Composition Came Mintmark Changes
By Paul M. Green
Many times we
think absolutely nothing happens in terms of
price changes for what are seen as common dates.
In fact, in a large number of cases that is
basically true. The relatively few price
increases there are usually reflect not an
increased price for the coin, but rather the
increased cost for the coin dealer to have the
coin in stock as the dealer's cost of business
goes up. So in fairness, a dealer cannot stock a
$1 coin and keep its price at $1 for a decade.
As a result, it is not all that unusual to see
the price of what are relatively ordinary coins
increase over time. The 1944-P is a typical
available wartime Jefferson nickel and that
group is seen as relatively available.
The first examples of the wartime Jefferson
nickels appeared in October of 1942. The reason
for the new composition was to conserve supplies
of copper and nickel for the war effort, and
both had been used in the production of nickels.
The new composition would be 56 percent copper,
which was a significant reduction; 35 percent
silver, which did not appear in the old
composition; and 9 percent manganese, which also
was not used in normal nickels.
Unlike the special 1943 zinc-coated steel cents,
the wartime composition for the Jefferson
nickels looked similar to the old. The
government still felt obligated to designate
that they were different, as had been done
throughout history when there was any
significant composition change.
A change that was made was enlarging the
mintmark and placing it above Monticello on the
reverse. In addition, for the first time on a
U.S. coin, examples produced at Philadelphia
would bear a "P" mintmark.
The 1943 cent with its obvious color change
would last just one year, but the special
Jefferson nickels that were first introduced in
1942 would last through 1945.
There would be a wide range of mintages over the
period, and the 1944-P nickel would be one of
the higher mintage dates with a total production
of 119,150,000 pieces. That made the 1944-P
common in the minds of many and it was priced
that way in all grades.
In the period since 1998, the 1944-P has posted
a significant increase to a current MS-65 price
of $22.50, and that price is tied with the
1942-P for the top MS-65 price of the wartime
Jefferson nickels. So it is not merely a price
increase reflecting the cost for a dealer to
have the coin in stock. The 1944-P has more than
tripled in price since 1998 and has become more
expensive than virtually all the other wartime
nickel dates, including some that had mintages
well under 15 million.
What limited grading service totals there are
seem to support the idea that the 1944-P is
apparently tougher in MS-65 than might be
expected. It looks like the 1944-P has now been
discovered as one of the top wartime nickels in