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topic 58728

Telling the difference between a nickel finish and a chrome finish

July 16, 2012

Q. Can a part just be nickel finished, and not chromed?
If so, how can you tell?
for example toy train parts from 1930s and 40s, would you expect them to be chromed,
or if possible just nickel finished?

Gary Anderson
hobbyist - Stephen, Minnesota, USA

July 17, 2012

A. Hi Gary.

Parts can be either nickel plated or chrome plated (nickel plating followed by chrome plating). If parts are used indoors, nickel plating is still quite common; but for exterior use, most everything today is chrome plated.

If they're from the 30s they are not chromed, because chrome wasn't done in production then. I'd bet on nickel on toy train parts anyway though. Nickel has a faintly yellow cast and chrome has a faintly blue cast, but it's hard to tell except by comparing them to known samples.


Ted Mooney, Teds signature
Ted Mooney, P.E. RET
Pine Beach, New Jersey

July 18, 2012

A. Sorry to say, Ted, but nickel-chrome was almost universal on automobile trim by the mid 1930s. Although used previously on smaller parts, Ford switched the Model A radiator shell and bumpers from Nickel to Ni-Cr for the 1930 model year, and all car makers followed soon after. So by the early 1930s, chrome plating was widespread. By 1940 the only nickel still bring done was some small barrel plated parts.

Train parts, however, are small and therefore many were nickel barrel plated and likely continue to be so even today.

jeffrey holmes
Jeffrey Holmes, CEF
      South Carolina

July 18, 2012

You're right of course Jeffrey. I relied on my memory rather than double-checking, which was a mistake! Colin Fink made chrome plating practical with his 1926 patent, which I falsely recollected as being 1936. Sorry, Gary.


Ted Mooney,
Teds signature
Ted Mooney, P.E. RET
Pine Beach, New Jersey

August 1, 2012 -- this entry appended to this thread by editor in lieu of spawning a duplicative thread

thumbs up signThanks for the replies;, this should answer my question.

Gary Anderson
- Stephen, Minnesota, USA

Restoring a motorbike

October 13, 2013

Q. Hi, I'm just about to start a restoration of a 1920's French bike called a Stella, what year did manufactures stop using nickel and start using chrome.

bike restorer - BLAYE, FRANCE

October 16, 2013

A. Hi Serge. We appended your inquiry to a thread where the question was already answered. In the 1920's it would have been nickel only because chrome wasn't yet commercialized.


Ted Mooney,
Teds signature
Ted Mooney, P.E. RET
Pine Beach, New Jersey

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