The Intriguing Tale of the Totnes Pound: An Exploration of a Unique Local Currency

The Intriguing Tale of the Totnes Pound: An Exploration of a Unique Local Currency

January 15, 2024

The Intriguing Tale of the Totnes Pound: An Exploration of a Unique Local Currency

The Intriguing Tale of the Totnes Pound: An Exploration of a Unique Local Currency

In the annals of economic history, the Totnes Pound has etched its unique story. It was a pioneering exploration of a local currency system, designed to invigorate the local economy and foster community resilience. This article delves into the inception, journey, and eventual discontinuation of the Totnes Pound, providing a comprehensive analysis of this significant economic experiment.

Genesis of the Totnes Pound

The Birth of an Idea
The Totnes Pound was introduced in March 2007 as a part of the Transition Towns concept, a community-led initiative aimed at combating the challenges of dwindling oil and gas supplies, climate change, and fostering local resilience. This local currency, symbolised as "t£", was developed by Rob Hopkins and Naresh Giangrande, drawing inspiration from the BerkShares model.

The Objective
The primary goal behind this innovative currency was to stimulate the local economy of Totnes, a charming town nestled in Devon, England. By encouraging residents to spend within the town, the Totnes Pound aimed to keep money circulating within the community, thereby bolstering local businesses and reducing 'leakage' of money out of the town.

The totnes pound

The Value and Usage of the Totnes Pound

The Exchange Rate
A singular Totnes Pound was equivalent to one pound sterling, and it was entirely backed by sterling held in a bank account. This parity with the national currency ensured that the local currency held real value and was readily accepted by the community.

The Denominations
In June 2014, the Totnes Pound was re-launched in a variety of denominations, including t£1, t£5, t£10, and t£21. This novel move further increased the acceptability and circulation of this local currency.

The Design and Security Features of the Totnes Pound

The Totnes Pound notes were printed on plasticised paper, incorporating several security features for authenticity, such as watermarks, a hologram, engraved silver foil, and iridescent ink. They featured prominent local figures, like author Mary Wesley, 'father of the computer' Charles Babbage, musician Ben Howard, and social activist Dorothy Elmhirst, as well as our very own John Hagger on the £5 note! All reflecting the unique cultural identity of Totnes.

The Impact of the Totnes Pound

Local Economy Boost
The Totnes Pound played a significant role in strengthening the local economy. As of July 2014, more than 120 businesses in Totnes accepted the Totnes Pound, and over £12,000 worth of the currency had been issued. This boosted the resilience of the local economy by encouraging more local trade and reducing food and trade miles.

A Catalyst for Conversation
The Totnes Pound also served as a catalyst for community conversations about how and where they spent their money. These discussions fostered a deep understanding of the local economy's dynamics and the significance of spending locally.

The Decline and Closure of the Totnes Pound

Unfortunately, by 2019, the usage of the Totnes Pound began to decline, primarily due to the advent of the cashless economy. With the rise of digital transactions and contactless payments, the acceptance and circulation of this physical local currency dwindled. As a result, the Totnes Pound was officially discontinued on 30 June 2019.

The Legacy of the Totnes Pound
Despite its closure, the Totnes Pound left a lasting legacy, inspiring similar local currency projects in other parts of the United Kingdom, including Brixton, Bristol, and Stroud. The Bank of England even purchased a set of numbered Totnes Pound notes for posterity. Thus, while its physical existence may have ceased, the spirit of the Totnes Pound continues to influence economic experiments globally.

The Totnes Economy Post-Totnes Pound

A Community-led Ethical Economy
In the wake of the Totnes Pound's discontinuation, the town's economy did not falter. Instead, Totnes has continued to thrive by building a new ethical economy, focusing on community values and internal investment. This is manifest in the numerous independent shops and businesses that line the streets of Totnes, promoting local trade and community resilience.

Totnes Transition Town

Transition Town Totnes: A Beacon of Resilience

The Transition Town Totnes initiative continues to lead the town's resilience efforts, coordinating an array of local projects and forming part of a global Transition network. This organisation is testament to the enduring spirit of innovation and resilience that characterised the Totnes Pound.


The Future: Digital Local Currencies?

While the physical Totnes Pound may have ceased circulation, the concept of local currencies is far from extinct. The advent of digital technology presents promising possibilities for the future of local currencies. Digital versions of local currencies could potentially overcome the limitations of physical currencies and adapt to the increasing prevalence of cashless transactions.

The tale of the Totnes Pound is a compelling saga of economic innovation, community resilience, and a commitment to local trade. Although it may no longer be in circulation, the influence of this remarkable local currency continues to resonate in the ethos of Totnes and beyond. It serves as a reminder of the power of local economies and the potential of local currencies in fostering community resilience and economic sustainability.

The story of the Totnes Pound is a testament to the spirit of innovation and adaptability that characterises the town of Totnes. Its legacy continues to inspire economic experiments around the world, serving as a beacon of inspiration for communities seeking to invigorate their local economies and foster resilience. As we move towards an increasingly digital and cashless society, the spirit of the Totnes Pound lives on, reminding us of the potential of local currencies in a globalised world.

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