The adage goes, “don’t take any wooden nickels” but this one won’t fit in your pocket even if you try. The giant coin, which is among the world’s largest wooden nickels, stands just outside The Old Time Wooden Nickel Company and Historical Museum in San Antonio, Texas.
Built by Herb Hornung, a former Air Force officer who owned the company and museum, the wooden nickel measures 13 feet, four inches in diameter and weighs 2,500 pounds. The obverse shows a traditional American Bison or American Buffalo and the reverse is dedicated to the men and women who serve in the United States Armed Forces.
Hornung purchased the pre-existing company in 1995 and renamed it the Old Time Wooden Nickel Company. He designed and built the large nickel because he loved his shop and knew patrons would be able to see the colossal coin from the road. Hornung passed away in 2008, but the company and museum are still running strong.
Inside the museum, visitors can see original wood nickel printing presses, related tools and antiques, and hundreds of wooden nickels on display. Some date back to 1948, when Elbee Co. first opened its doors and started manufacturing wooden nickels as novelty items.
In addition to proudly displaying the coin, the museum’s current owners produce wooden nickels for schools, churches, businesses, and clubs all over the world. They support American workers by using only domestically grown wood that is milled in the U.S. Visiting is free and if you ask very nicely, you may get a free wooden nickel—that one you can actually put in your pocket.