The Vagabond – Wooden nickels at Gadsden’s Centennial

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By Danny Crownover

Most everybody who lived in the early years of Gadsden often heard that admonition, “Don’t take any wooden nickel,” and almost everybody would laugh at the idea.

But there was a time when many folks did so.

Wooden nickels were in circulation for a short period, and that was on the occasion of Gadsden’s Centennial Celebration on October 29-31, 1940.

The Etowah County Chamber of Commerce was sold on the idea of issuing pasteboards as souvenirs on which were printed the words, “One Wooden Nickel.”

They were in denominations of two and three wooden nickels and were good for any purchase of those amounts in most of the stores, particularly at soft drink stands. This wooden money also advertised that “The Cavalcade of The Coosa” would feature in the centennial celebration.

It was quite a pageant, one of the finest spectacles the city ever undertook.

Local realtor R.M. Wilbanks was one of the few persons to preserve one of each of the wooden coins from the centennial.

In his collection of odd money was a $20 bill issued by the Commercial Bank of Alabama at Selma in 1856. Another item was a perfectly legitimate five-pound note on the Bank of England. Yet another was five pesos note of the Japanese government. Still another was a five dollar franc note on the Bank of France. Wilbanks also had a peso note of Mexico and a Dutch five marks note.

Contact The Vagabond at dkcrown@bellsouth.net.

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