02 March 2006

Don't Take Any Wooden Nickels!

I heard the phrase for the first time ever tonight. Totally caught me off gaurd. No idea what that meant. After a bit of quick research--Thanks be to Google and the Internet--I've come up with a short answer. Well, really the answer is kinda obvious as to why one shouldn't take wooden nickels--they're made of wood!--but the real question is where did the phrase come from and what does it mean to actually tell someone not to take wooden nickels.

On December 5, 1931, the Citizen's Bank of Tenino, Washington failed thusly creating a shortage of currency in the town. This left the merchants of the area unable to get change without traveling about 30 miles over mountainous roads that were built for horses. The average round trip was about four hours. Much too long for merchants to be gone from their stores. A meeting of the Chamber of Commerce resulted in the local newspaper printing up the first issue of wooden money in the United States.

In 1933, Blaine, Washington issued round wooden coins when their bank failed. These were the first issues of wooden coins in the U.S. Several other places, mostly in the Pacific North-West, issued wooden money after that. Some followed the flat format of Tenino and others used round pieces.

The Century of Progress in Chicago in 1933 was the first place to use wooden money as souvenirs. Several issues of round coins were made ranging in size from a silver dollar to about three inches in diameter. Then someone got the bright idea of combining the use of the wooden coin as advert/souvenier for some celebration and curreny. Binghamton, New York was one of first places to embrace this concept. Wood continued to be used to enhance civic celebrations through the mid 1930’s and really started to be cranked out in 1938 when the J. R. Rogers Company of Fostoria, Ohio obtained a copyright on their design for wooden money. [Random-er aside, thanks to my folks penchant for dish-collecting, I know that a lot of good dishes, especially glassware, came out of this small Ohio town and is as a style generally called, oddly enough,Fostoria, though it should be noted that not all "Fostoria" was produced by the company of the same name. I have many pieces, if anyone is truely that interested. Long ago it was a fantastic sand deposit or something...]

Just when the adage "Don’t take any wooden nickels!" was added to the American language is unclear, but the reasons are easy to understand. First of all, it's wood, and as such not widely asccepted as money. Secondly, each wood had an expiration date and generally even a specific final redemption time. If you were in a possession of a handful of wooden nickels that expired at noon today and your best customer came through the door at five minutes to noon, it would be difficult to get to centennial headquarters to cash them in. Many wooden nickels also said they had to be unbroken to be exchanged. They are fairly fragile.

Really, I've decided that the Rogers Company’s use of wooden money should be studied as one of the great marketing schemes of the 20th century. They had the wooden pieces printed up sometime prior to the actual celebration. They then sold the woods to area merchants for face value and the merchant in turn gave the wooden nickels, wooden dimes, and wooden quarters to their customers in change. The woods usually carried the time, date and place of the celebration. So in effect you had paid to take home an advertisement for the event. Kind of like paying for cable to watch their ads in today's world.

It became common at one point (when?) to tell somebody not to take any wooden nickels when they leave--to tell them to be careful and to take good care of themselves. So "Don't take any wooden nickels!" Tell someone when they walk out your door instead of "so long', etc. Having never before heard of wooden nickels or the title phrase, I call this another case closed. There it is. Next time I'll kick it up a notch with a blast from my spice weasel. Bam!

eyes: mythbusters
Comments:
What the hell is a spice weasel?
 
when I moved to france, my dad told me not to take any wooden euro :P
 
A spice weasel is a weasel--made popular by Elzar--that one uses to add spice--always with an emphatic "Bam!"--to one's fave dish!

A wooden euro! Man. Everyone knew about this phrase but me :)
 
At last, I found this post again. You have few [url=http://tipswift.com]useful tips[/url] for my school project. Now, I won't forget to bookmark it. :)
 
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