New Books: United States Pattern & Experimental Pieces of WWII By Roger W. Burdette
Possibly the Most Important Numismatic Book of the Decade
Well before the United States entered World War II, copper, nickel and several other metals had assumed strategic importance. All were necessary for America’s restoration of military competence, and European war pressures quickly pushed the U.S. into becoming the manufacturing “arsenal of democracy.” Canadian and U.S. copper and nickel mines could not increase production fast enough to meet manufacturing demand.
During the early months of the war, no one knew if there was sufficient strategic material to produce the massive quantities of weapons and other supplies required to fight the Japanese and Germans and supply the allies. Pre-war estimates of copper and nickel production in the U.S. and Canada suggested shortages of both metals. The War Production Board (WPB) therefore allocated metals based on low end estimates: immediate needs might be met, but future needs were in doubt. To further complicate matters, many in the U.S. government felt that Japan would try to invade North America and gain control of mines in western states and provinces. Japan’s invasion of Alaska on June 3, 1942 increased this apprehension, which pushed the WPB to place tighter limits on non-military use of strategic metals.
From 1941 through early 1944 the Philadelphia Mint began a bewildering series of ad hoc experiments. These were initially intended to identify substitutes for critical metal in coinage alloys, then were expanded to include complete replacements for metal, and finally concentrated on meeting public objections to the substitute metals actually used in coinage.
From a numismatic perspective, the most interesting period was from 1941 to late November 1942. A large number of important coinage experiments were conducted at the Philadelphia Mint during this time. These included changes to the five-cent coin alloy and attempts to find both metal and non-metal alternatives for standard bronze in the cent. Also, for the first time since 1904-06, the mint involved American corporations in the search for solutions to coinage problems.
United States Pattern and Experimental Pieces of WW II uncovers the range and complexity of Mint experiments during this critical period in our history. Every documented experimental and pattern piece is described, illustrated where possible, and explained in detail. Author Roger W. Burdette untangles the mass of myth and assumption about these enigmatic pieces, and presents never before published research into the ‘How’ and ‘Why’ of their creation. Printed on heavy weight glossy paper with full color images.
Publication Date: February 1, 2013