W.E.B. Du Bois’ Image Appears on $5 Local Currency

Federal law prohibits states from issuing their own currency. But there are no prohibitions against cities, towns, counties, or other local jurisdictions from printing their own money.

The Berkshire Mountain region of western Massachusetts now has what are called Berkshares. People can buy $100 of Berkshares for $90. They can then use the Berkshares at participating local businesses. In effect, Berkshares users get a 10 percent discount at local businesses that accept the currency. The idea is to keep the money in the community rather than spend actual dollars at national chain stores and restaurants that do not participate in the Berkshares program.

The currency is printed by Crane & Co., the company that supplies paper to the U.S. Mint. Berkshares come in denominations of $5, $10, $20, and $50. Pictured on the $5 Berkshare is W.E.B. Du Bois, the eminent black scholar who was born in Great Barrington, Massachusetts, a town in the Berkshire region.