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History of the Wooden Nickel by: Sarah Steptoe, WCC Member

Category : Windsor Coin Club

Here it goes folks…. “The History of the Wooden Nickle” :

On December 5, 1931, the Citizens Bank of Tenino, Washington failed. In turn, it had created a shortage of money. It left store owners and keepers unable to get change without travellling a great distance, resulting in a 4 hour return trip that they could not afford to do. Meeting of the Chamber of Commerce ended in the local newspaper to issue the first wooden money in the USA. Blaine, Washington started producing round wooden nickels in 1933 when their banks had also failed. Countless other places, mainly in the Pacific NorthWest, issued wooden money after that.

In 1934 a new idea was thought of for the wooden nickle, a combo of advertisement and souvenir. The J.R. Rogers Company of Fostoria, Ohio obtained a copyright for their designs on wooden money in 1938 and started producing  in numbers.

As the phrase “Don’t take any wooden nickels” was added to the American language, why it was was unclear; however the reasoning became easy to understand.  Each wooden nickel had an expiry date on it. So for example if you had a whole bunch of wooden nickels in your hand and was just before noon, when you had a customer stroll into your store to purchase something; would probably mean that you would not be able to cash all those wooden nickels in.

The Rogers Company should be looked at as having one of the most ingenius uses for the wooden nickel and being one of the greatest companies in the 20th century. They had the wooden pieces pre-printed prior to events. So then the company would go and sell these to the merchants for face value. Customers would get wooden nickels/dimes/quarters back in their change. So this way the customers were paying to bring a piece of advertisement home.

Wooden Nickels were also used when fairs came into town. Coming closer to the end of the fairs, people stopped accepting wooden nickels as they knew that more than likely they would not be able to cash them in before the end of the fair.

The Old Time Wooden Nickel Company, in San Antonio Texas, was established in 1993 by Herb Hornug. The modernized antique press this company has can produce over 10000 wooden nickels per hour. They also have a smaller press that can produce 5000 wooden nickels per hour.

In 1998, The Wooden Nickel Historical Museum had a grand opening public awareness about the long history behind the wooden nickels.

Can you all imagine seeing over 1million wooden nickels?? The museum has everything from soup to nuts pretty much. Examples of the wooden nickels can be musicians like Elvis, organizations, celebrations and much more. The museum also has a one of a kind wooden nickel vault which houses a few hundred thousand wooden nickels.

In June of 2002, The Wooden Nickel Historical Museum revealed to the public the world’s largest wooden nickel. This is truly one of a kind standing at 13ft 4in. in diameter. It is 5.5in thick, weighs 2500 lbs. Can anyone guess how many wooden nickels could be produced from all this lumber that went into making this enormous wooden nickel?? Also on June 22 of the same year, the mayor of San-Antonio proclaimed “Wooden Nickel Day”. Each year the World’s Largest Wooden Nickel is re-designed in order to reflect an organization which represents the Great American Spirit. This happens during the yearly Wooden Nickel Festival.

On May 15th of 2010, the museum had a re-grand opening to promote visitors to come and visit having a huge and enhanced time while there. The visitors can also view how wooden nickels are being printed and customize their very own wooden nickel at the design center.

Canada does have some history, although from what I could gather, it was mostly for celebrations and events to promote, not for monetary use.

I hope everyone enjoyed the short story on the Wooden Nickel. I would love to hear feedback, to see what everyone thought. If I missed anything, I do want to sincerely apologize in advance as this is a learning process for me also.


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