How Much Nickel Is In A Nickel? Is There Silver In Silver Coins?

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There is no silver in circulating U.S. silver coins.

Between 1942 and 1945 there was no nickel in U.S. circulated nickels.

Here are some interesting facts about the metal content of U.S. coins…


How Much Nickel Is In A Nickel?

U.S. nickels really do contain nickel, but probably not as much nickel as you might think.

In fact, 75% of a typical U.S. 5-cent coin is actually copper!

Only 25% of a nickel actually is made of nickel. This has been the case for the U.S. 5-cent coin since 1866, when the first nickel 5-cent coin was made.

Believe it or not, there were a few years when the nickel did not contain any nickel at all.

During 1942 through 1945, the U.S. removed nickel from the 5-cent coin in order to help save the metal for the war effort. Therefore, the U.S. used a special metallic alloy in the 5-cent coin during those 4 years.

The 1942 to 1945 five-cent coins are often called war nickels, wartime nickels, or silver nickels

Why? Because 1942 to 1945 5-cent coins contain a combination which includes 56% copper, 35% silver, and 9% manganese. 1942 to 1945 nickels are distinctive from others with a darker gray color than most other circulated nickels and a large mint mark over the dome of Monticello on the reverse (tails side).


How Much Silver Is In Silver Coins?

If you are in your 50s or 60s (or a little older), then you probably remember a time when you used to hold silver dimes, silver quarters, and silver half-dollars in your pocket.

If you are younger, you may not be able to ever remember a time when you held a silver coin. And if you are a lot younger, then you’ve probably never held a half-dollar at all!

So, what happened to silver coins?

We can blame their disappearance on rising silver prices during the early- and mid-1960s.

The U.S. Treasury and U.S. Mint were facing a serious situation during the time. The value of the silver in our nation’s dimes, quarters, and half-dollars was exceeding the face value of those very coins!

The option the U.S. Mint took to correct the issue was to strike coins with a copper-nickel clad composition. The first copper-nickel dimes and quarters were dated 1965.

Half-dollars (which had a reduced silver content of 40% beginning in 1965) fully converted to the copper-nickel clad format in 1971.

Silver coins have been produced since 1971. 40% silver dollars and bicentennial coins were made for collectors during the 1970s, and since the 1980s, 90% silver coins have been struck for numismatists.

Interestingly, some people still call copper-nickel clad dimes, quarters, half dollars, and dollars “silver coins”.


Silver & Metal Content Calculators

  1. Check out this Silver Coin Melt Value Calculator.
  2. You can also find out the Base Metal Coin Metal Value of your coins.
  3. And for a little more detail, try these Free Online Precious Metal Calculators. (Tip: Click the links on the far left, then look for “click here” to start each calculator.)


I'm the Coin Editor here at TheFunTimesGuide. My love for coins began when I was 11 years old. I primarily collect and study U.S. coins produced during the 20th century. I'm a member of the American Numismatic Association (ANA) and the Numismatic Literary Guild (NLG) and have won multiple awards from the NLG for my work as a coin journalist. I'm also the editor at the Florida United Numismatists Club (FUN Topics magazine), and author of Images of America: The United States Mint in Philadelphia (a book that explores the colorful history of the Philadelphia Mint). I've contributed hundreds of articles for various coin publications including COINage, The Numismatist, Numismatic News, Coin Dealer Newsletter, Coin Values, and CoinWeek. I've authored nearly 1,000 articles here at The Fun Times Guide to Coins (many of them with over 50K shares), and I welcome your coin questions in the comments below!

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