If you’re anything like me, and as a rule I assume everyone is like me, you love money. You love the way it can be used to acquire goods and services. You love the feeling of security you get from having huge piles of it. You love the way it feels against your skin, and of course, the way it tastes. Money is great.
But still, it’s possible to love something while still thinking that there’s room for improvement. For instance, I always thought a big failing in the £10 note was that it didn’t have my face on it, and maybe some pictures of dragons and unicorns. I just think it would look cool.
“Yeah, that sounds awesome,” I hear you saying. Yes, I can hear you when you talk at your laptop. “But there’s no way it’s ever going to happen is there? It’s not like you can just make up your own currency.”
Well, it seems like you just fell into my perfectly prepared rhetorical trap, because YES YOU CAN.
In fact not only can you do this, but people do. Often this isn’t because someone wants to realise my dream of finally printing “Robot Dollars” (instead of numerical figures, the value of the note is decided by the size of the robot picture printed on it) but because it’s actually a pretty effective way of keeping money circulating within local communities.
It’s tough to get started, mainly because people are often reluctant when you hand them a piece of paper with dinosaur pictures on it and expect them to take it as legal tender. It’s also becoming tougher as modern businesses tend to use cash less than they once did. But there are still communities all over the world that have managed to make their brand new currencies work.
In Ithaca, Time Is Money
In 1991 the average hourly wage in Ithaca, New York was $10. So when the community decided to launch its own local currency to help boost local trade, they decided that instead of “Ithaca Dollars” or “Awesome Coins” as I would have called them, they called their new currency “Ithaca Hours” to reflect the fact that money represent’s someone’s labour. Of course, it also emphasises how much you’re being ripped off if you’re earning less than an Hour an hour.
In Ithaca there currently about 600 members using the Hour currency, with about US$100,000, or just under eleven and a half years in circulation.
Brixton Pounds Stay In Brixton
The Brixton Pound sounds like something that gangsters would give to someone who owed them too many regular Pounds. However, it’s actually an alternative currency that’s intended to provide a boost to local businesses, encouraging trade.
They also made this rather nifty little animated video to explain it all.
The Brixton Pound is the first local currency in the UK to be used in an urban area, but follows in the footsteps of the Totnes Pound, Lewes Pound and Stroud Pounds.
Toronto Makes Money For The Community By Making Money For The Community
Toronto set up their own dollar in 1998. It’s worth… well pretty much the same as a Canadian Dollar. They’re also printed by the press that prints Canadian Dollars, and includes the same sort of security measures to prevent counterfeiting. The Toronto Dollar is accepted at over 150 businesses, with the goal of increasing the strength of the local economy and keeping the money circulating in the city.
The real twist though, is that when you exchange Canadian Dollars for Toronto Dollars, ten percent of the value of those dollars is donated to special fund that provides grants to local projects.
Chris Farnell is a freelance writer who writes about print jobs, business and social media. If he gets to design his own currency it will probably be made out of chocolate.
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