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War nickels loophole in melting ban

My collector friend and I are arguing about the ban in the 1960s on melting U.S. silver coins. Did it also cover the silver war nickels?

From 1965 to 1967 it was illegal to melt any of the 90 percent silver coins but the lawmakers ignored the war nickels, apparently assuming that their 35 percent silver wasn’t worth bothering with. The smelters took advantage of this loophole and melted millions of them, right along with a lot of 90 percent silver that was claimed to be from Canadian coins. Because of conflicting laws, it was common practice to ship coins across the Canadian and Mexican borders to melt them wherever the opportunity arose.

How does the melting during the high-priced silver era (1980) compare with the available stock of silver coins?

One apt comparison noted that around 16 million ounces of silver was recovered from melted coins in the first three quarters of 1980. In 1965, the last year of silver usage in 90 percent silver coins, the Mint converted 320 million ounces into coins. The 1980 melt then was roughly 5 percent of a single year’s production. (The year 1965 is correct, as the Mint was still striking 1964-dated silver coins.)


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Were there other important melts besides the big one when the Trade dollars were recalled?

Millions were melted in Asia for their silver content. Among the specific recorded melts, the Indian Mint at Calcutta melted 200,000 in 1874 and the Osaka Mint in Japan melted 530,000 in 1876. The U.S. Mint redeemed 7.7 million and melted them down to strike Morgan dollars and small change.

Is the mintage figure for the 1852-0 quarter accurate?

The figure of 96,000 does not reflect the reported melting of a quantity of this date that was slightly overweight. Tolerance for the silver quarter was 4.0 grains plus or minus, so the “heavy” ones would have to have weighed 107 grains or more.

Has it ever been illegal to melt or export U.S. cents?

From April 18, 1974, to June 9, 1978, it was illegal to export more than 100 cents or to melt any cents. Up to 500 could be exported for numismatic purposes. The reason was that copper prices were high. Technically it was a regulation, put into effect by Treasury Secretary George Schultz on May 1, 1974. It was rescinded on June 8, 1978. The current ban on melting or exporting cents and nickels went into effect in 2006.

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Is there some kind of story that some 1871 silver dollars were minted from metal recovered from a fire?

I can only find sketchy details, but reputedly the coins were struck from metal from “melted horns from the Diligent Fire Engine Co. #10 of Philadelphia.” The story traces to the Chapmans, who were old-time coin dealers.

Has the U.S. Mint ever employed women to any great extent?

The Mint is currently an Equal Opportunity Employer and has had many women working for it over the years. Back in 1850, Franklin Peale employed 50 women to weigh gold coin planchets and adjust them with files. The records show that there were more than 600 applications for what was then considered “easy” work since it was for “only” a 10-hour day. Other jobs required 12 hours of work per day.

Where does the Mint print our money?

The U.S. Mint makes only coins and medals. The Bureau of Engraving and Printing prints bank notes in Washington, D.C., and at the branch plant in Forth Worth, Texas. The Bureau is a separate division of Treasury with no connection to the Mint.


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