What Is A PLENTY?

The Piedmont Local EcoNomy Tender (PLENTY) is a local currency that began circulating around the heart of the North Carolina Piedmont region in October 2002. This region includes Orange, Durham, Chatham and parts of Alamance, Wake and Lee Counties.

Members of the PLENTY Currency Cooperative agree to accept PLENTY as full or partial payment for goods or services they provide. Membership is open to any member of our community who wants to offer time, skills, or products in exchange for PLENTY. The keystone of a local currency is the network of participants willing to trade the currency, so the more folks who agree to accept the PLENTY, the greater the positive impact upon the community.

Who Is behind the PLENTY?

This is a grassroots effort working to promote local commerce, fair wages, environmental responsibility, self-reliance, and neighborliness, through the implementation and support of a local currency, the PLENTY.

Originally founded by a group of friends and neighbors in the summer of 2001, it was re-formed in 2009 under the umbrella of The Abundance Foundation as The PLENTY Currency Cooperative.

What Is Local Currency?

Local currencies have cycled in and out of popularity for the last two hundred years. They have often been issued during times of economic stress, when local resources – goods, talent, and labor – have been under-utilized. For a brief history of alternative currencies from ancient Egypt through the 20th Century, read Bernard Lietaer’s “Community Currencies: A New Tool for the 21st Century.” In this article, Lietaer writes, “Today, local currencies are again mushrooming all over the world in an impressive diversity and increasing sophistication. … [T]he key to the success of a community currency, just as for any currency, is trust. In this case it is trust in your neighbors, in the community as a whole, and in the community’s leaders.”

There are, in fact, almost 200 U.S. communities and around 2,000 communities worldwide circulating some kind of local currency. The form these currencies take varies from printed money to mutual credit databases to ATM cards, but the basic ideas stay the same. Local currencies promote community ties, support local businesses, protect the environment, and empower individuals who may not otherwise flourish in the dollar economy.

Is It Secure?

The same rules govern local currencies as federal currency, making it illegal to counterfeit the PLENTY.  Additionally, Barefoot Press in Raleigh has helped us incorporate several safety features into the PLENTYs including multiple metallic inks, raised serial numbers  and an overlaid dragonly that functions very much like a watermark.  These are all easy features for merchants to look for if there are any security concerns.

Note to counterfeiters: there are more lucrative bank notes to risk jail time over.

Is It Legal?

The PLENTY meets all criteria for legal scrip as defined by the IRS, Federal Reserve, and Treasury Department. Among these are the provisions that the PLENTY must:

* Have a U.S. dollar equivalent (for taxes)
* Not look like U.S. currency
* Equal at least $1 in value

What About Taxes?

The law generally requires that all earned income be declared to the IRS, including that earned in PLENTY. Our rule of thumb is to treat the PLENTY like cash. Ask yourself, “What would I do if this were a $10 bill?”

If you would declare it on your tax return in U.S. Dollars, declare it for PLENTY. If you would deduct it in U.S. Dollars, on your tax return, deduct it for PLENTY.

Has This Been Done Before?

As mentioned above, nearly 200 communities across the country support some form of local currency. The HOUR in Ithaca, NY, which has been circulating for over a decade, has more than 2000 members. Five million US dollars worth of transactions in HOURs has invigorated Ithaca’s once faltering economy. Another successful example are BerkShares in western Massachusetts. For more information on other local currencies, please visit our Links page.

How Does The PLENTY Benefit Our Community?

By creating a pool of money that can only be spent within our community, the PLENTY helps to strengthen our community during times of economic stress by keeping purchasing power at home. The PLENTY is not an invisible or electronic currency – it can only be spent by people making face-to-face exchanges for real goods and services. By bringing producers and consumers into such close contact, the PLENTY places renewed focus on cooperation, neighborliness, conviviality, frugality and self-reliance.

As all involved parties see the direct impact of their consumption, the PLENTY helps our community to properly value local material, labor and talents. Use of the PLENTY also strengthens local control of our area as we become less dependent on outside corporations or the government to provide jobs.

How Does Local Currency Benefit Our Environment?

* Encourages environmental responsibility and best practices — helping protect local ecology. No one wants to “foul their own nest.”
* Discourages over-extraction of natural resources, unmanageable growth, and unnecessary consumption.
* Local production means less transport, hence less use of fossil fuels to get products to consumers.

How Does Local Currency Benefit Local Business?

For a detailed answer to this question, please see our PLENTY For Your Business page.

How Can My Business’ Accounting System Manage the PLENTY?

The BerkShares folks in western Massachusetts wrote this excellent article on how to integrate your local currency into your business’ accounting system.

If I Already Shop Locally, Why Not Just Use Federal Reserve Notes?

Federal Reserve Notes enter and leave our area, while the PLENTY stays here — strengthening our local economy. The PLENTY reflects our local values.

Everyone who has a stake in the local economy benefits from the PLENTY. These benefits come from the increased demand for local goods and services among members and from a heightened public awareness of the importance of our local economy.

If I Accept PLENTY, Does That Mean I Can’t Take Dollars?

The PLENTY is meant to supplement, not entirely replace, the Federal Reserve Notes. For example, you’ll always need Federal Reserve Notes to pay your taxes. Members choose to accept PLENTY at a level they can easily spend.

How Do PLENTY Enter Our Economy?

The only way new PLENTY enter our economy is in exchange for Federal Reserve Notes, following the successful BerkShares model in western Massachusetts. With the re-launch of the PLENTY in cooperation with Pittsboro’s Capital Bank, anyone can exchange Federal Reserve Notes for PLENTY at a 1:1 exchange rate. In other words, you receive ten PLENTY for ten Federal Reserve Notes and vice versa. The hope and expectation is that the recipient of those new PLENTY will spend them with another local merchant, thus allowing someone else to serve and create more value in our community.

Of course, if you need to exchange PLENTY back into Federal Reserve Notes, you can do this at Capital Bank’s Pittsboro branch as well.

Also, when you pay in PLENTY, expect to receive your change in PLENTY too. Asking for change in Federal Reserve Notes is a local-economy faux pas. However, it’s always good form to pay in Federal Reserve Notes, and ask for change in PLENTY.

It should be noted that this exchange mechanism and partnership with Capital Bank was proposed by our interim board of trustees to revitalize the PLENTY. With our PLENTY revitalization and new member recruitment, we are scheduling a proper annual meeting of members, along with elections for a new board.

While bylaws and organizational structures may change, we believe the mission will stay the same. We love the PLENTY. And we are focused on bringing it to something beyond its former glory.

How Is That Different from the Original PLENTY?

The original PLENTY organization gave itself the ability to create PLENTY out of nothing and issue them into circulation. They attempted to both create a currency, and create value. However, when you think about it, it’s clear that creating a paper currency and creating real economic value are two different things. It only works for our Federal Reserve Notes because the government collects taxes in Federal Reserve Notes, and the presence of “legal tender laws” that put the force of law behind our paper currency.

The original PLENTY, while started with the best intentions, suffered from “circulatory failure” when the majority of these newly created PLENTY ended up at the store that best met the needs of local customers — the co-op grocery. Clearly, everyone needs food, and when new PLENTY members received their “free money” the first place they went was the grocery store. Unfortunately, the grocery had too many suppliers who didn’t accept PLENTY, and they were unable to exchange their pile of PLENTY back into Federal Reserve Notes to pay their expenses. Thus, they were unable to accept more PLENTY, and the circulation was largely snuffed out. When the local grocer could no longer accept the local currency, broader acceptance suffered as well.

The critical difference between the new PLENTY and the original PLENTY is convertibility — the new PLENTY is fully convertible into something of generally-accepted value. Initially, the new PLENTY will be convertible into Federal Reserve Notes at a stated exchange rate. That convertibility results from the fact that new PLENTY only enter into circulation in exchange for existing Federal Reserve Notes.

While the original PLENTY was started following the non-convertible Ithaca Hours model, it is clear from our experience and the experience of the BerkShares that convertibility results in greater acceptance and a more “honest” currency. It’s not fair for the local grocer — or anyone accepting the currency — to be left “holding the bag” when too much local currency is created.

In other words, the new PLENTY organization knows that value is not created when we create new paper currency. We will not have the power to create new currency beyond the amount redeemable for something of generally-accepted value.

What Happened to the Fractions?

You might recall that the original PLENTY were issued in denominations of 1/4, 1/2, and 1, where 1 PLENTY was nominally equal to ten Federal Reserve Notes. User surveys and discussions with business partners revealed an overwhelming preference for whole-number denominations that equated directly to dollar pricing. So the “new PLENTY” are being issued in denominations of 1P, 5P, 10P, 20P, and 50P.

Sound complicated? It isn’t — when you want to “buy in”, visit Capital Bank in Pittsboro to exchange dollars for PLENTY. When you’re shopping, use your PLENTY just as you would the same denomination of Federal Reserve Notes.

How Can I Get Some?

  • Accept partial wages in PLENTY
  • Accept payment for your goods and services in PLENTY
  • Ask for change in PLENTY
  • Exchange U.S. dollars for PLENTY at Capital Bank in Pittsboro

Where Can I Spend My PLENTY?

You can spend them anywhere they are accepted. This might include your neighbor’s garage sale, a local shop, or a local restaurant.  The best way to learn if you can pay with PLENTY is to ask!  Look for the the PLENTY Accepted Here and Ask for it as Change signs at local businesses and check-out our on-line member directory.

How Do I Contact The PLENTY Currency Cooperative?

The Abundance Foundation is managing correspondence and membership. Call 919-468-0561 or email theplenty (at) gmail.com.

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