All modern local currencies trace back to Ithaca Hours, the oldest, largest and most successful system of scrip in the U.S. Established in 1991 in Cornell University’s hometown, it was the spawn of a quintessential “granola community.” Alas, as is the way of many socially conscious movements, a schism occurred and founder Paul Glover’s ithacahours.com now vies with ithacahours.org for legitimacy.
The system itself—an apparently genuine alternative economy—seems to be working just fine 17 years later with several million dollars worth of scrip traded among hundreds of individuals and businesses. The website’s active and Christie McKeithen, recent Cornell alum and Ithaca resident, tells me she often sees scrip used at the local food co-op. A federal credit union accepts it for mortgage fee payments and some people take it as part of their wages.
It certainly inspired some people in Scottsville. “I had wanted to be part of a barter network since I first heard about Ithaca Hours. The idea of alternative and local currencies sounded fascinating to me,” writes Michelle Maggiore. “The idea is the faith in what that particular piece of paper means….Here we have bateau on cardstock….When I buy things in Charlottesville, I use watermarked paper with former presidents [i.e., U.S. currency]. There’s not a huge difference, when you get elemental about it!”