During World War II, the composition of two denominations of US coins were changed. These two wartime coins, the steel penny and the wartime nickel, are two very well-known types of coins. The first, the steel penny, was only minted in 1943, but there are two major composition errors, which today are worth over $100,000. These two error coins, the 1943 copper cent and the 1944 steel cent, are two of the most valuable Lincoln cents that you can buy. The 1943 steel penny is composed of steel with a very thin layer of zinc on the outside of the coin. There are three ways to tell the difference between a steel cent and a copper cent. The first of these ways is the most simple: check the date. If the date is 1943, there is a very large chance that it is a steel cent. The second way is another simple one: look at the color. If you look at the picture that I have included with this post, you will see at the bottom of the photo, there are two cents with a bright gray color. These are steel cents. I have shown some replated steel cents, which means that a private company replated them with zinc. The third way to tell is just as simple, but requires a magnet: as you may have guessed, try to pick the penny up with a magnet. If it sticks, then it is steel.The second coin I am doing this blog about is the wartime nickel. The wartime nickel was minted from 1942 to 1945. The composition of these nickels have been changed from the traditional 25% nickel and 75% copper to a composition of 35% silver, 9% manganese, and 56% copper. There are two main ways to tell the difference between a wartime nickel and a normal nickel. The first is very simple: check the date. If the date is 1943, 1944, or 1945, then you have a wartime nickel. A 1942 nickel also may be a wartime nickel, but it will take the second way of testing to be completely sure. The second way is also simple: check the reverse of the coin for a mintmark, which in a wartime nickel will be above the dome of Monticello. In the picture I have included in this blog, you will see that the nickel has a "D" on the reverse above the dome of Monticello. I don't know if you will be able to tell, but on the obverse side of the nickel, the date of the coin says "1943".
From making the blank out of a coil of metal, to striking the coin and putting it in bags and containers, the minting process has five steps. The mint only makes nickel, dime, quarter, half dollar, and dollar blanks. The mint buys penny, bullion coin, and numismatic coin blanksThe first of these steps is to make the blank. To do this, the mint buys a 1,500 foot coil of metal. They then put this coil of metal through a machine, which will straighten the coin. Then they put it through another machine called a blanking press. The blanking press cuts 14,000 blanks out of the straightened metal. The diameter of the coin is slightly different from the finished product.The second step is to send the blanks to an annealing furnace. The annealing process softens the blanks and allows the blanks to be shaped without breaking. During this process, the blanks are heated up in the annealing furnace to 1,600 degrees Fahrenheit. The inside of this furnace has no oxygen. This lack of oxygen prevents the blanks from tarnishing. After being heated up to 1,600 degrees Fahrenheit, the blanks are put into a liquid made up of water, citric acid powder, and lubricants.The third step is to wash the blanks in a mixture of cleaning and anti-tarnish agents to restore their original color. The blanks are then dried by a steam dryer. The blanks are then moved to the upset mill.The fourth step is the upset mill. To upset the coins means to upset the rim of the coin to create a raised rim. To do this, the blanks are fed into a groove with a slightly smaller diameter than the blank. This pushes metal up to create a raised rim. A blank with a rim is called a planchet.The fifth and final step is to strike the coin. This is done by forcing two dies together, one with the obverse design and one with the reverse design. The dies come together around the planchet and force the design into it. A collar is placed around the coins rim to stop it from expanding too much. This collar also used to make the edge a reeded, smooth, or lettered edge. Dollar coins receive a smooth edge, and then are sent to a machine that rolls the edge lettering onto it.Finally, the coins are done. Dimes and quarters are counted and put into bulk storage, while nickels and pennies are put into storage without being counted. They are then put into bags, weighed, and sent to Federal Reserve Banks for distribution around the country. Numismatic coins are packaged into sets for sale to the public. Bullion coins are put into 500 coin monster boxes for sale to dealers.