MSN Smart Money
February 15, 2010
Last year, two Detroit tavern owners were sitting at the bar, sampling their beverages and bemoaning the local economy — no one in the city had cash, and when they did, they spent it in the suburbs. Then the pair hit on a solution: Print their own money.
[efoods]It is, after all, perfectly legal for anyone to issue currency, as long as it doesn’t look too much like a U.S. dollar. Thus was born the Detroit cheer, a local scrip accepted by a handful of city businesses, including a pizzeria, an electrician and a doggy day care center.
Residents can also exchange it at a few area bars for greenbacks, but the cheer is vastly more colorful. It features a chiseled, naked Greco-Roman superhero (the Spirit of Detroit) towering Godzilla-like over the city skyline, cupping a tiny family in one hand and a sunburst representing God in the other. He’s a lot more fun than George Washington.
And Detroit isn’t the only city sporting its own currency. Since the market tanked nearly 18 months ago, there’s been an interest in local scrips not seen since the Great Depression. In most cases, these communities are simply looking to boost local commerce. The currency has to be spent in town, obviously, because it’s worthless anywhere else. But a growing distrust of the U.S. dollar is also at work.