A Fresh Round of Wooden Money Planned for Tenino

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Tenino residents will soon be able to get their hands on more sought-after wooden scrip pumped out by the city whose “lure,” according to Mayor Wayne Fournier, has involved locally-printed currency ever since the 1930s.

In 2020, Tenino was thrust into the spotlight when its city government began printing wooden scrip — $25 pieces redeemable at local businesses. So iconic was the program that the Smithsonian reached out this year hoping to preserve the wooden tokens as part of the nation’s historical record.

Now, the city’s next round of wooden money will come from the Tenino Area Chamber of Commerce in partnership with the South Thurston County Historical Society and the Tenino Depot Museum.

In total, 2,021 wooden pieces will be printed, each sold at $20 and redeemable for $21 at local establishments.

Nearly a century ago, during the Great Depression, the Chamber ignited Tenino’s unique history by printing its very first wooden scrip. It was an attempt to get residents through economic hardship, the likes of which in some ways resembles the fallout of the COVID-19 pandemic. Now, the Chamber’s new local currency will be printed in batches of 500 on the same vintage printing press that was used in the 1930s.

“We’re taking a page from the history playbook to support our small businesses and give a benefit to our residents and visitors for their support of our community,” Chamber President Cheryl Pearce said in a statement.

The tokens were designed by local artist Donna Taylor Mayo, who owns the glass studio Of Water, Wind & Woods. They will expire at the end of the year, but will likely be preserved far beyond the pandemic.

Last year, although businesses could return their wooden money to get reimbursed by the city, Fournier said almost no tokens made their way back to the local government. Instead, residents recognized the scrip as valuable memorabilia, and much of it made its way into a “gray market,” getting sold online for prices far beyond its official worth.

The Chamber’s new scrip — reminiscent of a $1 bill — will likely end up on the same parts of the internet, or in museums near and far. Each piece features the signature of Fournier, Pearce and South Thurston County Historical Society President Loren Ackerman, who printed the money.

“Very excited to be a part of this and be printing this wooden money,” Ackerman said, leaning over a printing press in a video posted by the Chamber.

Locals can purchase their scrip as early as this weekend at the Tenino Arts Spring Market, held downtown from March 19-21. The tokens will also be available at the Sandstone Cafe and Obee Credit Union, and online at the Chamber’s website, www.teninoacc.org, starting in April.

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