Morgan's Brain

Mar. 4, 2009 at 12:10am

A Local Currency for Tacoma

One Hundred Hypothetical Drachmas by Chandler O'Leary

While at the amazing King's Books Wayzgoose event last weekend, I came upon a display of printed items that stood out from the rest. One of the items looked exactly like real currency. This got me thinking about the topic of local currency and if it could work in Tacoma. I would love to see (and use!) BeautifulAngle dollars and C.L.A.W. coins.

Here's some background on money:
The banking system is one of the most centralized institutions of our economy and one of the major obstacles to strengthening regional economies and the communities within them. Yet centralized banking is only a recent development in the United States. The customs of borrowing and lending and money-printing grew up over generations in towns and rural communities to form what we now call our banking systems. These systems were small-scale, regional, and decentralized. Paper money was made standard, or national, in 1863 in order to raise funds for the fight against the Confederate States, but it was not until 1913 that a central system became formalized with the Federal Reserve Act. Centralized banking and control of money called for large banks and wealthy investors who could assemble huge, unprecedented sums of money. These banks in the money centers, with their industrial customers, could pay a higher interest rate to depositors than could the smaller banks, and these smaller, often rural banks began sending their deposits to the large cities. The national currency made money more fluid and allowed rural dollars to support urban industrial growth. Rural creditors were pleased with this arrangement until the first time a New York bank closed and carried off the savings of a small town or until a local farmer couldn't secure a loan because a Chicago bank was borrowing from his bank at a high rate of interest.

A national currency facilitated the industrialization of the United States, which in turn created many jobs; however, the centralization of the monetary system has served to centralize the benefits of the system as well.

Other reading:
Local Currencies Aren't Small Change

Using local currency for liquidity and social capital

Local Currencies:
RiverHours (Oregon):

comments [25]  |  posted under tacoma


by thriceallamerican on 3/4/2009 @ 7:56am
I've mused over this myself a bit, though not in as much detail as you. I think it would be difficult to do in a city such as hours that is part of a much larger megalopolis as compared to a more standalone community. (And "community" is the other half...are we close-knit enough here in Tacoma?) I think it would be fascinating! (Don't take this skepticism as a criticism.)

by fredo on 3/4/2009 @ 8:01am
Like thrice, I'm mulling over your proposal. I doubt if any chain stores or banks would honor the new currency, but perhaps local merchants would participate. Hope we can use the new Tacoma dollars at the liquor store.

by jamesstoweart on 3/4/2009 @ 9:23am
You had me at C.L.A.W. coins.

by intacoma on 3/4/2009 @ 9:29am
Ive thought about this local currency as well, a simple form of this is already going on in the Seattle nightlife community with promoters

coins are used to get into shows for free/trade services

This would be an excellent step for the golocal campaign, possibly start with go local pogs

by NineInchNachos on 3/4/2009 @ 9:41am
way ahead of you

by morgan on 3/4/2009 @ 10:42am
fredo: That is exactly the point - to keep local currency circulating locally.

by L.S.Erhardt on 3/4/2009 @ 3:11pm
It'd be absurdly difficult to assign any kind of actual monetary value. What would the exchange rate be? It'd have to be a Fiat currency unless we used the Arsenic Standard. What about crafty counterfeiters making these things to trade them in for US Dollars? What about when the IRS or whoever gets wind of this and finds a way to tax it?

Let's set it up as a primitive money or advanced Barter system.
The secret to success is bookkeeping. Here's how it works:

We develop a design (perhaps the T-Dome for a 1 credit token and the 2 Narrows for 5 credit, Murray Morgan for 10 credit and DubDub for 20). These designs are standardized and put up via creative commons.
We can either have people get their own made at any local company that can make plastic novelties OR someone can step up and get them made, selling them at cost.

So now we have our medium, and new we need good accounting, unlike the shady stuff the real banks do. Imagine something like this:
Hello Cupcake! wants an ad drawn up. RR Anderson answers the call and tells Hello Cupcake! that his ad is worth 20 TaCredits. They both agree, and they both keep in their records that RR has a DubDub in his pocket. RR completes the ad, and collects his DubDub. At some point, let's say in 3 weeks, RR's long lost estranged 2nd cousin once removed comes back to town. Mr Anderson now goes down to Hello Cupcake! and orders a cake, priced at 2 TaCredits... you get the idea.

The 3 hangups to this are:
1) Setting prices. How much are things worth? Perhaps an arbitrary 1 TaCredit=$10 USD.
2) Getting people to go along... I have an idea for this, see below in the Benefits Section
3) Bookkeeping. Since TaCredits are universal, it's imperative to keep good records of who has credits where. Since they can be made by anyone, they could be easily counterfeited. By keeping good accounting, it can help foster merchant/customer relationships. But it is imperative to keep track!

3 Benefits here:
1) Supports local businesses. After all, why should RR buy a cake from Fred Meyer and spend $20 of his hard earned, over-taxed dollars when he could instead buy a cake with half of the work it took to draw an ad?
2) Under the table. Since it's a barter system and the TaCredits actually have no monetary value, they can't be taxed. So in an era of rising taxes and fees, this gives people and small businesses the chance to do business and earn without paying taxes. $21.76 for a $20 cake? Uh no, TC2 for a $20 cake, it's not "real" money, so Hello Cupcake! doesn't need to file it as income. Hey there, RR... ready to pay Uncle Sam 30%, plus (since you are technically self employed) 13% Social security tax and 3% Medicare on your $200 ad? That is $86 of your money right there just for Uncle Sam, not including WA and local taxes. Sound reasonable? Uh no. Receive TC20 for your work. Small businesses and entrepreneurs are raped by taxes in this state, it's about time the little guy had a chance to get ahead for once. Remember, trading and bartering is 100% legal in our state and nation.
3) It fosters local small businesses and encourages people to trade even if they have no money due to stock market crashes or unemployment. If RR loses his job, he can still get cupcakes. If RR loses his job, Hello Cupcake still gets their ad, and a customer. It doesn't count against your unemployment, etc.

If done half-assedly, this could be a mess.
If done right, this could be awesome beyond anything ever devised in Morgan's Brain.

by JesseHillFan on 3/4/2009 @ 7:54pm
I think that we should use currency with famous local figures on them for various denominations like our world famous Robert Jesse Hill.

by fredo on 3/4/2009 @ 8:25pm
RR here's your next Tacomic subject- the new Tacoma currency with profiles of notable local figures.

by AngelaJossy on 3/4/2009 @ 8:47pm
Um, you had me at Hello Cupcake. Will work for 100 TaCredits.

by NineInchNachos on 3/4/2009 @ 9:10pm
I like it! Maybe we can use local currency to pay for fixing the all the shitty tacoma schools?

by NineInchNachos on 3/4/2009 @ 9:10pm
2¢ = Thorax O'Tool penny
5¢ = Wooden Tacoma Urbanist Buffalo Nickel
10¢ = Can you Spare a Angela Jossy Dime?
$2 = General Robert Jessie Hill Federal Reserve Note
$3 = Lonely University Place Guy
$100,000,000 = Million Dollar Neko Case Baby

by NineInchNachos on 3/4/2009 @ 9:28pm
anybody see the latest traveller status update?

by AngelaJossy on 3/4/2009 @ 9:51pm
@NiN - I read your comments on the TNT blog. You keep talking like that and people are gonna start thinking you're crazy too. You could get locked up with your anti-hero and then what would we do for our Tacoma-centric cartoon fix?

by NineInchNachos on 3/4/2009 @ 11:13pm
outrageous speech isn't a crime. yet.

by AngelaJossy on 3/4/2009 @ 11:22pm
Haven't you ever heard of involuntary commitment? Its not illegal to be crazy but if someones delusions become inconvenient enough they can hold ya. Isn't that how they got the Travellor the first time?

by JesseHillFan on 3/4/2009 @ 11:22pm
What Robert Jesse Hill should do is give up on the replica guns and get a LASER instead.With the right LASER and lasing tactics he could become a conqueror.
Guns will just get you in trouble.Lasers will make you rule if you really know what your doing.We can control the vertical and we can control the horizontal.

by NineInchNachos on 3/4/2009 @ 11:31pm
I fear Mr. Hill's libertarian zealotry prevents him from abandoning 'replica gun ownership' but I see your LASER point. I would argue that real men need neither guns or LASERS, but instead need only their bare hands... perhaps the occasional HEAVY ROCK. Maybe he could build a special SPY BANANA that has a hidden LASER inside. That way he could pass through security checkpoints. You can't go to prison if a security guard mistakenly claims you were pointing a BANANA at her.

by NineInchNachos on 3/4/2009 @ 11:33pm
Hey you Know that trick where you fold a dollar bill into a throwing star? Well that is another possibility for arming yourself with UNIDENTIFIABLE FLYING OBJECTS.

by Evil_Derek on 3/4/2009 @ 11:36pm
stay on topic. what wrong with you?

by JesseHillFan on 3/4/2009 @ 11:46pm
Mr. Hill needs a very small low output Rhodamine 6G Chemical Dye LASER powered with a pulse power supply unit collimated with a 15 inch astronomical telescope using another 15 inch telescope for sighting from extremely long distances (15 to 60 miles away) on a stable geared motorized platform.He could RULE and CONQUER.
Those individuals that used those cheap 532nm wavelength output
frequency doubled diode Nd:YAG LASER pointers at aircraft didn't know what they were doing at all.Not at all.Sad.
The Washington State Patrol used those CCD cameras and thermal imagers to sight where the scattered beam was coming from.A quick (5 cent electrical cost) burst of 10.6 micron wavelength radiation from a pulsed Carbon Dioxide LASER would totally blind and ruin a very expensive thermal imager.

by JesseHillFan on 3/4/2009 @ 11:47pm

by Dave_L on 3/5/2009 @ 12:28am
Gawd, I'm laughing about Dud Dub, Neko, and eDerek..... and University Place hedgehog... Anyway, I pondered this too, but It didn't occur to me at Wayzgoose (there was so much there I still managed to miss). If we had a cohesive local core of merchants and shoppers out on the street maybe it would be viable. Like Liberian postage stamps, there are so many possibilities for the artwork and they'd surely be collected as well. RR has currency-designing in his blood, and there are so many other artisans who's skill and creativity can be tapped.

by morgan on 4/21/2010 @ 12:16am
Image credit by local artist:

Chandler O'Leary
Anagram Press

by swade2569 on 4/21/2010 @ 8:30am
A few years ago, an article ran about a community in Japan which did this (a quick Google search didn't turn up the article I'm afraid). You basically traded notes which indicated an amount of work by a specific person.

I, as a computer technician, might not have skills which would benefit a licensed massage therapist, but they might accept my note so they can trade it for some work on their car, or maybe the grocer would take it because he needs his home computer purged of viruses.