What Is a Silver Nickel?

By Johnny Kampis
nickel of the 1980s image by Sean Arenas from Fotolia.com

The five-cent piece is normally comprised of 75 percent copper and 25 percent nickel, but silver was added during World War II. Silver nickels are prized by collectors for their metal content and rarity.

Composition

The silver nickel comprises 56 percent copper, 35 percent silver and 9 percent manganese with a net weight of .056 oz. of pure silver. The coin has the same diameter (21.2 mm) and approximate weight (5 g) as other nickels.

History

Nickel proved to be a critical war material so it was removed from production of the nickel coin in 1942. In Oct. 8 of that year the first silver nickel was minted. Production continued through 1945. The "P" mintmark for the U.S. Mint location in Philadelphia was added to indicate the change in alloy. Silver nickels became more collectible in the 1960s when silver was phased out of U.S. coin production because it became too valuable to use.

Value

Silver nickels tend to be worth three to five times the value of other nickels from the 1940s. This makes silver nickels worth about $1 each in September 2010 prices for those found in common grades such as very fine or extremely fine. Uncirculated examples in a mint state can sell for $10 to $12.

About the Author

A veteran of the newspaper industry, Johnny Kampis has worked as a freelance writer since 2005. His articles have appeared in various publications including "The New York Times," "Atlanta-Journal Constitution" and the "San Francisco Chronicle." He currently serves as an editor of poker-based "Rounder" magazine and writer for the Alabama football publication "Crimson" magazine.