Homemade money: Printing regional banknotes to build a local economy

As Walletpop writer Zac Bissonnette noted yesterday, Great Barrington, Massachusetts has developed a new, regional form of currency. The BerkShares program follows in the footsteps of several other regional currencies, but takes the idea of local economic planning to a new, impressive level.

One obvious reason for printing money is the fact that it's exceedingly lucrative: the raw materials of paper and ink are relatively cheap; the hard part is convincing someone to exchange them for cold, hard cash.

To this end, it helps if the bills in question are attractive, original pieces of art. For example, the Antarctica Overseas Exchange Office, a Canadian company, produces "Antarctican notes." These beautiful, brilliantly-colored banknotes are printed in limited editions on long-lasting polymer and proceeds from their sale allegedly finance scientific study of the seventh continent.

Featuring illustrations of Antarctica and the various explorers who studied it, the notes can be exchanged equally for US dollars during their issuance period, after which they are essentially worthless as money. However, given the limited run, they may continue to appreciate as art.