Short Summary

BerkShares are a highly successful regional currency that is widely used in the mostly rural Berkshire region of Massachusetts (population ~130,000). The program aims to increase the circulation of goods, services and capital within the Berkshires, thereby bolstering the local economy and community self-reliance.

“We can all be richer, both financially and community-wise, if we keep our money local, do our best to support our local businesses, and do as little outside sourcing as possible.” Steffen Root, owner of Berkshire Bike & Board (source)

Location: Great Barrington, Berkshire County, MA, USA


BerkShares emulate the use of widespread use of local currencies in the United States in the early 1900s as a means of community economic empowerment. The currency has also emerged out of numerous forms of experimentation around local currency that have happened in the region since the 1990s, including Deli Dollars and Berkshire Farm Preserve notes (learn more here). BerkShares as they exist today were created in September 2006.

Money can be a powerful decision-making tool. BerkShares turn currency into a tool for community education and empowerment in the Berkshires, while celebrating our landscape, heroes and artists. (source)
BerkShares are a complementary currency meant to be used in tandem with US currency. Anyone can exchange $100 of US currency for $105 worth of BerkShares at any of four banks (with a total of 16 branches) in the region. By spending the currency at 400 participating businesses, consumers in effect receive a 5 percent bump in purchasing power from this buy local strategy. The currency functions to rally the region's citizens and businesses to mutually support each other and, in so doing, foster regional economic health.

Some $135,000 worth of BerkShares are currently in circulation, which turns over several times each year.

The currency is managed by BerkShares, Inc., a democratically structured nonprofit organization that works in collaboration with local banks, businesses and nonprofits. Any resident of the region can join the organization with a membership fee and enjoy an equal vote on policies and board members with other members.

BerkShares is a hybrid that does not separate commons and commerce, but rather blends them in an attempt to make the regional economy more socially and ecologically responsible.

“We welcome BerkShares, and were very early adopters because we believe that using local currency is an excellent way to cultivate and nurture our region’s businesses and resources, which then makes it more attractive for people to live here and move here and work here.” Sarah Eustis, Red Lion Inn (Stockbridge, Massachusetts) (source)

The currency notes feature prominent historical figures from the region, including: a Stockbridge Mahican inhabitant of the area ($1); abolitionist W.E.B. Du Bois ($5); and Robyn Van En, a pioneer of community land trusts ($10). source


BerkShares, Inc. is a state-chartered nonprofit. It is not tax-exempt because currency issue is not considered to be a tax-exempt activity by the IRS.

Member households pay annual dues of $25; other sources of income include event sponsorships and general donations.

The Schumacher Center is a fiscal sponsor for BerkShares and acts as a platform for donations, which are tax-deductible. These donations are earmarked for the local currency program's development.

See Also

"Active Local Currencies Around the Globe
TOP (L to R): ECOs (Catalonia, Spain), Calgary Dollars (Canada), BerkShares
CENTER: Bangla-Pesa (Kenya)
BOTTOM (L to R): Baltimore BNotes (Baltimore, MD), Sarafu-Credits (Kenya), K'Mali (South Africa)" source