Description and Analysis

Jefferson Five Cents

Description & Analysis

By late 1941 the U. S. Mint had already begun experimenting with alternative compositions for both the cent and five-cent piece. Copper and nickel were both essential to wartime production, and their use in coins was of secondary importance.

The U. S. preferred to resume coining silver half dimes similar to those last produced in 1873, but the vending industry could not retool to accept both this coin and the existing nickels. A poor compromise was arrived at in which the standard size five-cent piece was struck in an alloy of copper, silver and manganese. Coins of this composition were distinguished with oversized mintmarks placed above the dome of Monticello.

In retrospect it's quite remarkable that the Mint even offered proofs of the new issue. These coins were not struck until the closing months of 1942, when the Mint had its hands full meeting accelerated production figures. Wartime nickels were sold separately of the proof sets, and collectors gobbled them up for their novelty and perceived future rarity.

Since silver generally results in more satisfying coins than nickel, the number of high grade pieces is quite high for the period. The greater tendency of silver to produce pleasing toning certainly accounts for some of these gems.