August 9, 2015 11:22 pm -

[su_center_b]bowie-10-pound-noteDavid Bowie on a £10 note. W.E.B. Dubois on the “Berkshare.” Forget the wooden nickel, kids – artisinal cash is a thing, and it’s gaining traction:

As Bitcoin, PayPal and other electronic forms of payment grow in popularity in the global economy, cash in a growing number of places — not only Bristol and Brixton, but also Amsterdam; Ithaca, N.Y.; and elsewhere — is becoming quite literally an artisanal object.

These are small-batch currencies designed by locals and lovingly handled by millennials, who came of age during the rise of the Internet, the meltdown of the stock market and Edward Snowden’s National Security Agency revelations, and would be forgiven for becoming more wary of credit and debit cards. Many are already opting for standard paper money over plastic (when not resorting to freeganism or bartering, that is).

Once a marker of a business with suspicious tax practices, the phrase “cash only” has come to signify hipster entrepreneurialism at places like Stumptown Coffee at the Ace Hotel in Midtown Manhattan or the Emerson Bar in Brooklyn. The term even arrived as a motto on a 3.1 Phillip Lim tank top sold by the boutique Blue & Cream (and now that it’s been marked down 50 percent to $97.50, you won’t need a suitcase of bills to pay for it).

Many of the new alternative currencies have the look and feel of the regular legal tender accepted at such places. Most include anticounterfeiting measures like holograms and serial numbers. But they are more eye-catching.

At the Effra Social, a Brixton pub, Ewan Graham, 31, an architect, was impressed upon examining one of the district’s special pound notes for the first time. “I’d be more inclined to save money if it all looked like that,” he said.



D.B. Hirsch
D.B. Hirsch is a political activist, news junkie, and retired ad copy writer and spin doctor. He lives in Brooklyn, New York.