Jefferson Wartime Nickels: How Much Are Silver Nickels Worth Right Now?

World War II caused the United States and its citizens to ration certain materials with the purpose of keeping around important resources for winning the war. The United States Treasury and the U.S. Mint followed suit.

While most people are aware of the steel Lincoln pennies which were produced in 1943, fewer seem to know that the Jefferson silver nickels also spent a short period of time being produced under a special composition issue.

With nickel an important military material, the United States Congress required the U.S. Mint to begin striking nickels from a composition of copper (56%), silver (35%), and manganese (9%).

Here’s more about those silver Jefferson "wartime" nickels.

silver-nickel-photo.jpg

With the U.S. Mint having already begun striking 1942 nickels in the usual 75% copper and 25% nickel composition, use of the copper/ silver/ manganese alloy started late in 1942.

This special composition would last the duration of World War II thereafter, right on through 1945.

 

Jefferson Wartime Silver Nickels

So-called "wartime nickels" (as they are typically called by collectors and coin dealers alike) are special in a number of ways.

Ironically, of course, there really is no nickel in these nickels. Yet, most people still refer to the 1942-1945 silver 5-cent pieces as nickels anyway.

Numismatically, though, one of the most important points to remark on about these silver nickels is the fact that wartime nickels represent an important "first" in United States coinage history.

Wartime nickels are the first U.S. coins to bear a "P" mintmark. "P" refers to the Philadelphia mint. Up until 1942, in fact, Philadelphia’s coins never bore a mintmark. Philadelphia has always been the "main" U.S. Mint (or the headquarters U.S. Mint, to use modern corporate lingo). After 1945, U.S. coins would not again bear a "P" mintmark until 1979.

Another important issue to note about silver nickels and their mintmarks is the physical size of the mintmark. The wartime nickel mintmarks are huge — virtually unable to be missed by the naked eye. While some people have relative difficulty finding mintmarks on U.S. coinage, the same cannot be said of wartime nickels and their mintmarks. In fact, finding these large mintmarks over the dome of Monticello on the reverse of the coin is often the first way people can tell wartime nickels apart from "regular" nickels.

As the value of silver has risen over the past several decades, so has the demand for, interest in, and value of wartime nickels. With the rise in silver prices during the mid 1960s, the heavy spike in silver bullion values during 1979-1980, and recent inclines in the price of silver, collectors and investors alike have been paying more attention to this run of 11 different silver nickels which were produced during the height of World War II.

The 11 dates and mintmarks for silver nickels are: 

  • 1942, Philadelphia (P)

  • 1942, San Francisco (S)

  • 1943, Philadelphia (P)

  • 1943, Denver (D)

  • 1943, San Francisco (S)

  • 1944, Philadelphia (P)

  • 1944, Denver (D)

  • 1944, San Francisco (S)

  • 1945, Philadelphia (P)

  • 1945, Denver (D)

  • 1945, San Francisco (S)

 

How Much Are Silver Nickels Worth?
Naturally, you may be wondering how much your wartime Jefferson silver nickels are worth.

While it is important to bear in mind that most coins need to be physically examined and appraised by a professional coin dealer in order to ascertain full value, most silver nickels in worn condition will be more or less worth their "spot" price. That is, the amount of money the metal inside the coin is worth. Since silver prices fluctuate hourly (yes, bullion can be and is a highly volatile market), it is wise to refer to a current silver price chart.

According to this silver pricing calculator, if silver values are $15 per ounce, then the silver in a wartime Jefferson nickel is 84 cents. If silver is $16, then the silver value of a wartime nickel is 90 cents. With prices at $17, a single wartime nickel contains 96 cents of silver. Realize, though, that if you have in your hands a Jefferson wartime nickel that is uncirculated or contains errors, your coin will be worth considerably more than the spot price.

Silver nickels can be quite fun to collect. A short series of just 11 coins (and part of the larger Jefferson nickel series spanning from the current day back to 1938, when the first Jefferson nickel designed by Felix Schlag was first minted), silver nickels can still be had for a relatively inexpensive price.

Joshua McMorrow-Hernandez

My love for coins and numismatics began when I was 11 years old. I primarily collect and study U.S. coins produced during the 20th century. I've also been studying meteorology and watching weather patterns for years. I enjoy sharing little-known facts and fun stuff about coins, weather, travel, health, and living green with others.

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Fun From Around the Web

  • DAN

    I HAVE A 1943 PENNY THAT THE ZINC COATING IS WEARING AND SHOWING A BRASS LOOK UNDER IT IT IS IN CLOSE TO MINT CONDITION, I THINK THAT IT MAY BE A TEST PENNY THAT WAS RELASED BY ERROR IT WILL STICK TO A MAGNET LIKE A STEEL BUT I THINK IT S A COMBO ALLOY THEY TESTED A LOT OF DIFFRENT THINGS PLUS PLASTIC AT THIS TIME IF ANYONE HAS ANY INFO. IT WOULD BE GREAT!!!!!!!!!!!!!

    • Anonymous

      Hi, Dan —

      If you would be able, a photo would be helpful here. However, if the coin IS sticking to a magnet, it’s more than likely a regular steel cent that is simply rusting. One of the biggest problems with steel cents it their tendency to rust as the zinc coating wears off.

      A regular steel cent weighs 2.70 grams. Unless there is a significant deviation in weight, I would unfortunately have to think, sight-unseen (but given the info you have mentioned here), that you may have a rusting steel cent…

  • Ladygator904

    I have a 1945-p 35 silver jefferson wartime nickle still seal;ed in the original pkg..can anybody tell me how much its worth?

    • Anonymous

      Because 1945 nickels were never packaged in any type of actual coin set by the United States government, what you have is a coin that has been packaged by some private company, Ladygator.

      There have been many companies which have packaged 1945 nickels as part of World War II-themed framed sets and plastic holders. However, there is little, if no, collector value in most of this packaging. The value would therefore reside solely in the coin itself.

      The value of your 1945-P Jefferson nickel is around $1 to $1.20 given current silver value trends and a coin in typical circulated grades.

    • Kurt Blanchard

      amazon has one for 2.97 (spot price 5.30.12 is 28.15 at 2:09pm ny time)

  • Boydjoe43

    i have a 1919 Buffalo Nickel, do it have any silver in it.

    • Anonymous

      Joe,

      No, the only the 20th-century U.S. five cent coins with silver in them are Jefferson nickels made from late 1942 through 1945.

  • Velvetablue

    I have a complete US Wartime Silver Nickels collection in a plastic holder & case that says Capital (with a trademark symbol) and C-1. It contains the 11 coins from 1942P to 1945S. Ballpark, what would you say that’s worth?

    • Anonymous

      Velveta,

      Nice set! Its value largely depends on the grade each of the coins is in. At a minimum, your set is worth $20 to $25. However, if all the coins are in uncirculated grades and completely uncleaned and in mint condition, its value is easily $50 or up.

  • Emilydianne808

    I have 71 Silver Jefferson War Nickels I am interested in purchasing. The dates are 1942-1945. All the coins have a mint mark on the rear how much would you say is fair offer?

    Thanks,
    Emily

    • Anonymous

      Hi, Emily —

      With silver prices at around $35 per ounce and a typical Wartime nickel having about $1.95 of silver, I think a fair offer is around $2 to $2.50 per coin, as long as they’re in typical circulated grades; uncirclated pieces would be worth much more — easily $5 to $7 or more per coin.

      Yours is a bulk purchase, perhaps you could safely offer a tad less and still provide a fair offer… but you need to keep in mind the grades.

      If this is an auction web site offer, I’d say bid as much as you’re comfortable given the price approximations I’ve suggested, and then see where the bidding ends, with the hope you can get these pieces for a really good deal.

      Good luck!

    • Bubby2323

       you have 71 war nickels you want to sell or purchace???  their woth about 1.75 e

  • Rampagerose84

    i have a 1938 nickel mint E an was wondering if it might be worth something ?

  • Usherboard

    i found a 1803 nickel with hand shake on back would like to sell

  • needhelp

    I have a set of three coin collections labeled The Silver Story, Lincoln Memorial Coinage and Wartime Coinage. Do you know how much they are worth? I think I am interested in selling them.