Almost every day, most of us exchange pieces of paper with other people to buy or sell products or services. So what better place to insert messages about the importance of doing business locally at a cost of nearly zero per impression?
We’ve made it easy for any business, group or individual to spread the “buy independent and local” message this way with self-inking stamps for paper currency or the “memo” space on checks. Two different stamps are available (shown below). Along with the primary message are urls leading people to learn more about the reasons to go local, any IBAs near them and more.
How Your Group or Business Can Use Money Stamps to Help the Community
Crisp, new bills will stay in circulation and spread your message longer and make your message easier to read. Where appropriate, withdraw fresh bills in a range of denominations from your local independent bank or credit union. For most of the uses suggested below, draft a press release (we provide a template with stamps) and generate media coverage to further spread your message.
- Distribute bills through your business or exchange them with unmarked bills among members of your organization.
- Cash mobs provide a great opportunity for stamping participants’ cash before they shop.
- Hold a public stamping event to kick off a Shift Your Shopping campaign in late fall, Independents Week in July or mark Small Business Saturday (or other special days).
- Consider a press conference and announcement of a stamping station where folks can have their money stamped (have a few volunteers to do the stamping). The stamp is a great lead-in to educate the media and public about the local economic multiplier effect.
- Invite local independent businesses to offer some premium or discount to people paying with stamped currency or checks, and make their participation part of the announcement. Be sure to provide a public list of those participating businesses. Your stamping station can play dual duty – make sure your group’s information is prominently displayed!
- Ask your independent bank if you can stamp some of their new paper currency before it enters circulation.
- Arrange to have a stamping table at your Farmers Market and other relevant community events.
- Arrange with one or more member businesses to conduct a stamping station at or near the check-out to stamp customers’ change post-purchase. It’s also a great opportunity to inform customers about the work of your IBA!
- Build a giant mock-up of a stamped bill for media events and community parades.
- Invite local officials to join your group. in a money-stamping tour of a business district, visiting independent business to ask to stamp the paper currency in their till(s). Ask in advance to ensure they are agreeable and forewarned – and that the event won’t be an imposition to their business.
- Hold a press conference at a pre-arranged business that makes an effort to source goods and services locally and discuss the impact of local spending/multiplier effect on the community.
Is Stamping Legal?
It’s legal to stamp messages on U.S. currency. It’s illegal to destroy or deface currency to make it unusable. Of course, you want the bills to be read and the message to stay in circulation, so you obviously want them to remain usable. A legal memo (not ours) elaborating on the topic is here.
$1 4.8 years
$5 3.8 years
$10 3.6 years
$20 6.7 years
$50 9.6 years
$100 17.9 years
Be sure to avoid stamping over the serial number or seals on the front side of bills. Otherwise, the bill will likely be pulled from circulation when it passes through a bank (genuine U.S. currency always will be accepted by your bank, but they may send it to the Treasury for destruction, rather than recirculating it).
The Federal Reserve estimates the average one dollar bill circulates 4.8 years. If you make a point of stamping mostly fresher (not crumpled and worn) bills and avoid covering serial numbers or seals, your stamped bill will likely circulate several hundred times–that’s spreading a message!
If your business or group stamps an average of 10 bills a day (of $1, $5, $10 and $20 denominations), you’ll generate millions of impressions during the year! As you’d suspect, $50 and $100 circulate much more slowly (see table), however, they’re nearly guaranteed to be noticed.
Why Not Manufacture Our Own Stamp?
You could. But despite the obvious goal of keeping more spending local, most currency circulates out of town fairly quickly and is then unlikely to return, making localized information less impactful. All localization / independent business advocates benefit most from widespread use of a consistent message that helps build the Localization Movement while enticing people to learn about any IBA in their area.
You Can Purchase Stamps Here
AMIBA affiliates & business members receive their choice of stamp free upon request (learn more).
- See our tips on planning cash mobs (public page)
- AMIBA affiliates: See our guide and resources for effective tabling (after logging in)