Bnotes are building in Baltimore

by Daniele Spagnolo

Paper gets cut, inked, and printed by the U.S. treasury on a daily basis. Seas of green are pumped out into our indebted society. Jackson, Washington, and Franklin can only give us the promises of their value. We see the inevitable fate of our fluctuating economy as prices get higher, quality deteriorates, and we continue to climb the mountain on inflation. When we experience economic crashes like Baltimore did in the beginning of 2007, imaginative and productive minds start turning towards solutions. The creators of the Bnote envisioned a local currency that would create incentives to build Baltimore businesses and empower Baltimoreans not only as consumers, but as contributors to the wellbeing of Baltimore. As Vice Chair, Julie Goulding puts it, “we could create a reserve of money that’s our money.”

The Bnote team is an organization led by Jeff Dicken (Chair) and an all-volunteer staff. These community pioneers started with a vision of circulating a widely accepted, sustainable and viable form of local currency. Local currency isn’t a new phenomenon, there are various systems in place when it comes to concurring local currency. Here is how the Bnote works. The Bnote is worth ten percent more than the US Dollar. So, you can go to one of the Bnote cambrio (exchange center) like CapitolMac, give them $20 and receive 22 Bnotes. Then, you walk over to a local business that accepts Bnotes, like Golden West Cafe, and you are able to pay for ten percent more of your food.

A business that has accepted 80 Bnotes (comparable to the 72 US Dollars), is more likely to cater office parties with Cafe Sage or shop for office cleaning supplies at Baltimore Janitorial Supply Co. Bnotes help prevent small businesses from driving their growth with a solely capitalist model. Bnotes also attempt to counteract the power of corporate monopolies like Walmart or Home Depot by using the power of reciprocity. Additionally, the currency flows freely between consumers to businesses, then from businesses to other businesses, and this creates more community and social capital in our city.

With more places that accept Bnotes we have more options. The volunteer team is constantly working to add new businesses to the list of Bnote friendly locations. At their launch in April 2011, Bnotes were accepted at 55 businesses. As we are coming up on Summer 2016, Bnotes are launching their new series of the 10 and 20 value Bnotes at Gallery 788 on April 30th. Now, there are over 220 places that accept this currency, and the number is growing. The two new bills will feature well known women in Baltimore’s history, and the design will be revamped and ready to trade for quality goods and services. I know what you are thinking, “Well that’s cool, but can I pay my electric bill with this?” Well, no, you can’t…yet. The purpose is not to entirely replace U.S. currency. The BNote team sees the skepticism, but they reassure businesses and consumers alike there is no risk when investing in Bnotes. People have complete control over how much and how often they decide to use Bnotes. The currency is only complementary.

A couple businesses that successfully and regularly use Bnotes are Liam Flynn’s, that accepts 1 Bnote for 1 Natty Boh, Baltimore’s favorite beer, and Zekes coffee that also serves as a Bnote cambrio. When looking at the map of Bnote friendly locations, areas include Mt. Vernon, Charles Village, Hampden, Fells point, and Harbor East. Of course, these areas do not include all citizens of Baltimore, but the Bnote team, as Jeff and Julie emphasize, “always has been and will be open to the public.” They are seeking volunteers that will help spread the accessibility and versatility of Bnotes by including the areas of West Baltimore and East Baltimore in order to more accurately reflect the socioeconomic participation with all levels of income.

   Here is where we come in, we can help! We can decide to use the Bnote, ask for it in change, and help the circulation of our local currency to boost local businesses and create a better Baltimore. The Bnote team imagines being able to create real community enhancements like a recreation center open to all Baltimoreans, partnerships with local banks to provide micro-loan services, or even venture to buy food from community gardens, all with the power of Bnotes. We can also volunteer with the Bnote team to spread the word, whether it be by social media, writing, canvassing, or actually printing and making our Baltimore based bucks.

Please, visit to check out Bnote cambrios and locations, and email to ask about volunteer options.

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