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With new composition came mintmark changes

Many times we think absolutely nothing happens in terms of price changes for what are seen as common dates. In fact, in a large number of cases that is basically true. The relatively few price increases there are usually reflect not an increased price for the coin, but rather the increased cost for the coin dealer to have the coin in stock as the dealer’s cost of business goes up. So in fairness, a dealer cannot stock a $1 coin and keep its price at $1 for a decade.

As a result, it is not all that unusual to see the price of what are relatively ordinary coins increase over time. The 1944-P is a typical available wartime Jefferson nickel and that group is seen as relatively available.

The first examples of the wartime Jefferson nickels appeared in October of 1942. The reason for the new composition was to conserve supplies of copper and nickel for the war effort, and both had been used in the production of nickels. The new composition would be 56 percent copper, which was a significant reduction; 35 percent silver, which did not appear in the old composition; and 9 percent manganese, which also was not used in normal nickels.

Unlike the special 1943 zinc-coated steel cents, the wartime composition for the Jefferson nickels looked similar to the old. The government still felt obligated to designate that they were different, as had been done throughout history when there was any significant composition change.

A change that was made was enlarging the mintmark and placing it above Monticello on the reverse. In addition, for the first time on a U.S. coin, examples produced at Philadelphia would bear a “P” mintmark.

The 1943 cent with its obvious color change would last just one year, but the special Jefferson nickels that were first introduced in 1942 would last through 1945.

There would be a wide range of mintages over the period, and the 1944-P nickel would be one of the higher mintage dates with a total production of 119,150,000 pieces. That made the 1944-P common in the minds of many and it was priced that way in all grades.

In the period since 1998, the 1944-P has posted a significant increase to a current MS-65 price of $22.50, and that price is tied with the 1942-P for the top MS-65 price of the wartime Jefferson nickels. So it is not merely a price increase reflecting the cost for a dealer to have the coin in stock. The 1944-P has more than tripled in price since 1998 and has become more expensive than virtually all the other wartime nickel dates, including some that had mintages well under 15 million.

What limited grading service totals there are seem to support the idea that the 1944-P is apparently tougher in MS-65 than might be expected. It looks like the 1944-P has now been discovered as one of the top wartime nickels in high grades.

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