Town prints own currency to boost coronavirus relief

The blue-cheese salad dressing, butter, ground turkey, cans of grain-free dog food, and new toothbrush came to $24.97.

Laurie Mahlenbrei handed the cashier a slice of wood marked $25 and walked out with her items in plastic grocery bags.

It was one of the first transactions involving an effort in the small city of Tenino, Washington, to help residents and local merchants alike get through the economic fallout of the pandemic.


Decades after it created a similar program during the Great Depression, the city is dipping into its emergency accounts to give people in need up to $300 per month in wooden currency to spend in town.

Just about every business in town, from the gas station and auto-body shop to Don Juan's Mexican Kitchen, is accepting the wooden scrip.

The currency is about the thickness, size, and flexibility of an index card and printed on the same 1890s-era press once printed the Depression currency and the local newspaper. It can't be used for alcohol, tobacco, or marijuana.

The businesses can redeem the scrip for real dollars at City Hall or sell them on the side. Some merchants said they've been offered three times the face value from coin collectors around the country.

Get breaking news alerts in the FOX5NY News app. It is FREE! Download for iOS or Android

Tenino, population 1,800, is about a 25-minute drive south of the state capital, Olympia. Around the turn of the 20th century it became a boomtown, with four hotels and 11 saloons, as the stone from its several quarries was in demand to help rebuild Seattle and San Francisco following devastating fires.