Preserving Collectibles column from the June 29, 2015, issue of Coin World:
This month I would like to discuss the care and preservation of
wooden nickels. Special thanks go to the folks at the Old Time Wooden
Nickel Co. who kindly answered all of my questions (www.wooden-nickel.com/). The firm has been making
wooden nickels since 1948.
Wooden nickels are made from round wooden blanks that are stamped on
both sides with an image or slogan.
Over the years, a myriad of inks have been used to stamp the
designs. The type of ink used depends on the time a nickel was
produced and the desired effect.
The wooden blank is made from a hard, durable wood, often rock
maple. Rock maple (Acer saccharum) is also referred to as sugar maple
or hard maple. The same wood is used to fabricate baseball bats,
furniture and toys. Rock maple grows in the northeastern United States.
Once harvested, the wood is left to dry out, or season. When
seasoned, it is cut into square planks that are then turned on a lathe
to produce dowels. The blanks are cut from the dowels.
Once cut, they are tumbled to smooth out any rough edges and then
sorted. Blanks that are too thin (wafers) or too thick (pucks) are
culled, as are any with knots or a dark grain. At this point, they are
ready to be turned into nickels.
Wooden nickels are pretty durable. Being wood, they will respond to
changes in relative humidity (RH). Ideally, a stable environment would
Given the number of inks that have been used over the years, it is
hard to comment on their stability. My advice is to err on the side of
caution: assume that all are light sensitive and limit light exposure.
The inks are a concern also in considering storage enclosures.
Regular readers will remember that polyvinyl chloride, particularly plasticized
PVC, is not recommended for storing numismatic collections. The same
is true for wooden nickels. The plasticizer in PVC is a phthalate. Phthalates dissolve many inks.
A wooden nickel stored in a plasticized PVC flip runs the risk of
having some of the ink dissolved and transferred to the surface of the flip.
Polyester (e.g., Mylar) flips are recommended as enclosures. These
can, in turn, be stored in archival quality 35-millimeter slide sheets
made from either polyethylene or polypropylene.
The slide sheets can be then placed in a three-ring binder or an
archival quality box. If your collection is not handled often and you
do not wish to incur the cost of flips, the nickels can be put
directly into the slide sheets.
All wood is inherently acidic. As such, I recommend storing your
wooden nickel collection away from acid-sensitive items such as coins
and paper money.
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