Small Town Cash

Scholastic News - In Great Barrington, Massachusetts, many people spend BerkShares instead of
dollars when they go shopping in the town.

The BerkShare is Great Barrington's local currency. It is named after
Berkshire, the county in which Great Barrington is located. A group of
Great Barrington citizens began printing the money last year to encourage
local people to spend their money within their community. This boosts the
town's local economy by increasing the circulation of money among local
residents, and among small businesses owned by residents.

Money is what societies use to obtain goods and services, and to pay off
debts. Local currency, like the BerkShares, has existed since America's
early days. Citizen groups--but not cities or states--have the right to
make their own money. The money cannot look anything like regular dollars
and can be used only within a specific area. For example, BerkShares can be
used only in local shops in Great Barrington, as well as in surrounding
Berkshire communities. The money used is made of paper because federal law
bars citizens from making coins.

Communities in eight other states, including California, Kansas, and New
York, have their own local money. Great Barrington's BerkShares, however,
are unique because they can be exchanged for regular money. For example,
100 BerkShares can be exchanged for $90 in regular money at local Berkshire

Thousands of years ago, people would trade goods or services for other goods
or services in a system known as bartering. In addition, beads, shells, or
even livestock like cattle were used as money. Eventually, societies
developed paper money and coins.