Reproduced by permission of the artist.

To understand if Ithaca's success is a fluke or if the concept works in other locations, I sought to interview persons who had begun or were running programs modelled after Ithaca. Glover has produced a how-to book on Ithaca's story, and distributed it to interested parties globally. But would that how-to book lead others through a twelve-step program for success, or would it raise their hopes before they discovered by much effort that a local currency was not feasible in their community? Through a series of flowing conversations and a standard survey, I hoped to learn some of the details about their programs, both quantifiable data and qualitative observations.

I attempted to contact every single Ithaca HOURs-style local currency program in the United States. Unfortunately, no organisation is actively maintaining a phone book or address list for these groups. I compiled a list by combining three online local currency directories,1 and added other currencies as I found references to them across web pages, through personal referrals, and Internet-based discussion groups. Each directory had its share of errors with contact information and program status as much as three years out of date.2 Acknowledging that they does not possess the resources to continually seek updating information, they say they rely instead upon currency programs to provide updates of their own information. Even these updates are not always entered. Donald Hof of the Cascadia Hours Exchange has tried numerous e-mails and phone calls to have his first name changed from Don to Donald in each directory; none has made that change.3

A question of bias could be raised in that only those programs which were known to the sources searched have been contacted; others might be flourishing in isolation and be missed by this survey. This possibility is unavoidable, uncorrectable, unlikely, and irrelevant since this project was not intended to statistically define the depth and breadth of the local currency movement in terms of number of members, quantity of trades, or effect on the economy. No master list of the population of HOURs programs exists against which to compare the traits of the programs which were successfully contacted and extrapolate the total value or power of the movement. Rather, an understanding of the effectiveness of these programs and common factors that serve to help or hinder the creation of a local currency were the goals of this study. The inclusion of numerous defunct currency systems in the listing, and my decision to learn of their struggles in addition to the successes of other programs, serve to eliminate the bias that would come from solely examining successful programs. The lists from which the data was compiled included not only then-active programs but persons who had been considering starting programs, so that those who were considering starting currency programs but decided against it could have their thoughts and reasons considered as well.

Table 1. Currency Co-ordinator Survey Response Levels.

    Percentage of Listings Percentage of Contacted Percentage of Sent
Listings 105 100    
Failed to contact 60 57    
Contacted 45 43 100  
Defunct or dormant 12 11 27*  
In operation 21 20 47*  
In planning 3 3 7*  
Never started 9 9 20*  
Surveys sent 40 38 89 100
Surveys received 22 21 49 55
Surveys not received 18 17 40 45

* Totals do not add up to 100% due to rounding.

Out of 105 listings for potential local currency programs across the United States, I managed to successfully contact 45. The remaining 60 either did not have current and working phone numbers or did not return calls. Though I was able to contact 45 persons to determine the status of their representative programs, in five of these cases I was unable to send a survey to learn more details because the individual whom I contacted knew the status of the project but was not the primary person responsible for the program, and could not get me in touch with them. Four of these never started and one had ended. Table 1 summarises the status of the phone calls made and the surveys sent out.


Motivation for Local Currencies

Reasons for starting local currencies varied from person to person according to their interest. Sometimes the motivations for those starting the currency differed from the reasons for potential members to join that were listed in their publicity. To see all the different viewpoints presented, one would think that local currency was a cure-all. Though the benefits listed to potential members are generally cut from the same cloth as the nine benefits Ithaca HOURs lists, they differ from why co-ordinators started.

Gary Pace saw it as a launching point for other activist movements. "It seemed like a good concrete organising tool around local empowerment and creating alternative structures and disengaging from the corporate system that exists right now."4 A community organiser and sustainability activist by nature, Pace helped start Mendocino's SEED program before moving to an intentional community. A friend of Pace who had already disengaged from the corporate system in some ways, Dale Glaser's home is entirely powered by renewable energy. He saw local currency as a way of confronting cynicism.

Here's an example of where it's easy to say, "Oh, this won't work," or "This is going to be too hard" . . . And that's true for anything. The question is, "Are we big enough to do something that might require a little bit of effort but has this vast reward?"5

Glaser worked on Ukiah HOURs with King Collins, who saw cynicism as only one element of a large system that needed to be confronted. "The only reason someone would design a local currency is to transform the social fabric,"6 he commented after dinner when I asked about his involvement. A reader of Wendell Barry, his economic viewpoint tended toward Marxist, quite different in many respects from a third member of the Ukiah HOURs team, Ken McCormick. The owner of a print shop, his Republican and Libertarian leanings caused him to be "concerned about the collapse of the world economy, and he wanted to be involved in HOURs because he saw the working of the economy collapsing," according to the fourth member of the core group, Larry Sheehy, who himself joined because he was convinced that "local currency had the potential of contributing to the positive transformation of the economy . . . moving it back to the local/bioregional from the present disfunctional globalized version."7 Two other organisers of Ukiah HOURs joined to increase community and out of frustration with the federal monetary system.

With this much variety of motivation in one locale, it should not surprise the reader to learn that similar variety showed up in conversations and survey responses from communities nationwide. From economic interests such as increasing earning power, promoting a living wage and equality of income, and guarding against potential global financial meltdown or globalisation to social concerns like education about money's functions and rebuilding neighbourhoods and environmental values including local production, sustainability, and creating an ecologically-sound money, motivations for starting local currency programs ranged across the board. Nonetheless, these three strong themes of economics, society and environment continually resonated throughout the community of co-ordinators.

The largest lesson to draw from the variety of different viewpoints is that the success of local currency is being measured on other levels besides the economic for most of these persons. Barbara Conn of Buffalo Mountain HOURs noted that their currency was circulating quite slowly, but she still considered it a success. She related the thoughts of the currency's founder David Briar, who passed away a few years ago.

He said it didn't concern him if people weren't using it right now. He felt that it was important to have the system in place and that when people need to use them, they will. And when they're backed into a corner, they'll have this to turn to.8

Many persons have joined or promoted local currency as a hedge against potential future uncertainties as yet unseen. Unfortunately, if co-ordinators have few concerns with the current economic viability of these programs, looking solely to the future to vindicate them, their programs may never survive to meet the future. As John Gibson said about the defunct Barter Bucks program in Indianapolis, Indiana, "I'm not saying it was a failure but it was an experiment that didn't last as long as we'd like it to."9

Figure 14. Face, reverse of Two Barter Bucks note from Indianapolis, Indiana, 1994.


Challenges to Local Currencies

Conversations with each person served very informative and revealed several key patterns and elements that affect the viability of local currencies. As I examined the challenges that local currencies faced, I became aware that to call the spread of the Ithaca HOURs program a movement would be deceptive. A movement implies structure and organisation, conjuring up images of strategists and directors overseeing local chapters in a hierarchical structure. Though many voices in unison proclaim Ithaca as their standard and Paul Glover as their standard-bearer, quieter voices speak of problems with the Ithaca HOURs model, either explaining how Ithaca possessed certain advantages in running such a program without which their respective communities are denied the chance at grand success, or advocating changes in the design of the currency program to suit one or more policy visions of theirs.

First and foremost on the lips of many was the need for a full-time co-ordinator. The reputational capital that must be built to help serve as backing for a fiat currency cannot be formed part-time. Steve Gorelick of Green Mountain Hours said, "We're always in need of more volunteer help to get it to the next level. We don't have a Paul Glover among us who's devoted to promoting it full time."10 Glover's total commitment to the success of HOURs greatly decreased information costs both external and internal to the co-ordination of the program. Externally, businesses and individuals that have questions, whether about applying for membership, issuance details, finding trading partners, purchasing advertising, or any other items, have only to keep track of one person to knowledgeably manage and handle their issues. Being the figurehead for some time also gave Glover the advantage that he could achieve greater prominence and visibility throughout the community as the HOURs co-ordinator. Sita Francia told me about one challenge of Mendocino's local currency program: "There's a couple people who are the contacts, and a lot of businesses that I've approached have never been approached because there's no paid staff and there's no particular person who's dedicating themself to be that contact for businesses."11 One individual putting forty hours per week into a project can accomplish much more than four individuals each working ten hours per week because his dedication can greatly reduce the information costs of monitoring the program's success. Not only can he oversee the act of systematically inviting new businesses and individuals to join, but also working to understand the needs of the network of members that form the HOURs economy. Popular businesses often end up being major earners of HOURs, and assisting those businesses to find outlets for their accumulated HOURs is a challenge requiring an extensive knowledge of the goods and services being provided by other HOURs members. A full-time co-ordinator is part networker, part marketer, and part information desk, part community builder, and part as he attempts to pair the needs of members with too many HOURs with the services of those desiring more HOURs. One reporter commented, "It takes a confident, well-versed person to convince people that [using local currency] could benefit them, their friends and their town."12 Even when everyone else is interested in making it work, it takes a strong central leadership to co-ordinate and orchestrate it during the initial stages. Devin Scherubel provided an example of the value of leadership.

About three months after starting [Columbia HOURs], I got hired full time as an activist, sucked up into the forest protection movement. Nobody else had the time to put into it. Other than that, it was really good. Local businesses were interested, the community was really responding, and the press was highly positive.13

Columbia HOURs suffered because of a lack of people power at the helm. Had Scherubel been hired full time to run Columbia HOURs, chances are it would not have become inactive. Finding a talented leader is a difficult task. Perhaps Kathy Witkowsky
summed it all up when she explained why Missoula HOURs never began. "We needed the right combination of someone who was fiscally conservative and had credibility in the community. You have to be known as someone who's not a flake, with longstanding reputation in the community."14 Lacking Glover's track record for activism and commitment may have been one of the reasons many co-ordinators did not succeed in promoting their new ideas. Becaues of his prior efforts in Ithaca, community members and leaders could trust that, regardless of whether Glover's ideas ultimately worked or not, he would be committed to his cause.

Trust is a difficult thing to establish, being built up slowly over time. Stability in both leadership and community were therefore cited as elements that could make or break communities. In Olympia, Washington, Gail Sullivan has seen community instability threaten the local currency's viability. "Many members are college students who don't let us know they've left after graduation. Because of the continuous turnover, it's been difficult to maintain the integrity that people need to feel their currency is backed by."15 Santa Fe HOURs has seen a similar difficulty with a massive transient population. If these currencies are backed by the "talents and labor of you and your neighbor," as one local currency phrases it, as the number of known and trusted acceptors of a currency declines, so will the currency's value. Stability in the program's leadership is factor of similar importance. Noted one of the co-ordinators of REAL Dollars in Lawrence, Kansas, "I think these systems work as long as there's someone willing to devote himself to the system over the long term."16 With active leadership, current and potential members can place greater trust in being able to find outlets for their earnings, without which trust they are unlikely to accept the currency. Unfortunately, as Jennifer Kreger told me, "The average time to burnout is eighteen months."17 She was only one of numerous co-ordinators who highly recommended applying for a grant to fund a part-time or full-time position since volunteer labour has proven unreliable and insufficient for running all the administrative and visionary elements of a local currency.

Many programs are challenged by efforts to involve enough businesses providing non-luxury goods to keep the program in operation in the long run. Timothy Mitchell noted, "Because of the nature of the things you offer, you get this whole community of starving artists trying to support starving artists. If you really want to support the starving artists you need to get the middle class involved."18 Man cannot live by paintings alone, but must pay for produce and other foodstuffs, clothing, entertainment, and home maintenance as well, just to name a few categories. University of California at Santa Barbara student Tony Samara lamented, slightly exaggeratedly, that "We didn't pay enough attention to what skills our list lacked. For every carpenter, plumber, etc. we had 50 masseuses, tarot card readers, and holistic healers."19 This makes it quite difficult to meaningfully incorporate local currency into one's daily life. The decision of community anchors such as the local food co-operative, the pharmacy, and the coffee shops to accept or not accept local currency has much power to affect the scope and longevity of local currency projects.

Surveying Co-ordinators

In addition to telephone interviews, I composed a standard survey which I sent to gather information on a number of issues that I thought should be addressed by all co-ordinators on the basic design elements of their HOURs program, some common places for variation within the program, and the specific difficulties they encountered with the program.20 The Ithaca HOURs website has stories of success galore, and often when discussing a pet project, one can become quite protective of it, desiring to represent it in the best possible light as an act of self-affirmation. These questions were intended to guide respondents into a full reflection on the project in order that a proper overall picture could be presented, and some chose to add comments outside the questions presented when returning their surveys.

Though the most proper survey methodology would require that all the surveys be sent at one time and in the same format, I did not do this for a number of reasons, but instead sent them out over a period of weeks and sent some via postal mail and others as electronic mail. The outdatedness of the list from which contact was attempted would have made any usage of the response rate as a measure of the representative nature of the data null and void. A survey with a low response rate would potentially be criticised on the grounds that a non-representative sample replied, introducing questions of selection bias which could not be answered definitively absent further data about the individuals which responded and those which did not.

I insisted upon establishing telephone contact with an individual prior to sending out a survey to avoid having my response rate unnecessarily diluted by mailing to expired addresses. Further, with such a small survey population, a higher response rate becomes more necessary if one is to ensure the sample's representative nature. Telephone contact prior to the arrival of the survey helped recipients understand the value of the survey and let them know that their contribution was important. It further provided opportunities for conversations up to an hour in length, which served to flesh out the variations and common themes present in the programs surveyed. In one sense, these conversations were more valuable, if less standardised, than the actual surveys mailed out.

The primary reason to send out all surveys simultaneously would be to avoid a bias in some of the responses due to timing. A researcher studying views of the American Internal Revenue Service would not want to have sent out half her surveys in February and the remaining half in mid-April just after tax returns have been filed. The major events which would have transpired in between her two mailings would have likely changed respondents' opinions radically. By a simultaneous mailing, "the potential influence of events outside or unrelated to the study ... can be assumed to be equal for all recipients of the questionnaire."21 In this survey of program co-ordinators, there are few events that would tend to skew responses across time, barring a massive global economic downturn that destabilised the dollar. As the Y2K bug had come and gone relatively without incident, it was decided that simultaneity was not a critical factor in the mailing. Whether the survey was a timely follow-up to telephone conversations seemed the much more pressing concern, so surveys were sent out electronically or by postal mail within three days of establishing telephone contact. This took place over a three-month period of time, from late September 2000 to early December 2000.

Table 2. Summary Statistics of HOURs-style Programs Surveyed.

  Mean Median Mode Range
Value per unit † 10.7 10 10 (n=16) [10, 20]
Months Circulating † 30.6 31 24 (n=3) [0, 60]
Months Planning † 13.3 12 12 (n=6) [3, 36]
Units in Circulation ƒ 920 540 0 (n=5) [0, 4000]
Units per New Member ƒ 3.4 3.75 4 (n=7) [1, 5]
Units per Renewal § 0.75 0 0 (n=10) [0, 2]
Member Base ‡ 178.6 120 0 [0, 1030]
Individuals ƒ 161.5 100 0 [0, 800]
Businesses ƒ 35.5 15 10 [0, 230]
  Yes Yes No No
Fixed Exchange with US$ ‡ 11 58% 8 42%
Exchangeable for US$ ‡ 2 11% 17 89%
Networking with Other Programs ‡ 7 37% 12 63%
  † n = 20 ‡ n = 19 ƒ n = 18 § n=16


Out of twenty-nine surveys sent by postal mail, fifteen responses were received, and seven of eleven surveys sent electronically were returned. Two mail respondents had not actually involved themselves with HOURs-based exchange programs, but responded nonetheless with their observations about alternative exchange systems and their involvement in some of them apart from the HOURs model. Having incorporated discussion of some of the qualitative responses on the survey into the previous section, this current section will focus on some of the quantitative elements of the surveys, elements which were not asked during telephone conversations.

In four questions, I specifically excluded Philadelphia's Equal Dollars from the statistics reported.22 Equal Dollars have a face value of one dollar each, and $81,000 of them have been distributed into the community, 50 Equal Dollars to an individual joining and 150 Equal Dollars to those businesses joining. Inclusion of Equal Dollars in these statistics would have created a massive outlier which would serve to dramatically alter some of the reported mean values, having twenty times as many units of currency in circulation as the next highest respondent. The face value of Equal Dollars does not greatly alter any other questions, so Philadelphia's data has been included in those instances. It does raise the membership data means but not so substantially as to be dangerous.

One section of the survey not listed in Table 2 is the membership fee structure. This has been perhaps the area of greatest consistent disagreement between programs, in part because two competing elements have been seen to govern the fee structure. The first is the desire of many of these programs not to be seen as in competition with federal currency. They do not wish to sell their currency at face value out of a belief that this would be perceived as making their currency just a substitute for federal currency in traditional economies, rather than being a portal to a new type of trading community.
Larry Sheehy commented, "The purpose is to get the program going and to entice people to take part in it. Most all of the programs have some twenty to forty dollars as a 'priming the pot'."23 Getting people excited about local currency was one reason money was handed out freely. Sarah Sieverson was one of few co-ordinators to express concern about the process, saying, "I felt it should be dollar-for-dollar in the beginning. It seems to devalue the currency to start without full backing one-to-one."24 The second element affecting membership fees is the need to pay expenses of publication, advertising, and other administrative costs. As Susan Hofberg of Mendocino SEED shared, "It's very expensive to print up the currency and the newsletter. . . . Just to do that is really all that we've got money to do, because the money comes from people's memberships and once you have that, that's it!"25 Expenses such as these cannot be met by local currency alone; the widely-circulated story that Glover convinced David St. George of Fine Line Printing to accept HOURs as payment for printing up his new local currency is incomplete, as he only took 10% in HOURs.26 Thus, initial membership fees ranged from free to $10 per person, with three-quarters of programs charging at least $5 to join. Renewals were tricky as well; some co-ordinators considered that membership was for life, while others felt that renewal fees were appropriate. Renewal fees were accordingly split in three almost-equal groups between those making renewal free, those charging $5, and those charging $10.

Ithaca Money gives out HOURs upon renewal as a way of ensuring its membership directory is kept up-to-date. This helps keep the perceived value of the currency higher because users do not have to thumb through a seriously-outdated directory. Since this renewal is an agreement to back the currency with one's own services, Ithaca Money is receiving a service from its members, and seeks to compensate them accordingly. Seven programs do likewise and ten do not add more money into circulation at that time; three did not respond to that question.

It was surprising to note that 42% of co-ordinators did not consider their currencies to have fixed exchange rates with federal currency. For legal and taxation purposes, and for explaining them to potential members, every currency I have come across has equated their unit of measurement to some quantity of federal dollars. This cannot be explained by declaring that they misunderstood the question, since the question immediately prior asked if they would redeem their currency for federal currency upon request. One possibility I refer to as the "floating anchor" scenario. Though currently pegged as equivalent to a certain dollar value, in the event of the dollar's massive devaluation, they plan to repeg their local currency's value at a different level, perhaps moving from $10 to $12 or even $20 per HOUR, so as to prevent devaluing their currency in terms of the goods and services produced and purchased locally. It is a fascinating vision, though one which seems like it might have difficulties in implementation. Determining the new level, communicating this change in valuation, and assuring the members that their currency was not going to subject to massive fluctuations and uncertainty would take a lot of work. If co-ordinators are prepared to or even planning on doing this at some time in the future, it may explain why they did not declare their currencies as possessing fixed exchange rates.

Several of the programs I came in touch with had significant deviations from the Ithaca model, and two of these were explicitly different enough that their ideas merited discussion apart from the general discussion of other programs.


Having dealt previously with the likelihood of Ithaca's program raising the minimum wage by attempting to psycholinguistically equate an hour of time with an HOUR of currency, I was intrigued when I encountered SonomaTime's program, which requires hour for HOUR exchanges, to "neutralize the fear, anger, and isolation often found in association with competition for dollars and the drive for profits"27 as well as to ensure higher and more equal income for all involved. From the perspective of current taxation structures, it seems ridiculous to desire to raise every individual's wages within a community. Suppose every member were previously earning $10 per hour and now agrees to exchange one HOUR for an hour's labour. In the SonomaTime program where this forced exchange level is being promoted by the program's leaders as a way of respecting every individual equally, this idea's implementation will have dangerous consequences. Due to the cost of living in California's wine country, a Sonoma HOUR is pegged at US$20, which effectively doubles everyone's income. This forces each member of the community to contribute to the Internal Revenue Service and the California Franchise Tax Board more than twice what they previously had to pay because of the nature of progressive taxation and standardised deductions, which have been responsible for other perversions such as the marriage tax penalty debate. Not only will individuals owe in excess of twice their previous tax liabilities, but the state and federal governments have yet to accept Sonoma HOURs in discharge of these debts. The result of a successful program to radically boost the minimum wage through a local currency would be the speedy draining of federal currency from the community, forcing it either to become vastly more self-sufficient or to accept lower wages. Raising the minimum wage does therefore not enhance the community's well-being. Ironically, if every individual agreed to value their HOURs at rates such that their hourly earnings were below the wage rates in other communities, their tax burdens as a percentage of their nominal income would lessen greatly. Only through that act of humility and overcoming of greed however will they escape their perceived shackles.

The penalty of progressive taxation structures to penalise increased wages aside, one cannot forcibly equate an hour of one man's time with an hour of another's when the two are not providing the same service. Numerous communities have maintained babysitting co-ops for years where mothers pay other mothers for babysitting services solely in hours of time redeemable for babysitting services, but the service rendered from providing an hour of peace and quiet to run errands or just relax without children underfoot may be presumed approximately equal across all mothers of children of babysitting age. Even these co-ops do not propose to value an hour of childcare equally for all mothers, assessing a higher fee in hours for multiple children than a single one.

In a broader economy, some may freely choose to trade at a fixed exchange rate of one hour of time for one HOUR of local currency, but it is a very special type of individual who does this. Either each individual believes himself to be obtaining the superior deal, getting more or certainly no less from another than he gives, or he is not concerned with obtaining the full market value of his currency. The former will not believe he must put forth his best effort lest he trade with someone else who did not put forth her best effort and lose from the exchange, and should be considered a shirker or a thief, while the latter will be interested not in a price economy but a gift economy, assigning value to something merely because it was done by someone else for him and not solely in proportion to the usefulness of the service, much like a grandfather paying his eight-year-old grandson to weed the vegetable patch. Whether this person has any value ultimately for a currency rather than relying solely on barter or communal giving remains to be seen. Thus the two types of persons who would most readily assent to this system of exchange are not interested in properly ensuring that the currency is traded for something of value. The thief wishes not to give full value, and the grandfather asks not for full value. Without assurances that value is being maintained and transfered, the system will break down.

Is it possible that instead members possess a community value function, declaring that it is okay if they receive less because there will be a transfer of value to the community, much as philanthropists and funders of public works projects derive value from knowing that others benefit from their munificence? One person and one person only benefits from this in the long run, and that is the man who provides services and receives a higher price than he expected.28 The purchaser of services who agrees to hour for HOUR exchange will see price inflation until the standard rate for services is the level he has continually generously paid, negating the generosity of his giving unless he is willing to require even less for his payment. As a mere transfer of wealth and not a creation of any, it benefits the community none, and to the extent that price inflation affects others, it will be a negative impact.

Inflation, as Friedrich Hayek notes, is not a simultaneous effect across the board; people do not go to sleep one day and wake up the next morning with prices two percent higher. Rather, one individual figures out that there is more money in the system and starts paying and charging higher prices, and others follow suit as this information trickles through the system. It is not the change in the general price level which is the most disruptive, but the change in relative prices between goods that distorts the system of prices into poor and mis-allocated production. Hayek further notes that inflation cannot come from an individual charging higher prices unless someone else produces more money to permit everyone to purchase everything they previously were consuming. Otherwise, they will merely reallocate their money and cut back on other expenses to meet the increased cost in this one area, with the one downside being potentially increased unemployment in these other areas.29 Since local currencies are often created with one of their goals being to increase employment, it is likely that SonomaTime would willingly fund this inflation under the hopes that putting more money into circulation would increase employment. These inflationary predictions and extrapolations of course are predicated upon the successful takeover of a significant portion of the market by SonomaTime, though it seems ironic to rejoice that SonomaTime will not cause massive inflation if the reason for that is from lack of market presence.

REAL Dollars

One local currency program with great promise is Lawrence, Kansas's REAL Dollars. Begun in mid-2000, they have not been around long enough to know by community usage patterns its likelihood of success, but its design is very appealing. Dennis "Boog" Highberger, one of the organisers, informed me, "We're actually selling the REAL Dollars dollar for dollar, putting U.S. dollars in a credit union, using interest to fund the program."30 Within months of their kick-off, they had $5,000 worth of REAL Dollars in circulation, demonstrating at least the initial interest of the community; . Full redemption and conversion without charge is promised by its co-ordinators. This should increase confidence in the money in that individuals should be quite likely to accept it and believe that it will hold its value; the down side from the organisers' perspective may be that there is no incentive built into the system to encourage REAL Dollar recipients to put in the effort of helping the program succeed by using it in trade, since they can merely exchange it for a federal dollar and be on their way.

The program's existence is due in part to the Internet; Highberger and others were working on a similar program several years ago which failed to materialise. His contact information, however, was not removed from online local currency directories, and when interested locals found his name on these websites, they contacted him and REAL Dollars began.

Highberger said operating expenses should be funded by the interest received on the money deposited, wisely commenting, "We're waiting to get things stabilised before starting the loan program part of our currency."31 If the administrators can successfully resist all urges to touch the principal, even temporarily, until enough confidence is established in the redeemability of the money, then they may be able to begin performing a variety of services with the money on deposit, currently estimated at greater than $50,000 to back the REAL Dollars in circulation. The success of REAL Dollars, like that of many other currencies, is still indeterminate. According to Sieverson, it takes five years for a program to establish itself and gain enough momentum to be relatively self-sustaining. Until that point, there are a number of issues which must be considered carefully by local currencies, some of which are discussed in the next chapter.


Contents Previous Chapter Next Chapter


1 Links to other Local Currencies, n.d., available [Online]: <> [24 September 2000]; E.F. Schumacher Society, n.d. Available [Online]: <> [17 September 2000]; Ithaca HOURs: Other HOUR Cities, 15 August 2000. Available [Online]: <> [17 September 2000].

2 The most detailed and up-to-date listing from the Ithaca HOURs website had Mendocino's SEED program listed as still in the planning process as late as April 2001, the time of this writing, though SEED began operations in February 1999.

3 Donald Hof, interview by author, 26 September 2000 [phone]. (Transcript).

4 Gary Pace, interview by author, 15 July 2000, Boonville, Calif. (Tape recording).

5 Dale Glaser, interview by author, 15 July 2000, Boonville, Calif. (Tape recording).

6 King Collins, interview by author, 13 July 2000, Ukiah, Calif. (Transcript).

7 Larry Sheehy, Who Are the People Behind Ukiah HOURs, 22 August 1999. Available [Online]: <> [28 August 2000].

8 Barbara Conn, interview by author, 5 December 2000 [phone]. (Transcript).

9 John Gibson, interview by author, 23 October 2000 [phone]. (Transcript).

10 Steve Gorelick, interview by author, 5 December 2000 [phone]. (Transcript).

11 Sita Francia, interview by author, 16 July 2000, Boonville, Calif. (Tape recording).

12 Lisa Sorg, "Time Has Come Today: The BloomingHOURS Project," Bloomington (Ind.) Independent, 16 September 1999, 6.

13 Devin Scherubel, interview by author, 16 October 2000 [phone]. (Transcript).

14 Kathy Witkowsky, interview by author, 17 October 2000 [phone]. (Transcript).

15 Gail Sullivan, interview by author, 2 October 2000 [phone]. (Transcript).

16 Boog Highberger, interview by author, 16 October 2000 [phone]. (Transcript).

17 Jennifer Kreger, interview by author, 17 July 2000, Mendocino, Calif. (Transcript).

18 Timothy Mitchell, interview by author, 16 November 2000 [phone]. (Transcript).

19 Tony Samara, 24 November 2000, Re: Local Currency Survey [Email to Andrew Lowd].

20 A copy of that survey can be found in Appendix Three [pdf].

21 Linda B. Bourque and Eve P. Fielder, How to Conduct Self-Administered and Mail Surveys (London: Sage Publications, 1995), 12.

22 These were Value per Unit, Units Circulating, Units per New Member, and Units per Renewal.

23 Larry Sheehy, interview by author, 13 July 2000, Ukiah, Calif. (Tape recording).

24 Sarah Sieverson, interview by author, 26 October 2000 [phone]. (Transcript).

25 Susan Hofberg. Interview by author, 15 July 2000, Boonville, Calif. Tape recording.

26 Paul Glover, "A History of Ithaca HOURs," Ithaca HOURs, January 2000. Available [Online]: <> [21 September 2000].

27 SonomaTime -- Sonoma County Community Cash, n.d. Available [Online]: <> [19 April 2001].

28 For this example, it is postulated that no positive externalities are introduced by paying an unexpectedly-high wage; rather, the price mechanism becomes distorted.

29 Friedrich A. Hayek, Denationalisation of Money: An Analysis of the Theory and Practice of Concurrent Currencies (London: Institute of Economic Affairs, 1976), 66, 75.

30 Highberger.

31 Ibid.