Local writer Bruce Holland Rogers has dubbed the new currency “Skinners.” They come in 2 Skinner and 3 Skinner denominations featuring finely engraved portraits of city founder Eugene Skinner and pioneer mother Mary Skinner. The bills also include images of birds, local landmarks, and elements designed to thwart counterfeiters. The notes are artful, esoteric, durable, and likely to be embraced soon as local legal tender.
“If there is a community that could benefit from a local currency,” says Rogers, “I think Eugene really fits that bill.” Perhaps Rogers’ sentiments are partly reflected in the Latin slogan printed on each Sk2 bill that reads, “Keep our city weird.” Or the security micro-text extolling “The real Emerald City.”
Rogers’ intention for his experimental Skinners, however, seems to transcend mere quirkiness and kitsch. In part, they are rooted in his work on a book about “the whole institution of money,” and his desire to create an alternative currency of his own design. Another reason? “Part of it,” he admits, “is probably an indication of my tendency to over-extend myself in creative projects.”
So how will the Skinner economy play out?
Well, the currency will soon be available for purchase from Rogers for 90 cents on the dollar. He also plans to grow a network of local merchants who will accept the currency at face value for use at their businesses. Twelve thousand Skinner notes were produced in the initial print run driven by Kickstarter. If Rogers is successful in his efforts to enlist merchant participants, he may print additional notes. Then at some future date, perhaps when the experiment plateaus, he’ll recall the currency—redeeming it at the same 90 percent rate he sold it for.
“I don’t know if I’ll profit from this,” admits Rogers. He says printing costs alone ran about 60 cents per bill. “There’s not a definite structure in place that guarantees I’ll make any profit,” he confesses. “The only money I would make from this is what I anticipate will come from any notes that people buy as collectables and never return. That’s the money I would keep in the end.”