Ithaca Hours

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The Ithaca HOUR is a local currency used in Ithaca, New York and is the oldest and largest local currency system in the United States that is still operating.[1] It has inspired other similar systems in Madison, Wisconsin, Corvallis, Oregon,[2] and a proposed system in the Lehigh Valley, Pennsylvania.[3] One Ithaca HOUR is valued at US$10 and is generally recommended to be used as payment for one hour's work, although the rate is negotiable.


The Currency

Ithaca HOURS are not backed by national currency and cannot be freely converted to national currency, although some businesses may agree to buy them.[4]

HOURS are printed on high-quality paper and use faint graphics that would be difficult to reproduce, and each bill is stamped with a serial number, in order to discourage counterfeiting.[2][5]

In 2002, a one-tenth hour bill was introduced, partly due to the encouragement and funding from Alternatives Federal Credit Union and feedback from retailers who complained about the awkwardness of only having larger denominations to work with; the bills bear the signatures of both HOURS President Steve Burke and the president of AFCU.[5]


Ithaca Hours were started by Paul Glover in November 1991.[6] The system has historical roots in scrip and alternative and local currencies that proliferated in America during the great depression.[6]

While doing research into local economics during 1989, Glover had seen an "Hour" note 19th century British industrialist Robert Owen issued to his workers for spending at his company store. After Ithaca Hours began, he discovered that Owen's Hours were based on Josiah Warren's "Time Store" notes of 1827.

In May 1991, local student Patrice Jennings interviewed Glover about the Ithaca LETS system. This conversation strongly reinforced his interest in trade systems. Jennings research on the Ithaca LETS and its failure was integral to the development of the HOUR currency; conversations between Jennings and Glover helped to ensure that HOURS used knowledge of what had not worked with the LETS system.[7]

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