Ardmore's Downtown Dollars make their debut

Ardmore’s local currency, called Downtown Dollars, is now in circulation.

Sponsored and subsidized by the Ardmore Initiative business improvement district, Downtown Dollars proved to be downright irresistible on the first day they were made available.

So much so that some people who’d waited in line Monday morning to buy the local currency were disappointed to learn the nonprofit group had sold out of its allotted supply for the day in a matter of minutes.

The Ardmore Initiative, which created its own currency as an economic shot in the arm for about 100 local shops and restaurants, sold currency with a face value of $6,000 in person and $3,000 online.

Lesson learned No. 1 for John A. Durso Jr., the local banker who came up with the idea for Downtown Dollars: Set a cap on something and people will buy the maximum they’re allowed.

Under this experiment, individuals are limited to a maximum $100 purchase of 200 Ardmore Downtown Dollars. One U.S. dollar is worth two Downtown Dollars for 90 days from the date of purchase.

That’s why people lined up in the rain to buy a discounted “scrip” that promises to help them stretch their household budgets.

Granted, this is the Ardmore Initiative’s maiden voyage with printing local currency. But the virtual sellout revealed the money-creation limitations of any institution that’s not the U.S. government.

After all, the Federal Reserve documented $888.3 billion of U.S. currency in circulation around the world as of Dec. 31. The Ardmore Initiative’s local currency effort is considerably more modest.

Still, the consumer response did prompt the Ardmore Initiative board to expand its program from $10,000 to $15,000 to be sure that it had currency available to sell at events in the Main Line community, including the annual Ardmore Blossoms Festival on June 6.

That means the nonprofit group has upped its subsidy from $5,000 to $7,500. In addition, it spent about $1,000 designing the Downtown Dollars, which come in denominations of 10 and 20.

Will it be money well spent?

Well, one thing the local currency will enable the Ardmore Initiative to do is determine how people spent their Downtown Dollars and whether it prompted consumers to part with additional cash. After all, retailers and other businesses will need to exchange the scrip for greenbacks.

“There’s a lot of money floating around town right now,” said Durso, who’s also chairman of the business group. “And I can’t wait to see where it’s going to be spent.”