Designing A Community Currency Note

By Stephen DeMeulenaere, 2000

The appropriate design of a Community Currency note is essential to ensuring the legality of the system, a clear understanding of the goals of the system by those who will receive and use the currency, and an appreciation of the cultural and identity issues involved. The bottom of this article contains an example of the Bia Kud Chum note, which can be resized to see the note in detail (I made it smaller to fit the page).

1. Value of the Coupon

Coupons can be valued in different ways, either at par value with the national currency, in terms of time, related to some method of backing the currency. This is not an issue of note design, it is an issue of system design.

The value of the coupon must be identified in the language used by the community, and in the language used by the country.

As many people know the value of a currency by its color, different valuations of the note should be represented visually, by using a different color.

2. Name of the Coupon

The name of the coupon should be chosen by the community, reflecting community identity, culture and linkage to previous forms of money or forms of social reciprocation.

3. Graphic Representation of the Community

Graphics should be chosen by the community which reflect the identify and livelihoods of its citizens. Graphics should consider issues of: cultural life, community life, economic life, seasonal activities, natural resources, local vegetation, geographic features, and favorite activities of the people, and objects or examples of community pride.

4. Resemblance to National Currency

So as not to be confused with national currency, the note must be of a different, size, color, design and text than the corresponding national currency.

5. Text and Authorization

To ensure legality, a statement limiting the circulation of the currency to the local level must be stated on the note. For example, in Thailand, the note contains the following statement, "Bia can only be used to exchange goods and services in the Kud Chum community".

The text must also state that signatories to the note are not responsible for redemption or any other rules as stipulated in the system's articles, for example "Use of the Note implies agreement with the internal regulations of the CCS Program."

Because the note is owned by the person who withdraws it and agrees to accept it as a medium of exchange, the following text is also needed "the bearer of this note is the owner of this note, as representative of their participation in this CC system".

The text must be authorized by those who are responsible for the system through which it is issued, and any disclaimers must be printed on the note. In Thailand, the note carries the signature of the Bia System Manager, and the Abbot of the Buddhist Temple.

The general definition of "Legal Tender" is that "legal tender must be accepted in any quantity for the repayment of all debts, public or private." Thus it should also be stated that the note may not be used for the repayment of national currency debts.

6. Protection Features

As community currencies are limited by geographic or social area, and are often spent in conjunction with the national currency, there is little interest in counterfeiting them, and to date there is no example in the world of counterfeiting among mutual credit (systems where the currency is issued as loans) has been found. That said, a number of measure can and should be taken.

A. Termination Date

A fixed or variable termination date for the note can be set, one or two years from the date of issue, or set to expire all notes on a particular date Expired notes can be given as souvenirs, samples, or used as decoration, ceremony, etc.

B. Serial Number

The notes can be serialized and recorded for transparent account-keeping.

C. Paper Type

Special paper can be purchased or produced locally, which can make it very difficult to match, and very easy to spot forgeries.

D. Offset Print

Unusual printing methods can be used that make it difficult to photocopy, scan or mechanically reproduce the note, except through the exact printing procedure used.

E. Stamps and special marks

The note can be press-stamped or marked with special inks, readable with common readers such as blacklight ink.

Bia Note, Back

Bia Note, Front