Museum Wooden Nickel 2023 Type 1
The George Washington Witness Tree of Delaware Museum Commemorative Wooden Nickel (Given to those in attendance at the George Washington Society of Delaware meeting February 19th, 2023, as free gifts)
What is a wooden nickel? Well... Just that. An oversized nickel made of wood. They are not United States Currency. That being said, they are an interesting piece of history. Even before the time of the Romans, we have examples of locally printed/minted money or tokens that could be redeemed in many ways. Whether you call them tokens, script, or company money, etc... They could represent local money or be used by/at a specific merchant. In the United States, the Great Depression watched many banks close, and people had to come up with a new solution.
Imagine you woke up and had to go grocery shopping. Before you go to the grocery store of your choice, you decide to go to the bank, and withdraw some money for shopping. You arrive at the bank only to find it closed at 9 a.m. and, by 9:10 a.m., you find out all the banks in your city closed. At 9:30 a.m., you find out they are all closed permanently. What does this fact have to do with wooden nickels? That is exactly what started happening to many people after Black Tuesday (October 29th, 1929) during the Great Depression. Over 30% of banks went bust, as it was called. When the bank failed, for many, your money was just gone. Others came up with ingenious solutions.
This is what happened to the Bank of Tenino in Tenino, Washington. On December 6, 1931, people found the bank's doors locked. The proud bank had been doing its best, but the depression was too much. The bank had failed. The bank adjuster would not come for a year. The local Chamber of Commerce, working with local businesses, came up with a solution. They would print their own money that could be used only in Tenino. Thus, making it legal tender (Script) in their city. They printed paper bills. Until the local newspaper printer played a practical joke. While printing the paper money. he put in a wood square that was going to be used to make a wooden postcard into the printing machine. He printed the bill and went to get his coffee and pie. When the bill came, he produced the wooden script to pay for the meal. The server did not want to take it. He then asked the server why they would not as they were accepting the same thing in paper. So, after thinking the server did accept the payment, and the joke became a reality. The city of Tenino then began to print the money on wood squares. It is a really neat piece of American History and Tenino's City Historian, Mr. Richard Edwards, has written some really neat histories about it.
Wooden nickels and money don't just stop at this point in history. Not only has Tenino printed the original wooden money for the bank failure in the 1930s, they have also printed commemoratives of this very American problem solution. Amazingly, Tenino printed wood money again for Covid relief in June 2022. It was actually used to represent the official U.S. Federal Government Covid Relief Program money sent to the city. How ingenious again on the City of Tenino. After the 1930s, the round style we all know had primarily replaced the square wooden money. These became popular for centennial celebrations, world's fairs, and as souvenirs. Some stores and businesses still use wooden nickels as redeemable tokens or advertisement gimmicks.
Left, you can see our logo we use that was filled in on the computer to create the tree image for ink stamps used to create the front of the wooden nickels.
Are these real money? No. Unlike in Tenino, Washington, these commemorative wooden nickels have no monetary value whatsoever. So, if you are one of the new 86,852 Internal Revenue Service Agents, please read our disclaimers... We are not printing money. That is why they have no value in dollars, cents, or redeemable commodities (i.e. a cup of coffee, a pack of gum, a tire rotation, etc.) printed on them. These were given out for free as gifts.
Left, you can see the test batches 2 and 3 (Front and Back) to figure out what would work and what would not. It was really trial and error making these in my free time.
Making wooden nickels is more involved than I thought if you don't have a printing machine, especially if you want them to last. The blank wood 2-inch rounds were first sealed. This was because the first test batch ink was perfect, but after it was stamped, it quickly became blurred. These were hand stamped and the ink was absorbed into the wood, causing this. The method and sealant were chosen because of test batches 2 and 3. After they were first sealed, they were stamped on one side and allowed to air dry overnight. Then they were cleaned up or missing letters added with a fine tip Sharpie marker. They were then second sealed with gloss clear lacquer and allowed to dry overnight. Then sealed with a third gloss coat of lacquer over the stamp a second time. Basically, it took 4 days a side. The entire project took 9 days. Two members at the George Washington Society of Delaware (where the gifts were handed out) are members of the International Organization of Wooden Money Collectors.
While most wooden nickels are uncoated, or unsealed, they recommended it for protecting them over time. For research, historical, and collectors' purposes, they were also individually numbered on the back in green Sharpie marker numbers No. 1 to No. 59. When some of the ink reacted and bleed a little due to the lacquer, I was not happy. My collector friends said that it makes each one more unique and to issue them as is. Several other people I asked who would be receiving them and were not collectors of wooden nickels said the same thing. One said: "It gives them individual character." So, I deferred to their wisdom. Click here to see the entire photo list of Museum Wooden Nickels Type 1.
Left, you can see the production batch fronts after the first coat of spray gloss lacquer. For some reason, I found gloss coat brought out the natural wood color variations a little more than dull cote.
The design for the front was chosen by the museum not just for brand recognition, but we just love the George Washington Witness Tree of Delaware here at the tree's museum. Can you tell? The stamp is the illustration we used on our 2022 Museum Commemorative Stamp. The design of the back was chosen by the museum as it was a preexisting stamp used by Mr. Loper, and the museum board wished Mr. Loper to get recognition for his project of saving the George Washington Tree. Why make them? That is simply answered with: why not? Wooden nickels are an interesting part of Americana. These are a neat, fun, and a cheap to make curiosity. Most people have at least seen a wooden nickel. Many people have one. We also want to make people smile with these simple small gifts. Spreading joy to others is important in this life. Almost every religion or belief system says so. Most importantly, they will help to spread the word about the George Washington Witness Tree of Delaware and its museum. It is also a thank you for our friends who collect these neat curiosities or items about our wonderful tree.
Disclaimer: These were given as gifts, and not sold. These are not for sale. We are not printing money. They are not marked with a value of any kind, either in money or redeemable commodities. These were given out for free as gifts.