Wooden Nickels Catalog (WN)

Catálogo de Fichas de Madera

Below is a catalog or list of all known wooden nickels relating to either Panama or the Canal Zone. Most are advertisements but one is a protest piece regarding turning over the canal to Panama. Please me if you know of any wooden nickels which are not in this catalog.


Wooden nickels are inexpensive circles of wood about the size of a silver dollar (or Balboa). The obverse usually has an Indian bust or perhaps a buffalo. The reverse is generally used for advertisement for a business or club, etc. The background is usually left the natural wood color, but the design and legends may be printed in one of several colors such as black, blue, red or brown. The design is usually a line drawing.


Wooden money substitutes were first used in the United States in the early 1930's in Washington State. Later wooden nickels were used in State fairs and centenials as tokens good for use at the fair. The expression "Don't take any wooden nickels" came out of this usage, since the wooden nickels would be used in town as they could be spent at the fair. But when the end of the fair was near, wooden nickels would no longer be accepted since there might not be time to spend them at the fair. In more recent times wooden nickels have been used as souvenirs, advertisements and drink markers. Since the 1950's certain obverse designs became common, and it is these designs which are seen on the Canal Zone issues. The Canal Zone issues which are dated are from the late 1960's and from the 1970's. Vist the Old Time Wooden Nickel Co. for more history and pictures of designs.


Included in the catalog list below is a rarity code for (C) Common, (S) Scarce, (R) Rare and (RR) Very Rare. In parenthesis is the population count of specimens I have made based on the number of catalogs who listed the token, the sales Henkle recorded from price lists in the 1980's, recent ebay sales and some collections. I tried to avoid counting any specimen twice. The rarity code was determined based on the specimen count. Mintage is known only for a few wooden nickel types, which are included on the individual entry pages.


Pricing is based on several factors, which ultimately are supply and demand. How many specimens are available and how many collectors want them. With the wooden nickels, the supply is very low but so is the demand. The highest price I have seen so far is $26 for a previously unknown variety and the lowest was $2 for a more common wooden nickel. Where possible I have averaged the prices for a particular wooden nickel over the last three years to arrive at a catalog price. In other cases I have made an educated guess based on similar pieces. The prices below are an attempt to develop a price that at least three collectors will be willing to pay for a piece. Note that it is possible with seldom seen items such as these that an individual auction may go far higher than the catalog prices shown, especially if two collectors strongly desire the same specimen.

Numbering System

The wooden nickels in this catalog have been designated with the letters "WN", and grouped by issuer. Each group is given a unique number. Within each group, each piece is given a unique number. So the first piece is WN-1.1 for Wooden Nickel group 1 piece 1.

Permission is hereby granted to anyone to use the numbers below in referring to these wooden nickels, in print or electronic media, by calling them Plowman's WN-x.x at least once, or referencing www.coins-of-panama.com. However, I reserve the right to assign all new numbers. Please contact me when a new number is needed.

Click on the image or catalog number below to go to the full listing for that piece.

Wooden Nickels Catalog

Image#DescriptionRarityCatalog Value
WN-1.1 C. McNeese S (7) $ 5.00
WN-2.1 Club El Marino Natural Wood Blue ink C (13) $ 5.00
WN-2.2 Club El Marino Silver Nickel R (3) $ 20.00
WN-2.3 Club El Marino Natural Wood Black ink RR (1) $ 20.00
WN-3.1 Columbus Club Christmas 1970 S (5) $ 5.00
WN-3.2 Columbus Club New Year 1971 Indian Head S (5) $ 5.00
WN-3.3 Columbus Club New Year 1971 Buffalo R (3) $ 8.00
WN-4.1 Crossroads Coin Club 1978 C (12) $ 5.00
WN-5.1 Isthmian Numismatic Society 1966 R (3) $ 8.00
WN-5.2 Isthmian Numismatic Society 1967 Indian Head S (7) $ 5.00
WN-5.3 Isthmian Numismatic Society 1967 Buffalo S (9) $ 5.00
WN-10.1 Expocomer 85 RR (1) $ 20.00
WN-20.1 Krewe of Patriots 1978 S (6) $ 10.00
WN-21.1 Warren Plumer Indian Head C (128) $ 2.00
WN-21.2 Warren Plumer Buffalo C (136) $ 2.00
WN-21.3 Warren Plumer Blank RR (1) $ 35.00