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I heard "Nickel tour" is to show you around. From usingenglish.com we can read:

If someone gives you a nickel tour, they show you around a place. ('Fifty-cent tour' is also used.)

I also read it can also mean a cheap visit. Does anyone have more information about that term and where it comes from?

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The nickel tour is a superficial walk through or examination of a place or thing.

enter image description here

When taking a nickel tour, do not expect to be much enlightened. You will usually be allowed to see what you are allowed to see, no more. Don't blink.
The name comes from the price for tours in the past. The tours might have been more comprehensive at one time, but nickel tour now generally means a very basic tour, quickly made.
Today the tour generally comes at no cost, and would be well worth the price.

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    I suppose that has to count as supporting evidence. – Edwin Ashworth Jun 6 '18 at 9:41
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    Where the picture come from? Any date our source? – Magellan Jun 6 '18 at 11:17
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    Where/when is/was this common? I've never heard of this in the US. – Azor Ahai -- he him Jun 6 '18 at 14:45
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    @AzorAhai I'm from the Midwest, and also consider the phrase unremarkable, if a little old-fashioned. It's almost always used when someone is "hosting" someone in a new place: it's most common to hear "let me give you the nickel tour" or similar the first time you visit someone's home, but you will also sometimes hear it the first time you visit a business (on your first day of work or when visiting a friend at their office, for example). – 1006a Jun 6 '18 at 15:47
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    @AzorAhai As someone who bounced around the U.S. for the last 40 years, I've heard it in a variety of states (and regions)... but I wouldn't say it was all that common. More common with those born in the '50s than those born in the '90s, in my limited experience (with no supporting evidence). – Ghotir Jun 6 '18 at 15:47
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The New Partridge Dictionary of Slang and Unconventional English (edited by Tom Dalzell, Terry Victor, 2015) defines it thus with a 1985 quotation:

nickel tour, noun: a quick, cursory tour

I found an earlier example in The Evening World's Daily Magazine (August 02, 1918, New York, N.Y.):

Newspaper header

Bo, if you want to get your bifocals full of scenery, just inhale a nickel tour on the old Genial Strapborough.

Bo, if you want to get your bifocals full of scenery, just inhale a nickel tour on the old Genial Strapborough.

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Nickel tour: (USA) If someone gives you a nickel tour, they show you around a place. ('Fifty-cent tour' is also used.)

As suggested also in the following extract it refers to an informal, cheap tour usually at a low price, from which “nickel” as a metaphor of the cheap metal low value coins are often made of.

The ‘nickel tour’ is the quick tour given by a person who has expert knowledge of what is being shown. The use of the word ‘nickel’ by the person giving the tour implies that it is being given by an amateur (e.g. the owner of a house, a business, . . .) and that it is not a real organized, planned, or professional-type of tour, but kind of improvised at the moment for the benefit of this visitor (not to say that other visitors might not received a similar “nickel tour’).

And the lowly ‘nickel’ is just used tongue-in-check to emphasize the fact that the tour is kind of ad hoc and casual and that it isn’t really worth the price of (and thus shouldn’t be equated to) a ‘real’ tour.

(Wordwizzard)

According to Google Books the expression appears to be from the mid-60s.

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  • And a "fifty cent tour" is pretty fancy. – Hot Licks Jun 6 '18 at 11:39
  • “nickel” as a metaphor of the cheap metal low value coins are often made of - at least in the USA, "nickel" is the common name of a specific denomination of coin (worth $0.05). The name ultimately derives from the metal, but use in a monetary context isn't a general metaphor to the cheap metal, but a reference to a specific coin denomination. – R.M. Jun 6 '18 at 12:15

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