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How to Identify Silver War Nickels

Updated on January 7, 2013
A U.S. Silver "Wartime" Nickel.
A U.S. Silver "Wartime" Nickel.

Silver War Nickels:

If you would like a more general article discussing all American Silver coins then I have another article available here.

The American Silver "War" or "Wartime" Nickel is one of the most often overlooked pieces of Silver available on the market. One of the reasons for this is because few people understand that Nickels did actually have Silver in them for a brief moment in time!

The reason for the American Silver Nickels was World War II and the need for the metal Nickel at the time. They replaced the Nickel metal with Silver and Manganese. The coins were not meant to stay in circulation for long and the original intention was to take them back in once the need for Nickel was quelled. While retrieving back Silver Nickels was fairly successful there are still many available in the secondary market for purchase.

The Silver Wartime Nickel was authorized under the Second War Powers Act (March 27, 1942) under title 12. The text of this act can be found here and at the bottom of this article.

The mint mark must be above the Monticello.
The mint mark must be above the Monticello.
A non-Silver Nickel will lack the mint mark above Monticello.
A non-Silver Nickel will lack the mint mark above Monticello.

Identifying US War Nickels:

Many people believe that the Silver Nickels are just any Nickel minted between 1942 - 1945. This idea, while partly true, is mainly false. To properly identify a Silver Nickel, it must fall within those years and have the large mint mark above Monticello (as seen in the image to the right-top).

Current Nickels have a mintmark on the front (Obverse) of the Nickel. A non-Silver Nickel will lack a mint mark above the Monticello, it will instead be located next to Monticello and in a smaller size. Also note that while Philadelphia mint coins usually lack a mint mark, the Silver ones do have a "P" mint mark above Monticello.

Click To Enlarge
Click To Enlarge


The American Silver Wartime Nickel is a composition of 56% Copper, 9% Manganese, and 35% Silver. The addition of the Manganese was to make the coin harder and more durable to withstand circulation.

As stated above, there was an intention to try to retrieve these coins from circulation once Nickel was no longer needed but by that time many of these Nickels were sitting in jars and canisters around America, never to see light again until Silver began to boom.

Text of War Powers Act of 1942 Title XII:

Section 642, acts Mar. 27, 1942, ch. 199, title XII, § 1201, 56 Stat. 184; Dec. 28, 1945, ch. 590, § 1(e), 59 Stat. 658, which related to temporary coinage of silver and copper 5-cent pieces, expired Dec. 31, 1945, by its own terms.

Section 642a, act Mar. 27, 1942, ch. 199, title XII, § 1202, 56 Stat. 184, related to allocation of silver bullion to Director of Mint for coinage of 5 cent pieces pursuant to section 642 of this Appendix.

Section 642b, act Mar. 27, 1942, ch. 199, title XII, § 1203, 56 Stat. 184, set standard for silver-copper ingots used for coinage pursuant to section 642 of this Appendix and set the weight deviation of such coinage.

Section 642c, act Mar. 27, 1942, ch. 199, title XII, § 1204, 56 Stat. 184, provided that for purposes of section 341 of former Title 31, Money and Finance, the coinage authorized by section 642 of this Appendix was to be deemed to be copper.

Section 642d, acts Mar. 27, 1942, ch. 199, title XII, § 1205, 56 Stat. 184; Dec. 28, 1945, ch. 590, § 1(e), 59 Stat. 658, related to redemption, melting, and use of 5-cent pieces for subsidiary silver coinage.

Section 642e, act Mar. 27, 1942, ch. 199, title XII, § 1206, 56 Stat. 185, related to effective date of sections 642 to 642e of this Appendix.


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    • profile image

      Tammy 7 weeks ago

      If you have such a coin, where do you take them to auction ?

    • profile image

      Katie 13 months ago

      What is the war nickel worth

    • profile image

      Ciara 15 months ago

      What if it fit the description (date and above the Monticello) but the letter is an S?

    • brucemoring profile image

      brucemoring 7 years ago from Hawaii, Hawaii

      Well done. Very informative.

      Bruce Moring

    • debris profile image

      debris 7 years ago from Florida

      @Big Will: Silver Nickels contain 1.75 grams and silver dimes have 2.25 grams for a difference of .5 grams of silver. That's not a very big difference in terms of quantities. What should be considered are the percentages, a silver nickel is 35% silver whereas a silver dime is 90% silver. What one should consider is that Silver Nickels are less desirable because they contain manganese, and this lower demand means that you can often purchase them below melt value, whereas a silver dime almost always must be purchased above melt value. Thank you for stopping in.



    • profile image

      big will 7 years ago

      silver content in war nickles is next to zippo,like 1.35 grams, a silver dime has as much or more,so look to the morgans and peace dollars for a lot of silver,22 grams appx.

    • debris profile image

      debris 8 years ago from Florida

      Alan, Great Eye! I didn't even notice. I will correct that immediately!



    • AlanSwenson profile image

      AlanSwenson 8 years ago from Las Vegas, NV

      You said that the non-silver nickels have a mint mark on the obverse but it is really on the reverse, next to monticello instead of on top where the silver ones are atleast during wartime, ot wasn't till 1965 till the mint marks were moved to the obverse