Alternative currencies are an unusual thought for many of us. If we live in the US, for example, then we’re used to paying with dollars; this is our national currency and, alongside quarters, dimes, nickels, and pennies, makes up all of the true legal tenders in this country. Alternative currencies present a different way to pay for something. They’re sometimes legal, they’re sometimes not, but more of us use alternative currencies than we think. Whether you just want to know about what some alternative currencies are, want to get involved in trading with alternative currencies, or just want to expand your mind with some monetary trivia, we’ve got the rundown for you.
The oldest form of alternative currency is bartering. To barter for something is to offer a thing that you have in exchange for a thing that you want. This thing could take many forms. Time is a popular commodity to barter with, offering your time spent laboring, for example, in exchange for some food. If you consider time and skill an alternative currency then all of us with a job exchange alternative currencies when we accept a paycheck.
The United Kingdom is a proponent of alternative currencies that are very regionally specific. In 2008 the Lewes Pound was introduced to a small town of Lewes near the South Coast of England. The idea was that the Lewes Pound would be spent only in the town, encouraging the local economy to flourish. The pound experienced some success and was followed by the Brixton Pound, The Stroud Pound, and The Bristol Pound in 2009, with the Exeter Pound joining more recently in 2015. Although these areas represent a very small proportion of the UK, it is interesting to see alternative currencies being used to boost economies in this way. Of course, the UK isn’t the only country where local currencies exist; indeed, you might even have one where you live.
Cryptocurrency is a form of alternative currency that has been making headlines pretty consistently over the past decade. Bitcoin was the forerunner of this movement, which allowed the creation of a totally online currency. It is now one of the most widely used alternative currencies in the world. There are currently a little over 18.6 million bitcoins in circulation, with a cap of 21 million available. The cap to this currency is essential, because, along with the time taken to mine coins, it gives each coin value. Cryptocurrencies like Dogecoin don’t follow the rules that are essential for providing value in a cryptocurrency, which is what enabled Bitcoin’s value to skyrocket.
There are some currencies that we don’t even really think of as such. For example, when you visit a casino and change your money for chips, they are only of value in the casino, but they still count as a currency. There’s so much about chips that is fascinating, but particularly how they are made. Plastic is generally injected into a mold made specifically for the casino where the chips are intended to be used. Emblems are placed onto the chips to ensure that the casino can verify them as their own and doesn’t end up paying out for counterfeit chips. These emblems work in the same way that security codes, watermarks, and other authenticators work on traditional banknotes. Of course, there will always be those that slip through the cracks, but the same can be said of traditional currencies from time to time as well.
Air miles are just one example of the alternative currencies that we collect for being loyal customers. Points cards, stamps at the coffee shop, money off vouchers, and things of this type are all forms of alternative currency, helping us to pay for items without using legal tender. Air miles are interesting because they have a direct monetary value that doesn’t change. Unlike cryptocurrencies whose prices fluctuate, an air mile will always be equal to the amount specified by the company that you earned it from.