Ithaca, N.Y. — The founder of a new “community currency” for Ithaca is using a scavenger hunt downtown to help launch the new venture.

Why I shop downtown — Carmen

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“Ithacash,” which will launch in early 2015, aims to enrich the local economy by encouraging money to be kept within the community, says Ithacash founder Scott Morris.

Fifty-six locations downtown are participating in the holiday season scavenger hunt, according to Morris, and participants can collect $250 “Ithaca Dollars” by collecting the presents hidden within the downtown stores. Those “dollars” will soon be in use as part of an exchange for real goods and services in Ithaca.

Here’s a promotional video featuring Mayor Svante Myrick:

You can hear Morris talk about the idea behind Ithacash here.

This is how he summarized the idea behind the currency on his website:

“Alternative”, “Local”, and “Community” currencies are types of money designed to reconnect us with the people living around us, the place we live in together, and with that sense of shared purpose that makes a community.  By recirculating in one city or region, these currencies are continually passed from one set of hands to another, helping people get what they need. Home-grown currencies provide an effective alternative when traditional money just isn’t doing the trick.     

Ithacash is just one of many new money systems appearing all around the globe as more people are discovering how easy and fun it is to use these currencies in bettering their communities.  

And the full press release about the scavenger hunt:

This holiday season Ithacans have something new they can do while they get their holiday shopping done, or while they’re just making the rounds to let the retailers know they care by dropping by. It’s a kind of scavenger hunt, somewhat more akin to a treasure hunt in how it works, as you don’t take the item and instead leave it for the next player to find, wherever it may be. What’s even more interesting is that players are actually earning a new local currency as they go along, find presents, and collect stickers from participating locations.

There are a total of 56 locations downtown with presents hidden within. Anyone interested in playing can pick up a map from any one of those locations, or from the Visitor’s Center in Center Ithaca. Each sticker collected earns a player one raffle entry toward any of 35 gift cards, valuing anywhere from $10 to $200, as well as 5 Ithaca Dollars for themselves, and another Ithaca Dollar for a nonprofit they choose from a list on the form on the backside of the map.  Those include Loaves & Fishes, Greenstar Community Projects, Kitchen Theatre, Healthy Food For All, GIAC, and the Tompkins County Chamber of Commerce.

Ithaca Dollars are the new local / regional currency of “Ithacash”, a startup social venture planning to launch in early 2015. Ithacash is building on the legacy of the well known Ithaca HOURs local currency, and is led by its founder, Scott Morris. Many will recall that in the early 1990’s, Paul Glover made the HOURs a success by hosting monthly pot-lucks and doing nonstop networking while riding around town on his bicycle. At their peak, HOURs featured over 900 listings in their directory. Glover, now a resident of Philadelphia, had this to say, “Best of luck to Ithacash. Because of the rising costs of mortgages, health care, and schooling, combined with stagnant wages, the need for local control of money is greater today than twenty years ago. Community currency of all types can fill deep gaps by networking Ithaca’s vast creativity.”

By collecting a full map’s worth of 56 stickers, a player can earn up to 280 Ithaca Dollars (“i$280”) just through playing. What’s more though, is that there are some sizable amounts of Ithacash up for grabs as grand prizes. Three lucky participants will win i$1500, i$1000, and i$500 in addition to the Ithacash they earn by collecting stickers. In order to qualify for the grand prize drawing, a player must collect over half (28) the total number of stickers (56) available.  Each sticker over the 28th will be one entry for the grand prize. “This is a fantastic way for people to have a good time, get some shopping done, and come away with something of value for themselves all while showing some much appreciated support to the merchants downtown.” says Scott Morris. “I really hope people enjoy the game, and look forward to doing more fun things like this in the future!”


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Jeff Stein

Jeff Stein is the founder and former editor of the Ithaca Voice.