Regarding the removal of 35% silver 5-cent pieces, I find this story about a sorting machine used at the mints to be barely believable,
although why would anyone make it up?
In 1964-65, as a 9th grader, I was allowed to go to the bank at lunch-time, so I could get rolls of nickels. I removed dated buffaloes and
warnicks, in roughly equal numbers, eventually sending maybe 20 rolls to someone with a buy ad in Coin World. SEVEN cents each. Postage was
pretty nominal, then.
I doubt my profit approached minimum wage (then $1.25), having only about $10 capital. I also did better when babysitting, but that was hardly a
hobby. In truth, at 14, I was probably a better Marxist than capitalist, but the point is, there were plenty of 1942-45-dated 35% silver
"warnicks" in circulation, 20 to 23 years after their issuance. 1943 cents, too.
What the government clearly worked to remove from circulation was National Bank Notes ("brown seals"), which was done effectively.
In the 1980s I picked up a new customer, a very successful NYC tobacconist named Mark. He collected engraved and enameled coins, but his #1 and #2
collections were cigar store Indians and carousel animals. He had a couple dozen of each, IN HIS MANHATTAN APARTMENT!!!
After I knew him for years he mentioned that as a teenager he was the War Nickel King of New York. (He had much more capital than I.) This was
probably 1960-64, in the heydey of the semi-monthly(!) Rosenbaum show. In the 1990s I mentioned this to Sam Sloat, who remembered "that
kid." "We'd put the bags in the car trunk and drive back to Connecticut with the front bumper so high, we looked like a space
This kind of coin removal has more to do with pathology than profit. People go thru rolls & bags of coins for fun, and few would tell you it
pays like any day job. I was reminded of this last week, when a perfectly sane gent, with an entrepreneurial personal history, dropped 1) in at my
store, and 2) nearly $1000 -- on wheat cents.
What actually did make financial sense was separating out 90% silver coins from clad coins. The increased examination of coins by the general
public must have led to the effective removal of war nickels from the collective American pocket. There are still many 40% silver halves to be found
in rolls, and maybe, with keen organizational skills, you can make $3-5 an hour plucking them out.
Great story! I hadn't heard of the War Nickel King. Even at seven cents apiece, that's a 40% gain on investment (minus the investment of
time and postage, of course). Warren Buffet would kill for a margin that high.
As for the mint removing the coins, as Dave Lange pointed out, while there may have been a brief attempt to remove them, the effort must have been
fairly quickly abandoned when it was realized to be unnecessary from the standpoint of the usability of the coins. Of course, this set the stage for
later collectors and entrepreneurs like the War Nickel King to make that effort as silver prices advanced, making it profitable. -Editor