Don’t take any wooden nickels
The five-cent coin has been a part of our monetary exchange since near the beginning of our nation. However, it did not receive the nickname “nickel” until 1866 when the U. S. Mint began producing the five-cent coin partially out of nickel metal. It as legal tender, like other monetary coins, is made out of metal. Other than silver dollars, all money of a dollar value and higher are made of paper. Of course the most plentiful bill made of paper is the dollar with President George Washington’s picture on it.
The design of the five-cent coin was first produced with a shield on one side and became known as the “Shield nickel.” It was produced until 1883 when the Liberty Head nickel replaced it. In 1913 the “Buffalo nickel” also called the “Indian head nickel” replaced the “Liberty Head nickel.” In fact, I have one as a tie-tack with the year 1935 on it, the year I was born. It was succeeded by the “Jefferson nickel” in 1938 which continues to be struck. The Thomas Jefferson nickel received a more forward facing portrait of President Jefferson in 2006. It now cost the government eleven cents to produce a nickel. It is considering using less expensive metal to make the nickel.
The United States Mint had also produced the equal value of the nickel in what was called the “Half dime.” It as a silver coin began in 1792 and continued to be produced until 1873. At that time the nickel, made-out of other metals, completely took its place.
There is some disagreement as to when the expression “wooden nickel” came about and why. In the past wooden nickels were produced as legal tender for a specific event and was good as such for a limited period of time. That is, only during the period of the celebration it promoted. (Morris Dictionary of Word and Phrase Origins, by Mary Morris, Harper Collins, New York, 1977, 1988).
The expression: “Don’t take any wooden nickels” is believed to have been first found in print in about 1915. It was used to warn country boys going to a city to watch out for city slickers trying to put something over on them. (Encyclopedia of Word and Phrase Origins, Robert Hendrickson, Fact on File, New York, 1997).
The wooden nickel was first produced as legal tender in 1933 for a bank in Blaine, Washington that failed during the depression. Soon thereafter some other banks followed suit.
There is a company in San Antonio, Texas that still produces wooden nickels for anyone wishing to have wooden nickels for most any purpose, including the opening of a new business. It is the Old Time Wooden Nickel Company.