A couple months ago, just after the coronavirus pandemic declaration, we discussed the wooden money of Tenino, WA. Born as a Great Depression necessity currency, the originals are valuable collectibles, and a few merchants were still making and
honoring wooden notes as a novel community currency. But hard times are back, and the whole town is now back in the game. Found via News & Notes Volume V, Number 46, May 5, 2020 from the Society of Paper Money Collectors. -Editor
During the depths of the Great Depression, the small Thurston County town of Tenino drew national attention when it printed thousands of dollars of wooden money to keep the local economy afloat.
Now, facing what could be the worst economic downturn since that time, the Tenino City Council drew on history last week when it approved an ordinance authorizing up to $10,000 worth of wooden scrip.
Residents of Tenino who meet income limits modeled after federal poverty guidelines and who can show financial harm caused by the novel coronavirus crisis could receive up to $300 each month in scrip backed by the city general fund for use at
local retailers. City staff could begin screening applications as soon as Monday.
“During the Depression, Tenino took unprecedented initiative by printing and issuing its own currency,” Tenino Mayor Wayne Fournier said. “Here we are again, many years later, doing the same thing. Smaller communities all too often are left to
fend for themselves and slip through the cracks, but this type of situation can also breed resilience and independence.”
Tenino leaders first came up with the concept of wooden currency in response to the closure of the local bank in late 1931. Local residents signed promissory notes obligating themselves to reimburse the local chamber of commerce once the bank
The notes caused a stir, with many municipalities undertaking similar measures to prop up their economies. Currency collectors continue to reach out to city officials to this day in search of original prints and often trade the notes via online
The modern scrip is backed by agreements between local merchants and the city itself. Customers will use the currency in $25 increments to purchase anything other than products containing alcohol, tobacco or cannabis. Vendors will then turn the
coupons into the city in exchange for a check.
The new scrip will feature an updated design, but will be produced using the same type of rolled cedar and on the same machinery used nearly 90 years ago.
Millard said that for a family of two making up to $1,437 per month, the city would supply scrip coupons worth $300. Those making up to $1,911 would receive $250, with families that reach higher benchmarks still eligible to receive smaller
grants. City attorneys have reviewed the program to ensure it does not violate laws against the gifting of public funds, Millard said, but the city wants a concurring opinion from the State Auditor’s Office before it begins distribution.
The city council approved an initial limit of $10,000 worth of wooden money, but could vote later to increase the dollar amount based on demand and the limits of the city’s own coffers.
To read the complete article, see:
Tenino to replicate Depression-era printing of wooden currency to support economy (https://www.theolympian.com/news/local/article242464236.html)
Now here's a first-class numismatic item born of the current crisis. The most important thing is taking care of the local families, but some of these newly-issued notes should find a place in major collections. -Editor
To read the earlier E-Sylum article, see:
TENINO IS STILL PRINTING WOODEN MONEY (https://www.coinbooks.org/v23/esylum_v23n11a23.html)
Wayne Homren, Editor
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