Andrew Pollock and Howard Berlin forwarded this article from USA TODAY about the growing use of alternate currencies. -Editor A small but growing number of cash-strapped communities are printing their own money. Borrowing from a Depression-era idea, they are aiming to help consumers make ends meet and support struggling local businesses.
The systems generally work like this: Businesses and individuals form a network to print currency. Shoppers buy it at a discount — say, 95 cents for $1 value — and spend the full value at stores that accept the currency.
Workers with dwindling wages are paying for groceries, yoga classes and fuel with Detroit Cheers, Ithaca Hours in New York, Plenty in North Carolina or BerkShares in Massachusetts.
Ed Collom, a University of Southern Maine sociologist who has studied local currencies, says they encourage people to buy locally. Merchants, hurting because customers have cut back on spending, benefit as consumers spend the local cash.
During the Depression, local governments, businesses and individuals issued currency, known as scrip, to keep commerce flowing when bank closings led to a cash shortage.
By law, local money may not resemble federal bills or be promoted as legal tender of the United States, says Claudia Dickens of the Bureau of Engraving and Printing.
"We print the real thing," she says.
Pittsboro, N.C., is reviving the Plenty, a defunct local currency created in 2002. It is being printed in denominations of $1, $5, $20 and $50. A local bank will exchange $9 for $10 worth of Plenty.
"We're a wiped-out small town in America," says Lyle Estill, president of Piedmont Biofuels, which accepts the Plenty. "This will strengthen the local economy. ... The nice thing about the Plenty is that it can't leave here."
To read the complete article, see: Communities print their own currency to keep cash flowing (www.usatoday.com/money/economy/2009-04-05-scrip_N.htm)
I recently had an article in Paper Money Values about the "Berliner," a scrip primarily used in the Kreuzburg section of Berlin (my own money! - ha ha).
Bill Rosenblum forwarded this related story about Berkshares on FoxNews: Communities Print Own Currencies to Keep Money Local (www.foxnews.com/story/0,2933,513877,00.html)
Wayne Homren, Editor
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