The ultimate website for Scrip

For many years I’ve been trying to make the point that bitcoin is the EXACT OPPOSITE of decentralized. When all transactions are made and recorded on ONE SINGLE LEDGER, and the ONE SINGLE LEDGER is contained inside NSA’s web, you are ultimately and infinitely centralized in the worst possible way.

Ordinary currency is naturally decentralized. When you pay with paper rectangles, the transaction isn’t automatically tracked. The business will generally track the payment as a number in its own bookkeeping system, but the rectangle itself is immediately mixed in with the other rectangles and circles in the cash register.

The best decentralized money is scrip or hawala. Scrip is locally created physical tokens, usually in the form of preprinted and predenominated checks. Hawala, or in western terms ‘running a tab’, is a non-physical currency that depends on real trust between the customer and the business. Both parties know the debits and credits, and the net balance at the end of the year is settled with official currency or other acceptable value. [The tab system works best in a setup like a farm coop where the farmer sells wheat and buys fertilizer and gasoline. In those two-way arrangements, the annual net balance can be relatively small.]

When I was focusing on scrip a few years ago I didn’t notice the BEST scrip website. I just noticed it this week. DepressionScrip.com has a huge collection of 1933 scrip, plus smaller sets from the 1907 panic and similar situations.

The examples I had seen earlier were missing one key ingredient for a proper currency or exchange system. They didn’t have any internal provision for transaction fees. Ordinary checking accounts and debit cards always charge a fixed percentage of each transaction. Hawala and similar disconnected systems always include a fixed percentage. This is sensible and neither regressive nor progressive.  Each customer pays in proportion to his ability.

The fake “currencies” of bitcoin charge a huge FLAT fee, non-proportional, that depends solely on the whims of the provider.  The fee appears to be around $30 on average, but can soar to $20k without warning. This is HUGELY regressive, penalizing the poor and barely bothering the rich.

DepressionScrip includes many ways of charging a transaction fee.

Some were punched like bus passes or school lunch tickets. San Francisco 1907.

Some had spaces for signed endorsements. Atchison front Atchison back

Others had spaces for stamps with a specific value, which was typically two cents. Iowa front Iowa back.

Many of the currencies were self-liquidating, which is an unknown concept now outside of banking circles. As the check was passed between merchants and customers, each transaction used up the remaining value. When all the spots were stamped or punched, the currency was discarded. This Wichita check defined the concept in its name. Wichita front Wichita back.

I had heard the word only once before, in one of the promos for Frank Edwards’s short radio features. Edwards mentioned that the stations could sell his books as a “self-liquidating premium”.

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More on self-liquidating premiums from Broadcasting Mag June 1950. The phrase was apparently a brief fad.

One example of these forcing methods that induce women to use a different brand of a product is the Blarney Stone Charm Bracelet. With this particular self-liquidating premium, over 408,000 housewives sent in a quarter with a label of the product advertised. I sent a man to Blarney Castle, Ireland, to get this Blarney stone, had it chipped up and made a part of a bracelet. My client was able to send them out to housewives for 25 cents each, which made it as we say “self-liquidating.”

A survey showed that half of the bracelet takers switched to the product permanently, so it was not only self-liquidating but profitable in the long run.

Here’s a longer version of the story. Adman Duane Jones invented the technique in 1935, and the product was Bab-O floor soap.  The Blarney stone was actually from the Blarney area of Ireland, but not actually from the castle.  (So it was self-Blarneying Blarney!)  The campaign ultimately boosted Bab-O annual sales from 600k to 5 million. No picture of the bracelet in the article, but it must have been good enough!

Compare this with the virtual “gems” in the videogame, which cost thousands of dollars to “possess” in a totally abstract and non-wearable way.

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Fussy footnote: I think I misunderstood the self-liquidating scrip, but won’t correct it until I’m sure that I grasp the idea!

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