Happy Victory Day! 8

Yes, today is Victory Day and the only place that celebrates it is the smallest state in the US, Rhode Island. There are no parades, no celebrations and some people will have the day off. It was a federal holiday until 1975 and was originally celebrated on September 2nd when the Japanese signed the surrender document ending World War II. Originally known as Victory over Japan Day (VJ Day), it was changed to Victory Day and moved to the second Monday in August. Enough about Victory Day. Let’s talk about coins during World War II.

Steel and Shell Case Cents1943Cent

In the midst of World War II, the military was in dire need for copper for ammunition. So, in 1943, a steel Lincoln Cent was released to the public. It was minted in all three mints at the time, Philadelphia, Denver and San Francisco. Almost half a billion pennies were minted that year. There were a few copper cents and silver cents from dime planchets minted by mistake and are worth a lot of money. One copper 1943 cent sold in 2010 for $1,700,000 in MS-62. However, there are a number of counterfeits out there with steel cents coated in copper. If you do see a copper 1943 cent, make sure you have a magnet with you. Steel is magnetic, copper and silver are not.1943 Copper Cent - Fake

Steel cents may had continued into 1944, but with their original luster, the steel cents were sometimes mistaken for dimes and some machines treated them like metal slugs, so they couldn’t be used. The US mint was able to get shell casings to make cents that look like the ones before 1943. They would end up using the shell casings from 1944 to 1946. Similar to the rare 1943 copper cents, there were a few 1944 steel cents accidentally minted. By 1947, the Lincoln Cent was fully back to normal.


Wartime Nickels1942PNickel

Just like the copper in the Lincoln Cent, the nickel in the Jefferson Nickel would be used for armor plating. In the place of nickel was silver. Beginning in October, 1942, nickels would be made of 56% copper, 35% silver and 9% manganese. They would be continued in this composition until the end of 1945. That small mint mark that was at the bottom right of Monticello would be moved above the building, and significantly larger. For the first time, a ‘P’ mint mark for Philadelphia was included on the silver coins from that mint.

The Mercury Dime, Washington Quarter, and Walking Liberty Half Dollar stayed the same with 90% silver, but changes to the dime and half dollar would change shortly after World War II.


1993 World War II Clad Half Dollar1993 World War II Commemorative Dollar1993 World War II Commeorative $5

In 1993, the US Mint released a 3 coin collectors set to commemorate World War II. It includes the following

  • A clad Half Dollar with V for Victory on the obverse and a Pacific battle scene on the reverse.
  • A silver Dollar with a soldier on the beach of Normandy on the obverse and a quote from General Dwight D. Eisenhower on the reverse
  • A gold Five Dollars with a soldier raising his rifle for victory on the obverse and V for Victory on the reverse.

World War II Coins

Once again, coins were an important part for the war effort and remembered 50 years later. I collected a slab set of uncirculated wartime nickels. Sometimes, when I look at them, I think about my uncles who fought then as well as the Korean War. Would you consider collecting World War II coins?

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8 thoughts on “Happy Victory Day!

  • mark

    Yes I would consider collecting WW2 coins. They sound very interesting. This post is very interesting, there is a lot of information here. It is well written and it makes me intrigued. One thing I would like to know is, what is the fluctuation in the pricing of the different coins? And how often do they go up and down?

    • Kevin Post author

      In terms of price, none of these are rare, unless you go to higher grades like MS-67 or higher. For example an MS-67 1945-P silver nickel could get priced between $300 and $500. For lower grades, especially in circulation, they might be priced based on the amount of silver, copper or steel that they are composed of. If silver were around $20 an ounce, you might be able to sell a circulated Wartime nickel for around $1.20.

  • Marcus

    Wow, one coin going for $1,700,000. That is crazy. You say that they were minted by mistake. So how many of these copper cents are out there today?

    Can’t be that many if one goes for that sum. Owning collector coins is always a very nice way to stay in touch with history in my view.

    I would love to have some WWII coins to be reminded of the sacrifices that has been made. And what it will take from man kind to keep the world safe and free.

    How much do these coins generally increase in price per year? Do you see it as an investment or more as a hobby that you are very interested in?

    Thanks for the information.

    • Kevin Post author

      I think I read there could be about 20 copper 1943 cents out there. Just a matter of finding an authentic one.

      I’m more on the collecting side myself though I have done a little investing. I have better grade silver Nickels. Most of them I collected 15 years ago and have gone up in value.

  • Sylvia

    I had an uncle who really loved collecting coins. He had quite a collection on U.S., Canada, U.K and more countries.

    When he passed away years ago, my aunt first didn’t know what to do but she than decided if they could be auctioned and they did.

    Never thought of it they could be that valuable besides being collected.

    I enjoyed your article, very informative and for me some food for thought too.


  • Jim

    Kevin, interesting post. It’s funny how we just take for granted the loose change that we carry around in our pockets. I had no idea that a penny could be worth that much money. To answer your question, I would definitely consider collecting WWII coins. I’m wondering, is it pretty easy to find someone selling that 3 coin set and if so, would that be worth some money? I also wanted to ask you if there are any newer coins that have a higher value than their face?

    • Kevin Post author

      Thanks for the comment, Jim! You might be able to find the 3 coins on Ebay or a Coin Shop. Fair warning though! You may have to spend $10-$20 on the clad Half Dollar, $50 on the Silver Dollar, and $400 on the gold $5 coin. It might be easier going for the 3 steel cents from 1943 and the silver Jefferson Nickels between 1942 and 1945.

      In terms of newer coins, I would say go for silver and gold coins, if you can afford them. Silver and gold bullion coins come out every year and their value goes up and down depending on the current value of silver and gold. Silver and gold are both down at the moment. You can also get silver and gold commemoratives every year.