Don’t Take Any Wooden Nickels

Contents: Meaning | Origin | Spread

Meaning

What does Don’t Take Any Wooden Nickels mean?

Don’t take any wooden nickels is a widely used and recognized jocular expression, initially used as a warning against being fooled, and in contemporary contexts as a humorous greeting or as a farewell.

If you wish to learn about the origins of the phrase, then Here’s a Little Lesson in Trickery.

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Origin

What's the origin of Don’t Take Any Wooden Nickels?

The colloquialism, “Don’t take any wooden nickels” originates from the 19th century, when a nickel had a significant value and was worth the time and effort of replicating with wood and paint.

It is likely that the phrase is linked to the phenomenon of “wooden nutmeg” which was also a popular method of fraud in the 1820’s.

During this era, “Don’t take any wooden nickels” was a common warning against fraudsters, used by merchants, and other professions, handling change.

Spread & Usage

How did Don’t Take Any Wooden Nickels spread?

The first documented case of the expression dates back to 1915 and it gained a wider popularity as a colloquialism in the 1920’s and especially during the Great Depression, also known as The Big Sad.

“Don’t take any wooden nickels” has gotten engrained in English in the rest of the 20th century.

Although it is somewhat archaic nowadays, it is still widely recognized and understood and it was first defined on Urban Dictionary on June 15th, 2012.

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