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Magnetic War Nickels

3 posts in this topic

There is current chatter on other sites about some war nickels being attracted to a magnet. Before this gets out of hand and into the “LQQK – MAGNETIC NICKELS – HUGE ERROR – WORTH THOUSANDS !!!!!” realm of stupidity, here’s the reality.

We are familiar with ordinary magnetic materials, primarily iron, nickel and cobalt. These elements are attracted to a magnet and also can hold a magnetic field. No US coinage metals are magnetic except 1943 zinc coated steel cents.

But there are other elements and  molecules that are weakly attracted to a magnet. These are called “paramagnetic materials,” and include uranium, platinum, tungsten, aluminum, oxygen gas, and under certain conditions copper and silver.

With an ordinary iron or iron-cobalt magnet paramagnetism is too weak to detect. Its primary coin use is in slug rejection mechanisms in vending machines. (See the upcoming article in Coin World.) However, modern “super magnets” have much stronger magnetic fields and can attract (pick up) coins containing copper and or silver. That is, the modern magnets are so strong that they attract things not normally thought of as being attracted.

This is the situation with “magnetic war nickels.” It is normal, varies considerably, and is not an error or special variety.

Here’s a helpful tabular summary of magnetism, and link to a web site with basic information for further reference.


Magnetic properties-Summary.jpg

Edited by RWB
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This was my first thought when I saw the thread over at the other forum. The manganese in the alloy must cause some minor attraction to a magnet that is varying based on the slightly different alloy in each coin from the different batches of metal. This helps explain why some are slightly magnetic and some aren’t.

Manganese in elemental form is also paramagnetic, so this explains the results.

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While the op on the thread ATS was overzealous and underinformed in his attempt to fleece find an unsuspecting equally uninformed buyer, the thread did reveal some interesting information.

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