Don’t Take No Wooden Nickels – Meaning, Origin and Usage

Would you like to tell someone that they are walking into a potentially dangerous situation where they might be swindled into a scam without realizing it? The expression ‘don’t take no wooden nickels’ is a common saying that can let someone know that they are about to be scammed. This post unpacks the meaning and origin of this expression.


The saying ‘don’t take no wooden nickels’ is a figurative expression that is often used to warn people that they should not let themselves be let into a dangerous situation or a scam.

The expression implies that the person it is being said to should beware against anything that would be as suspicious as a wooden nickel.

If someone is told that they shouldn’t take ‘wooden nickels’ then they are told to be careful and not accept anything at face value, or without considering the situation first.

When saying ‘don’t take no wooden nickels’ the expression is considered to be entirely figurative.

Another way of saying the same thing would be to tell someone that they should not “fall for something”, with something implied to be a potentially dangerous situation (or one where someone would be swindled).

The term is usually used exactly in the same form, although ‘don’t take any/no’ wooden nickels is also an acceptable form.

‘Don’t take no wooden nickels’ is also similar to telling someone that they should use common sense when making a decision.

Example Usage

“If you’re going to sit down at a timeshare meeting for five hours, then you’re probably going to get scammed out of your money for a vacation that isn’t worth it. Don’t take no wooden nickels, I’m telling you.”

“Don’t take no wooden nickels. When you’re at the casino, they will try to give you a lot of free stuff so that you can stay longer. Don’t fall for it and just look for some other entertainment to be found around the hotel.”

“If you’re going to go to a buffet, make sure you don’t fall for their menu items that are just there to fill you up on useless calories. Go straight for the things that cost the buffet the most, and don’t take no wooden nickels.”

“Let’s not have the wool pulled over our eyes at the meeting this afternoon. Follow everything I tell you, and don’t take no wooden nickels.”


The exact first use and origin of the term ‘don’t take no/any wooden nickels’ is difficult to track down according to most language resources that are available about the term on the internet, but resources seem to agree that the term came about in the early 1900s.

At a time when metallic currency was first introduced, people who traveled from parts of the country where this currency was not yet known, they could be easily fooled into accepting ‘wooden nickels’ as currency.

It is obvious that ‘wooden nickels’ would get someone scammed today, but the scam was not apparent to people at the time – and this is apparently how the expression came to be.

If someone ‘took wooden nickels’ then they would have traded their often real goods (or other currency) for something worthless, and thus been led into a scam.

While people don’t get scammed by ‘wooden nickels’ anymore today, the term stuck and people still use it to apply to obvious scams.

The term is more popular today in the American Midwest, although can sometimes be heard in other English-speaking countries that have since adopted the expression.

Phrases Similar to Don’t Take No Wooden Nickels

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Phrases Opposite to Don’t Take No Wooden Nickels

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What is the Correct Saying?

  • Don’t take no wooden nickels
  • Don’t take any wooden nickels
  • Don’t take wooden nickels

Ways People May Say Don’t Take No Wooden Nickels Incorrectly

There are several ways in which someone can use the expression ‘don’t take no wooden nickels’ in the wrong way.

The expression ‘don’t take no wooden nickels’ is figurative, and does not refer to wooden nickels but instead tells someone to beware of a scam – or of being scammed.

Acceptable Ways to Phrase Don’t Take No Wooden Nickels

The correct way to phrase the term ‘don’t take no wooden nickels’ is to use the phrase as-is, as a warning to someone who might easily be scammed or conned into something.

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