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Shell casings melted but alloy unchanged

clinica.jpg clinicb.jpg Some old books say that the 1944-1946 cents were ?shell casing brass,? made from salvaged shell casings, with a composition of 70 percent copper and 30 percent zinc. Modern catalogs call them ?shell casing brass? but give the composition as 95 percent copper and 5 percent zinc. Which is correct?

According to Ed Rochette, the original plan was to use the 70-30 alloy of the shell casings, but at the last moment enough copper became available to avoid the need for a third change in the composition in three years. To keep the patriotic flavor, a few shell casings were actually melted down, but the alloy remained the same 95 percent copper and 5 percent zinc, with a trace of tin used in the latter part of 1942.

I have a 1960 cent which appears to be brass. It?s been in circulation and hasn?t been cleaned or dipped. Is this actually brass?

It very probably is. I have a confirmed report of half a dozen 1960 cents which were struck on a 90-10 commercial brass alloy which match the description of your coin, so it?s quite likely that there are more out there. These pieces probably are worth $15 to $25 in uncirculated condition.

I?ve been told that our cents, prior to the switch to copper plated zinc in 1982 were made out of ?Dutch metal.? Am I having my leg pulled?

Almost. The last brass cents were 95 percent copper and five percent zinc. The formula for Dutch metal is 11 parts copper to two parts zinc, which figures out to 84.6 percent copper, another form of brass.

How much silver is estimated to exist – above ground – world wide?

I answered this question several months ago with a figure of 9.5 million tons. A reader challenged this figure and gave me a quote from the U.S. Geological Survey of 1.26 million tons, mined up to 2001.

Which was the first U.S. coin with the mintmark on the obverse?

My answer that the honor goes to the Turban halves of 1838 with the ?O? mintmark directly below the bust was incorrect. A reader quotes Walter Breen as saying that mintage of the 1838-C half eagles began ?March 27, 1838,? nearly two months before the 1838-O dies were shipped to New Orleans. He and Ginger go on to say: ?Several ?C,? ?D? and ?O? mint quarter eagles and half eagles have obverse mintmarks, and must be added to the obverse mintmark parade that preceded the 1909-S Lincoln cent.?

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