Wartime experiments to replace copper and nickel in 1 cent and 5-cent pieces is the topic of a new book authored by Roger Burdette.
United States Pattern & Experimental Pieces of WW-II is the result of Burdette’s research in national, local and corporate archives.
Beginning as early as 1940 the US Mint Bureau was under pressure to reduce or eliminate use of certain metals including copper, tin and nickel. From 1941 through 1944, the U.S. Mint conducted multiple experiments to determine the best compositions for the 1 cent and 5-cent coins. Sporadic records were kept of the tests, and most of the sample examinations were mostly “seat of the pants” than science.
The largest number of tests occurred from May to December 1942 when the mint experimented with metal alloys and private companies, with mint approval, experimented with alternative materials and production methods. Most experiments were failures, but the final outcomes were the zinc coated steel clad composition used in 1943 for cents, and an unstable alloy of silver, manganese and copper for the five cent coin.
The book follows the development and conduct of these experiments from optimistic hopes to eventual return to conventional coinage alloys. Every experimental and pattern piece is identified and cataloged with as much objective information as could be located. Large color photos allow collectors to compare items in their collections with real coins, not faulty catalog descriptions or guesses.
Pattern and Experimental Pieces of WW-II is available from Wizard Coin Supply. It is 8.5×11-in., color, soft cover, 190 pages. $29.95. Wizard Coin Supply’s web site is: www.wizardcoinsupply.com.