A cluster of towns in Western Massachusetts has created its own currency—BerkShares. The banknotes, which trade for 90 cents on the dollar, feature local heroes like Norman Rockwell and are accepted as cash at 280 cafés, shops, and even the local "chakra balancing" joint.
The program began as a way to drum up revenue for local businesses, building on similar models in Ithaca, NY, California, and Michigan. But with over 840K BerkShares now in circulation, hitches are cropping up: like the fact that most establishment operations—from the phone company to the gas man—don't take the currency. That means small businesses are often left eating the 10% discount on the notes. "Someone has to take the hit," says one local shop owner.