Nickels minted in 1946 have sparked interest among coin collectors and history buffs alike. With their unique design and silver-like appearance, it’s no wonder many wonder whether these nickels contain the precious metal.

If you’re short on time, here’s a quick answer: 1946 nickels are not made of silver. They have a copper-nickel composition like other nickels of the era.

In this comprehensive guide, we’ll explore why some think 1946 nickels are silver, their origins and minting history, their composition and value, and how to tell if you have a rare silver wartime nickel from that year.

The Unique Design of 1946 Nickels

The 1946 nickels hold a special place in the hearts of collectors and numismatists due to their unique design. These nickels were part of the Jefferson Nickel series, which was first introduced in 1938 to replace the Buffalo Nickel.

The Jefferson Nickel featured a new portrait of President Thomas Jefferson on the obverse side and a montage of Monticello, Jefferson’s home, on the reverse side.

The Jefferson Nickel Design

The design of the Jefferson Nickel was a departure from the traditional allegorical symbols that were commonly used on previous coinage. The obverse side of the nickel depicts a left-facing bust of President Thomas Jefferson, with the word “LIBERTY” inscribed above his image.

The reverse side features an image of Monticello, Jefferson’s architectural masterpiece located in Virginia.

This new design was a significant change in the world of numismatics, as it marked the first time a real person, rather than an allegorical figure, was featured on a circulating coin in the United States.

The choice to honor Jefferson, one of America’s founding fathers, was seen as a fitting tribute to his contributions to the nation.

Why the 1946 Nickels Look Silver

One of the reasons why the 1946 nickels stand out is their appearance. Many collectors and individuals often mistake these nickels for silver due to their bright and lustrous appearance. However, it’s important to note that the 1946 nickels are not made of silver.

The reason behind their silver-like appearance lies in the composition of the coin. From 1942 to 1945, during World War II, the United States Mint produced nickels with a special composition due to the shortage of nickel and copper.

These wartime nickels, also known as “war nickels,” were made with a 35% silver composition.

However, in 1946, the composition of the nickel reverted back to the pre-war standard of 75% copper and 25% nickel. Despite this change, the 1946 nickels retained their silver-like appearance due to the careful polishing and cleaning by collectors over the years.

It is important to understand the composition and history of coins, such as the 1946 nickels, to accurately identify and appreciate their unique characteristics. Collectors and numismatists continue to find joy in discovering and learning about the fascinating world of coins and their designs.

Minting and History of 1946 Nickels

Minting Numbers and Facts

The 1946 nickels were minted in large numbers, making them quite common among collectors today. The United States Mint produced a total of 161,165,000 nickels in 1946, which is a substantial amount considering the post-war period.

These coins were minted in both Philadelphia and Denver, with the mint mark “P” or “D” indicating the respective mint. However, it’s important to note that the 1946 nickels were not made from silver.

The composition of the 1946 nickels was actually 75% copper and 25% nickel, with a diameter of 21.2 millimeters and a weight of 5 grams. This composition remained consistent throughout the entire Jefferson nickel series, which began in 1938 and continues to be minted today.

The decision to use a copper-nickel alloy rather than silver was made to conserve precious metals during the post-war period when resources were scarce.

Ending Silver Nickel Production

Prior to 1946, nickels were made from a composition of 75% copper and 25% nickel, but during World War II, the United States faced a shortage of nickel. As a result, the mint began experimenting with alternative materials, leading to the production of silver nickels from 1942 to 1945.

These silver nickels, also known as “war nickels,” were made from 35% silver, 56% copper, and 9% manganese.

However, once the war ended, there was no longer a need to conserve nickel for military purposes, and the mint decided to return to the pre-war composition of 75% copper and 25% nickel. This change occurred in 1946, marking the end of silver nickel production.

From that point forward, all nickels were made from the copper-nickel alloy that is still used today.

If you’re curious about the value of a 1946 nickel, it’s important to keep in mind that its worth is primarily based on its condition and rarity rather than its composition. While these nickels may not be made of silver, they still hold historical significance and can be a valuable addition to a coin collection.

For more information on the history and value of coins, you can visit the U.S. Mint website or consult reputable coin collecting resources.

Composition and Value of 1946 Nickels

When it comes to the composition of 1946 nickels, they are not made of silver. Instead, these nickels are composed of a blend of metals, primarily copper and nickel. The exact composition is 75% copper and 25% nickel. This combination gives the coin its distinctive appearance and durability.

Copper and Nickel Composition

The use of copper and nickel in the composition of 1946 nickels was a strategic decision made by the United States Mint. During World War II, there was a shortage of nickel due to its use in the war effort. As a result, the Mint had to find an alternative composition for the nickel coin.

The solution was to reduce the nickel content and introduce copper into the mix. This allowed for the continued production of nickels while conserving valuable resources.

It is interesting to note that the composition of nickels has changed several times throughout history. From 1866 to 1942, nickels were made of 75% copper and 25% nickel. In 1942, during the war, the composition was changed to 56% copper, 35% silver, and 9% manganese.

However, this silver composition was only temporary and lasted until 1946.

Numismatic Value

While 1946 nickels do not have any significant intrinsic value due to their composition, they can still hold value to collectors. The numismatic value of a 1946 nickel depends on factors such as its condition, rarity, and historical significance.

A well-preserved 1946 nickel in mint condition may be worth more than its face value to a collector or numismatist.

If you happen to stumble upon a rare variation or error in a 1946 nickel, its value could increase significantly. Examples of such variations include double die errors or misprints. These unique coins can fetch a premium price in the collector’s market.

If you are curious about the value of your 1946 nickel or any other coin, it is advisable to consult reputable coin dealers or numismatic experts. They have the knowledge and experience to assess the true value of a coin based on its condition and rarity.

For more information about coin collecting, you can visit, the website of the American Numismatic Association. They provide resources and educational materials for both beginners and experienced collectors.

How to Identify Rare Silver 1946 Nickels

Key Details of Wartime Silver Nickels

If you’re a coin collector or simply curious about rare coins, you might be wondering if the 1946 nickels are made of silver. Well, the answer is no. Unlike the wartime nickels minted between 1942 and 1945, the 1946 nickels were not made of silver.

During World War II, there was a shortage of nickel, so the United States Mint decided to mint nickels with a composition of 56% copper, 35% silver, and 9% manganese.

These wartime silver nickels were introduced to conserve nickel for the war effort. The silver content in these nickels makes them highly sought after by collectors. They have a distinct appearance, with a large mintmark above Monticello on the reverse side of the coin.

The mintmark can be either a “P” for Philadelphia, a “D” for Denver, or an “S” for San Francisco. The mintmark is an important factor in determining the rarity and value of these coins.

Although the 1946 nickels are not silver, they still hold value as part of the larger nickel series. It’s important to educate yourself about the different types of nickels and their compositions to make informed decisions when buying or selling coins.

Authenticating and Grading Your 1946 Nickels

If you happen to come across a 1946 nickel, it’s essential to authenticate and grade it accurately. This will help you determine its value and ensure that you have a genuine coin.

One way to authenticate a 1946 nickel is by checking its weight. Wartime silver nickels weigh slightly more than regular nickels due to their silver content. You can use a scale to measure the weight of the coin and compare it to the standard weight of a nickel.

Another method is to examine the mintmark closely. As mentioned earlier, the wartime silver nickels have a large mintmark above Monticello on the reverse side. Ensure that the mintmark is clear and properly aligned. Counterfeit coins may have poorly struck or altered mintmarks.

Grading your 1946 nickel involves evaluating its condition based on a scale from Poor (PO-1) to Mint State (MS-70). Factors such as scratches, wear, luster, and overall appearance are taken into account.

It’s advisable to consult a professional coin grader or refer to a reliable coin grading guide to get an accurate assessment of your coin’s condition.

Remember, the value of a coin is heavily influenced by its grade and rarity. A well-preserved 1946 nickel with a high grade can be worth significantly more than a worn or damaged one.

For more information about rare coins and coin collecting, you can visit reputable websites such as US Mint or NGC Coin.


While most 1946 nickels have the same copper-nickel composition as modern nickels, a very small number of silver wartime nickels were produced that year. By understanding their distinguishing features and minting story, collectors can identify these rare silver treasures.

With their classic design and fascinating history, 1946 nickels remain intriguing to numismatists and casual collectors alike. Although not silver, these coins are still small pieces of American history.

Similar Posts