Paper Money

Community wooden money revived for use in Tenino

Tenino, Washington, in 1932 became the first city in the country to issue wooden money, including this 25-cent note, and it’s doing it again.

Image courtesy of Heritage Auctions

A city famous in collector circles for its wooden money has brought the idea back.

Tenino, Washington, will soon begin issuing $25 denominated wooden money, after a resolution passed in the April 28 city council meeting.

In total, $10,000 face value of the scrip is being issued, backed by Federal Reserve notes. The scrip will be made available only to residents who have established a utility account for sewer or water service with the City of Tenino, and who meet certain income guidelines, as the city grapples with helping its citizens deal with the economic fallout of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Residents will apply to receive up to $300 worth of scrip each month, to be used in local businesses, but not for alcohol, tobacco, and cannabis, and certain personal and professional services (like barbers and internet technology). 

The South Thurston Historical Society will produce the scrip, with an updated design, from similar materials provided by the Tenino Depot Museum and using the original machinery used to create wooden money for Tenino in 1931 and 1932.

That machinery is kept at the Tenino Depot Museum.

The scrip will be serially numbered in blocks of $500. Each block will bear a unique sequence of numbers, known only to the city and the museum, to defend against counterfeiting.

To be valid for redemption, each scrip issue must be signed by the mayor of the City of Tenino and countersigned by the clerk or treasurer of the City of Tenino.

Recipients of the scrip cannot receive more than 99 cents in change back for a transaction involving the notes.

The city hopes that this batch of Tenino wood money stays in local use, unlike the issues of nearly 90 years ago; according to Atlas Obscura, approximately $40 of $10,000 issued stayed in the city, and today those Tenino woods are collector pieces.

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