Equal Dollars
Equal Dollars
Location: Philadelphia, Pa.
Started: 1996

In the "City of Brotherly Love" there's actually a currency that is earned by doing favors for friends and volunteering.

Launched in 1996 by a social service non-profit called Resources for Human Development, Equal Dollars are accepted at more than 100 local businesses and can be earned through community service, helping people with odd jobs or selling belongings on the exchange's online classifieds database.

Most participating businesses accept a combination of Equal Dollars and U.S. dollars and many offer discounts to Equal Dollar users. RHD also holds a food market for members each week, where they can use their Equal Dollars to get discounts on groceries.

"The U.S. dollar is fine to feed the upper 1%, but we are missing something that gets people to work for each other and for the community ... this helps regular people exchange goods and services in an economy that is in deep trouble," said Bob Fishman, the executive director of RHD.

RHD has recently developed a relationship with three Amish farmers from Lancaster County, PA, where the farmers accept 10% of their invoice in Equal Dollars. The farmers use their Equal Dollars for clothes, linens, brown sugar, oatmeal and other items.

Printed in 1-, 5-, 10- and 20-unit denominations, the bills feature images of social activist Maggie Kuhn and philosopher Alain LeRoy Locke.

Because of the currency's recent success -- with 20 to 30 new members signing up each month (nearly twice as many as a couple of years ago) -- RHD is offering a $50,000 grant to the first state government that wants to try out this nonprofit-funded community currency.


By Blake Ellis @CNNMoney - Last updated January 27 2012: 3:05 PM ET
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