What is a Eugene skinner?
The skinner is a local currency for Eugene, Oregon. Like all currencies, it's useful for trade only where you can find someone who will accept it, so even in Eugene, it will circulate only among a fraction of individuals and businesses.
What is a local currency?
Ultimately, all money is local, meant for circulation within a particular economic zone such as a country or an economic union. Local currencies are complementary currencies, meaning that they circulate alongside a more widely accepted currency and are used in a much smaller area.
Did you invent this?
Hardly. There are hundreds of local currencies circulating all over the world. Corvallis and Cottage Grove have their own currencies. Some of the best-known local currencies are Ithaca hours, the Bristol pound, and BerkShares.
Is the Eugene skinner legal tender?
Legal tender is defined as something with which you can pay taxes. There is no place on earth where the Eugene skinner will be accepted for settling a debt you owe to government. It's not legal tender.
Is that really the definition of legal tender?
That's the definition that most people point to, but really “legal tender” means something that can't be refused as payment for settling any debt, public or private. If you offer dollars for payment in the US, the other party must accept them. If you offer skinners, the other party is free to tell you to take a hike.
If the skinner isn't legal tender, then is it legal at all?
People are free to settle their accounts with one another using any instrument that both parties agree to. Pine cones, even.
So it's not really money?
It is money. Money is fungible, a store of value, a medium of exchange, and a unit of accounting, among other things. The skinner is all of those.
So, is it a coupon?
No, because a coupon is a medium of exchange that is limited to a particular type of transaction, to a particular good or set of goods, or to a named recipient. Money is not restricted in any of these ways, and neither is the skinner.
Is this a way of cheating the IRS?
The IRS taxes income. Income is income whether you receive it in US dollars, Japanese yen, euro, gold bars, butter, or hours of child care. Or pine cones. US residents and citizens must pay taxes on their earnings, whatever the medium of exchange.
But if I only report my dollar income...
Then you are not reporting everything that you are obligated to report to the IRS. Since skinners trade on par with the dollar, you should treat the skinner just like a dollar in your accounting.
There must be some way to cheat the IRS, right?
If you are looking for ways to cheat the IRS, you are on the wrong web site. Before you go looking for the correct web site, please go to a mirror with some color swatches. Is orange your color?
Is this some sort of scam?
No. This local currency is the brainchild of one person, Bruce Holland Rogers, and he doesn't look good in orange.
So what's the point?
There's more than one point. One case for some local currencies is that having local money reminds the people who use it of their intentions to trade locally. This is the economic rationale for the skinner. It could be complete and utter hogwash.
How will you know if it's complete and utter hogwash?
Probably, we won't. It would be great if someone wanted to gather some data on the effects of the skinner. So far, no one has expressed any interest in doing so.
Is anything backing the Eugene skinner?
The skinner is exchanged at the rate of one US dollar per skinner. So the skinner is backed by the US dollar. You can think of skinners as US dollars temporarily dressed in local livery. The original plan was to exchange ninety cents per skinner as an incentive to get the notes into circulation, but discussions with local merchants led us to conclude that the skinner would be far more likely to be adopted and circulated if there were no cost to a merchant who had accepted skinners and wanted to exchange them for dollars. Some early adopters received their skinners at the 90-cent rate, and they can redeem them now for dollars, one-to-one.
What is the US dollar backed by?
Mainly, by the expectation that is has value. The US dollar currency is first in line for claims against the US government. The dollar used to be backed by gold.
What was gold backed by?
By the expectation that it had value. The more closely you look at money, the more you will see that it is turtles all the way down.
Look it up here. The point is, the “backing” of money is a matter of exchanging one sort of confidence for another. There is no bottom turtle.
Confidence is a spooky word, as in “confidence game.” Isn't the Eugene skinner some sort of con or scam?
It would be a pretty lousy scam. There aren't many skinners being printed. Even if Bruce Holland Rogers had the worst of intentions, he could surely think of a scheme that would net him more than the $10,000 or so that is likely to be in circulation if the skinner is a complete success.
But isn't there some way for someone to make money from skinners?
Sure. The banknote designer, Thomas Stebbins, doesn't work for free. Some extra notes beyond the ones for circulation were printed for sale to collectors, and that's how Thomas will make money. As for making money from the circulating skinners, the only legitimate way for Bruce Holland Rogers to profit from them is leakage. That is, some notes put into circulation may not be redeemed when the notes are recalled. People may want to keep some notes. That's where Bruce could profit in a way that didn't make him a grifter.
Is Bruce a grifter?
He says he isn't, though it's wise to squint your eyes when looking at someone who writes about himself in the third person. Bruce is an established writer, a person with a professional reputation to uphold. He is also trying to be as transparent as is possible and to think of multiple ways of protecting individuals and businesses who use skinners. More ideas will be welcomed.
Then what's the point?
Eugene is the sort of place where dressing up some of the local money in colorful livery seemed like fun, like having an annual event celebrating our city, for example. Other places celebrate their identity with a local currency. Why not Eugene?
But what's the point, really?
As stated above, there are multiple points. Bruce is writing a book about money, and creating a local currency seemed like a good way to research that aspect of money.
Yeah, but the point would be...?
Not every human activity is about utility. (This is one of the things that makes life difficult for economists. Economists make the mistake of classifying human beings as chiefly or purely rational actors.) Some things we do for the sake of joy or beauty. Banknotes can be beautiful. Bruce has admired world banknotes for a long time, and when he started thinking about what sort of symbols might be used to make a beautiful note celebrating Eugene, the idea became sort of an obsession. Also, he really liked the art of Thomas Stebbins and wanted an excuse to collaborate with him.
If participants drop out, would the few people still holding skinners be left with worthless paper?
Worthless plastic, you mean. The skinner is printed on polymer. And, no. If everyone drops out but you, there is still a contract between you and Bruce Holland Rogers wherein he owes you one dollar per face value of your skinners.
How are skinners different from Ithaca Hours or Corvallis Hours?
Those are local currencies that were created ex nihilo and were distributed equally among all the participants who agreed to use them. You can think of these currencies as being like a big ledger in which everyone is arbitrarily given an account balance of 100. Currencies created on this model are often denominated in hours. The skinner is different in that it is backed by dollars.
You keep saying that. Where are these dollars, exactly?
Bruce Holland Rogers used a Kickstarter campaign to raise the initial backing funds. They are held in a savings account at Pacific Continental Bank. The account is pledged against any circulating skinners until such time as the skinners are recalled and removed from circulation. Bruce wanted to be able to make the account as public as possible, but it turned out that the more transparent he was, the less secure --- or even possible --- the account was going to be. He'll regularly post screen shots of the balance once skinners begin to circulate, along with the serial numbers of all skinners in circulation. Reserves in excess of redemption obligation will be visible for anyone to see. And, yes, it would be possible to fake the documents. Bruce has agreed to let the account be audited upon demand by anyone who agrees to pay any associated costs.
But what if Bruce Holland Rogers dies?
The skinners continue to be backed by his estate as specified under a codicil of his Last Will and Testament.
Didn't you say somewhere that skinners were complimentary?
Complementary with an e, as in supplemental to US dollars. However, skinners are in fact a complimentary-with-an-i currency. If you look at the anti-counterfeiting microprint, you'll see that the 3-skinner note is printed with compliments. It's the only money that has nice things to say about you. (The 2-skinner note was supposed to offer compliments, too, but instead it just repeats Bruce's invocation of the Slug Queen.)
What a waste. I guess the city of Eugene doesn't have anything better to do with its tax dollars?
This is a private effort.
Isn't green gold the existing complementary currency of Eugene?
Marijuana is lightweight, fairly stable if not set on fire, and concentrates value. Such barter commodities (dried fish has been another) share some features with money. But marijuana isn't fungible. One ounce is not exactly equivalent to another ounce. Some is more potent, for example. A thing has to be fungible to be money.
Do you want some, anyway?
No, thank you. But speaking of mind-altering substances:
Could I give skinners to homeless people and know that they couldn't spend them on drugs or alcohol?
There are no restrictions on who may pay with skinners, to whom, or for what. The US government would like very much to limit what we can buy with their currency, too. In fact, they'd like to limit what we can buy with government coupons as well, such as food stamps, but people are very creative about using whatever medium of exchange they have to get whatever it is that they crave. You can be assured that if you give skinners to homeless people, they won't be able to spend them at Walmart. Or in Springfield.
Special FAQ for Sociopaths, Trolls, Bored Teens,
Italian Counterfeiters and Other Hearts of Darkness
Okay, maybe Bruce is trustworthy. But what about me? Can I counterfeit skinners and turn this exercise in fun and beauty into something ugly and cruel?
Ah. So you're the one. Skinners were designed and printed with you in mind, using the same anti-counterfeiting technology employed by the banknote printers for Mexico, Australia and Canada. Holograms were too expensive, but skinners do feature polymer substrate, transparent windows, microprinting, and possibly some other features that will make you spend far more to copy them than you would ever make by passing them.
Well, can I burn the skinners and then redeem the ashes? Or cut them into 10 pieces and try to redeem 9, creating an extra note out of every 10 notes I have vandalized? I mean, there must be some way of ripping Bruce off, right?
Probably there is. Human ingenuity and perversity being what they are, it's likely that someone is going to try to figure out how to game the system. That's part of money always, everywhere. Others may simply want to vandalize the currency and try to force it out of circulation. The wanton destruction they could once perpetrate only in Minecraft they would now try to do in the real world. However, Bruce is a fiction writer, and to portray the worst in human beings he has had to plumb the black depths of his own heart. He's pretty good at knowing what evil lurks in the hearts of men or bored teens. There's a good chance that if you try to use the skinner to cheat others, it's not going to work out for you, and if you try to vandalize it, you may burn only yourself. The serial numbers of individual notes must be intact and legible for redemption, and the notes must be substantially, demonstrably whole and suitable for circulation in order to be redeemed. Polymer notes are tough; truly accidental damage is unlikely.
But what if I put a hot iron to them?
Then you will irredeemably destroy the note and your iron. Irredeemably. That means no money back and explaining to your mother what you did to her iron.
I'm a big-time counterfeiter near Naples, and I'm investing millions in polymer printing technology. Unlike individuals trying to make skinners at home using an inkjet printer and a roll of cling wrap, I have the technical expertise and experience to counterfeit skinners. Can you think of a reason why I should change my plans to copy your local skinners currency and counterfeit the national currencies of Australia, Mexico or Canada instead?
As I have said on Facebook, I think your Eugene skinners are the worst idea ever. The. Worst. Ever. Aren't you ashamed?
I would crawl under a rock, but I can't find one that is both big enough to cover my shame and light enough for me to wedge myself under.
Can I use Eugene skinners to buy the bags that I have to pay for in Eugene because I can't have them for free in your hippy-dippy save-the-earth nanny-state socialist nightmare?
From participating merchants, yes.
The US dollar is backed by the full faith and credit of the US government. The Eugene skinner is backed by the full faith and credit of Bruce Holland Rogers, “an award-winning fiction writer,” which is a fancy way of saying “master of lies.” Where am I wrong?
No disagreement here. When you exchange some dollars for skinners or skinners for dollars, you can look Bruce Holland Rogers in the eye and shake his hand, which you can't do with the US government, but you are shaking the hand of a man who has made his living by telling stories about people who exist only in his imagination. Life is never without risk.
Seriously, though, as an author, Bruce is a public figure. His professional success depends on his reputation. He may be an expert at making up stories, but he also relies on people having a good opinion of him. He's being very careful to ensure that skinners are backed by the dollars that have been exchanged for them, and by some additional dollars, too.
Freqently Asked Questions
and some not asked yet
and some at the bottom asked by sociopaths, counterfeiters, bored teens, and trolls