Generally, shoppers can buy a local currency at a bank for a reduced rate, for example 95 cents for ‘local euro’, and local businesses and sellers which sign up to the scheme offer their services at full value. In effect the currency functions like buying ship vouchers, but in many cases the local organisers have printed specially designed notes featuring notable local individuals and landmarks on traditional banknote paper with security features. Local currencies increased in popularity during the great depression, to keep commerce following at a time when the national currency wasn’t. Many of these schemes were great success stories, and helped revitalise struggling businesses.
The recent financial and economic crisis has seen another surge in popularity for local currencies, but the trend was already in place before the crisis struck. A swath of local currencies sprung up around Europe after the turn of the millennium, and these were often in response to local desires to strengthen their community and help out the environment, in particular by encouraging the re-localisation of food consumption and production. In addition to providing tangible financial support for local businesses, local currencies help raise awareness of the importance of buying local.