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Keep an eye on 1945-S full-step nickel

This article was originally printed in the latest issue of Numismatic News.
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The 1945-S Jefferson nickel seems to have emerged as the most difficult of the wartime silver alloy nickels, at least in MS-65 with full steps. However, wartime alloy Jefferson nickels are a group where we are still learning exactly which dates are more available and which are tougher.

Traditionally we have paid little attention to which dates might be better in this group, in large part because they are from the World War II period when high mintages were sometimes the case. Even when the mintages were low, such as the 15,294,000 1943-D, they were not that low when compared to other Jefferson nickels. As a result, the general feeling was that the wartime silver alloy nickels were an available group.

In some respects we were taking a very special group for granted. The wartime nickel alloy makes these nickels a true souvenir of World War II. The idea was to conserve copper and nickel as the two metals might be needed for fighting the war. That resulted in a new alloy of 56 percent copper – which was down from 75 percent – 35 percent silver, and 9 percent manganese.
Unlike the special wartime alloy for the cent, which was unpopular with the public, the wartime nickel alloy seemed to be generally accepted and was used from the fall of 1942 through 1945.

The coins were marked by having a larger than normal mintmark that was moved to a position above Monticello on the reverse. Even coins produced at Philadelphia had a mintmark. That was a first for U.S. coins as traditionally there had been no mintmark for coins produced at Philadelphia.

The 1945-S, with a mintage of 58,939,000, would fall right in the middle in terms of mintage. For many years that resulted in very average prices as, realistically, with the grading and grading service totals we have today the working assumption for everyone was that the availability of a date like the 1945-S would reflect its mintage. That was even the case well into the 1990s for the simple reason that at prices usually below $20, even in MS-65, no one was sending these coins to grading services for grading.

In recent years, however, there has been something of a price evolution. What limited information we have from grading services has suggested that some of the dates do not reflect their mintages in terms of numbers available. The 1944-P, for example, has emerged as one of the better dates in MS-65 despite the fact that it has a mintage of nearly 120 million.

While the 1945-S continues to be priced at levels that would seem to reflect its mintage with an MS-60 at $5 and an MS-65 at $14, the amazing thing seems to be that in MS-65 with full steps it is the key with a price of $250. That could change, but for now the 1945-S is the date to watch in MS-65 with full steps.

2011 U.S. Coin Digest: Nickels
A download purely focused on U.S nickels, and your best reference for the latest details and values for circulating and non-circulating nickels.

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