‘Dune doubloon’ soon may be form of local currency
By Pru Sowers
PROVINCETOWN — A pocketful of pirate “gold” might pave the road to a new form of local currency aimed at stretching residents’ finances and bringing the community together.
The Unitarian Universalist Meeting House is behind the idea — slated to be rolled out on Jan. 15 — to create a local, legal barter currency that residents can use to exchange skills and services. UU Meeting House Rev. Alison Hyder said most people living in town have a skill, resource or interest that could be of use to someone else. By using the paper barter currency, called “dune doubloons,” residents can pay for a pie or putting up storm windows or guitar lessons without using real cash.
“Affordability is obviously one of the most pressing problems people face here,” Hyder said. “This will help them stay afloat while saving ‘real’ money for other bills.”
The dune doubloon program is based on a successful barter system that originated in Ithaca, N.Y., where over 900 participants accept “Ithaca Hours,” the local barter currency aimed at promoting local economic strength and community self-reliance. It also keeps the money “local,” which could be an asset in Provincetown, Hyder said, where people with myriad skills have little to do in the winter.
“There are many businesses with cash-flow problems, and they can use doubloons to pay for repairs and services during the off-season when their business is slow. There are tradesmen who would like to be active now in exchange for a few extras or some service down the road," she said.
The program will kick off with a potluck dinner at 5 p.m. Monday, Jan. 15, at the UU Meeting House, 236 Commercial St. People and stores that sign up for the program will receive $50 in dune doubloons free.
The gold doubloons will be worth $10 and the silver $5. However, the idea is that each hour of service or time spent creating a product is worth $10, Hyder said.
“Everybody is treated the same and everyone’s time is worth the same,” she said.
The UU committee will publish a quarterly directory listing people and businesses that have skills or products to sell and who will accept dune doubloons as payment. The potlucks also will be held every month.
Jackie Kelly, a member of the UU dune doubloon committee, said that while helping residents stretch their finances is a goal of the program, she also sees it as a way to connect members of the community.
“The potlucks will give us a recognition of each other in a different way. We see each other on the street and don’t know who we are, what we do, what our skills are. This will help us get to know each other and rely on each other,” she said.
UU committee members will have a multitude of suggestions on services people can offer at the Jan. 15 potluck. Hyder said she is considering offering her ability to transfer records and cassette tapes to CD. But almost anything, from hemming pants to stuffing envelopes to teaching a skill, may find a local “buyer.”
Businesses also are being encouraged to sign up for the program and Kelly said several stores in town are interested. Scott Lattime, owner of Joe Coffee, said he is interested in learning more about the program. He said he believes in a barter system in general.
“I barter stuff all the time, art for coffee. There already is a form of barter that happens in this town all the time. I’m totally for it,” he said.
While Lattime said he is still studying the dune doubloon program specifics, he said the program may spur business at local participating stores because those establishments would be perceived as being supportive of the community. The success of the program, he said, will be directly related to how many people participate.
“It would need full community support. It couldn’t be just three stores,” he said.
Hyder said the program ultimately could expand to other Outer Cape towns and is intended for the entire community.
“I envision a time when it's part of the fabric of the Lower Cape, with broad participation and an independent board of advisors,” she said. “Right now, this is a way for the UU to serve our neighbors. We all feel lucky to be a part of Provincetown. Like everyone, we want to sustain its people and its tradition of mutual aid and concern. The Dune Doubloons Community is small-town values — with structure."
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