nickels made.

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At least the USA was consistent. In Canada they went from pure nickel in 1942 to those "Tombac" things that were bronze coloured, then when that didn't work out they made them 12 sided - then dumped the "Tombac" and went to chromium plated steel - which was then used intermittently into the 1950s and of which I still find a few of them in circulation. I have only ever gotten one of the "Tombac" composition coins from circulation.

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Yeah those Tombac nickels appear to be legitimately scarce. In genuine nice BU condition you'll need $100. I think that's still a bargain compared to what you'll pay for some FS Silver Jeffersons.

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Silver actually increased so much in 1942 that the original plan of 50/50 silver/copper had to be adjusted to the final result.  That's part of why it took until September to get the new nickels made.

 

Now that I didn't know!

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