The euro, franc, pound, yen and dollar may receive most of the attention when it comes to foreign exchange, but scattered across the globe, most commonly in small to mid-sized towns, are regional currencies which hold just as much – if not more – value as the world’s premier forex paper to those who trade in them.
Proponents say regional currencies keep the money circulating where it is needed most: locally. They cite the advantage to area trade, the environmentally friendly aspect of regional money – you don’t use as much gas to shop at a store down the road – and the amelioration to the quality of life a community currency can bring. There are hundreds of regional currencies spread out in communities around the world.
Sopron, a quaint western Hungarian town, is known, among other things, for the number of visitors from neighbouring Austria who cross the border for less expensive dentistry and for its local vintage, Kekfrankos (or Blue Frankish) a robust red wine. The currency was started by a group of area winemakers in an effort to prop up local trade.
Now the kekfrank, which trades on par with the Hungarian national currency, the forint, is accepted in over 400 area businesses, ranging from pizzerias and bakeries to sun-tanning salons and jewelry stores. The kekfrank is even viewed as legal tender in a few stores in the Hungarian capital Budapest.
If, aside from its idyllic location, one needed a reason to visit Salt Spring Island in southern British Columbia, then perhaps the artistry of its local money might do the trick. Salt Spring Island money is accepted at par with the Canadian loonie (dollar).
A silver coin, worth 50 Salt Spring dollars, was designed by a local artist, Thomas McPhee, and crafted at a nearby mint. Everyone in town, from the bicycle shop to the local Shell station, accepts the SSD.
Out in Massachusetts, the Berkshires to be precise, they have the Berkshare, a currency recognised by five separate banks and 13 branches.
There are more than 2.7 million Berkshares, which are pegged at the same level as a greenback, in circulation and over 400 area business that accept them -- many of which offer a five per cent discount for those paying in Berkshares.
In Magdeburg, a town of 230,000 in what was once East Germany they circulate the Urstomtaler. Everyone from jewellers to bakeries, florists to restaurants uses the Urstromtaler in this city by the Elbe.
There is even a Magdeburg movie theatre that takes the currency.
The Lewes pound, in East Sussex, England, is a currency with a history dating back to 1789 when it was first used, then discontinued along with other local British currencies in 1895.
Thomas Paine, the radical thinker and one of the Founding Fathers of the United States, was born in Lewes and is pictured on the one pound note. The Lewes Pound bills itself -- no pun intended -- as an environmentally friendly currency, ie, if people travel less to spend there money, there is less carbon emitted into the atmosphere.
The Totnes Pound commenced operations in March 2007 as part of the Transition Towns concept, the belief that a community can be a self-sustainable, environmentally efficient and desirable place to live.
It has been reported that Totnes Pounds, which are at par with the British pound, have sold for substantially more on eBay: 4.27 and 13.02 pounds, respectively.
The Royal Canadian Mint produces the money for the Great White North retail chain Canadian tire. The money has been in circulation since 1958 and is printed on paper similar to that of the Canadian dollar (for $5 and $10).
Coins come in 5¢, 10¢, 25¢, 50¢, $1 and $2. Quebec chanteur Mononc' Serge once sang satirically that the CTM is more stable than the Canadian dollar.
The Chiemgauer is the medium of exchange in Prien am Chiemsee in Upper Bavaria. The currency is the brainchild of high school teacher Christian Gelleri.
The goals of the regional German monetary project are to promote economic and environmental sustainability. The Chiemgauer is pegged to the euro.
Like others on the list, the Disney Dollar is also designed to benefit a community: the Disney corporate empire. Similar in shape and size the to US dollar, the Disney buck features all the icons of the company, such as Mickey and Minnie Mouse, Donald Duck, Goofy and Pluto.
The currency is accepted at Disney stores, theme parks, cruise ships and even Castaway Cay, the company's private island in the Bahamas.
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