Scrip
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Basic Information

A scrip is a substitute currency, issued by a power centre that lacks either the authority, ability or will to issue a true currency.

Historically, scrips have often been used as emergency currencies - for example after an economic collapses, natural disaster or conquest and occupation.

Another, less reputable use has been the issuing of scrips by large employers to pay part or all of their employee's wages. Company scrip was normally only accepted by a small number of company owned stores in which the goods were marked up above normal market prices, thus both increasing the dependency of employees on the company and allowing an unjust profit to be made from them. A scrip based economy could also be used to control what goods and media could be consumed by employees - by restricting access to legal tender the company could reduce the flow of 'contraband' into their workforce1.

Some militaries have also been seen to pay their troops in scrip when on large deployments (albeit usually exchangeable for domestic currency on returning home), again to try and restrict what the men can spend their money on and reduce their ability to buy black-market services such as drugs and prostitutes.

Not all private scrips were created for purposes of exploitation however - even company scrips might be issued with good intentions (for example to enable a functioning economy in an isolated company town that has limited supplies of real money and restricted commerce with the outside world) - and others appear as local currencies set up by social experimenters. These can range from formal 'alternative currencies' to a less regimented 'time and gift exchange' system, depending on the culture they originate it.

The grain based local currency probably counts as a scrip, as does the rather more sinister currency of El Rey.

Technically 'gift vouchers' and other forms of store credit probably count as scrip as well, as to some degree do the early letters of credit that preceded bank notes.

Somewhere between scrip and "real money" lie the notes issued by early local banks - these are generally paper money, issued by a small bank and guaranteed - in theory at least - by its own reserves and/or credit with other banks: essentially like a national currency on a smaller scale. These would often circulate alongside national currency - frequently with national coin and local paper, the paper serving to cover shortages of coin in the area. This sort of arrangement persisted into the C20 in the developed world (and may still be found in a few places) but generally the vulnerability of small banks to runs and other financial crises has lead national central banks to strip them of currency issuing rights - dealing with a collapsed bank in part of your territory is hard enough without also having to sweep up the fallout of a failed currency. Surviving examples of local banks issuing money include Ulster and Scotland in the UK (although Scottish sterling is legally equivalent to UK sterling) and the separate mintings issued for overseas Crown dependencies (from Mann to the Falkland Islands).

Confusingly, the word "scrip" may also be used to refer to a small bag, purse or satchel. Etymological connection, if any, is unclear.

Sources

Bibliography
1. full source reference

Game and Story Use

  • Possibly a good way to 'challenge' your PCs - treasure or payment for a job turns out to be in company scrip.
  • Likewise entering a scrip-based economy with "real money" might have all kinds of benefits and drawbacks.
  • Company scrip is also to be expected in Cyberpunk corporate enclaves and similar places - albeit quite possibly in the form of electronic currency, which may also track what is spent, by whom and on what.
  • It should also be quite normal in the Western genre for a local bank to be issuing notes which make up the bulk of local currencies - silver dollars might well be at a premium, whilst robberies might net a pile of notes valueless outside the county in which they were stolen. Where everyone knows that someone stole a lot of money.
    • In the modern era, a robbery of Northern Bank in Belfast, Ulster, stole ~£26.5M, making it the largest bank robbery in UK history. Unfortunately for the perpetrators £15.5M of that was in Ulster Sterling and almost completely useless outside the province - and very hard to launder in an economy as small as that of Ulster. Speculations about the involvement of the PIRA aside, a further blow was struck when the entirety of Ulster's high value notes (~£300M worth) were subsequently withdrawn and exchanged for a new printing, thus making the stolen notes completely useless in any useful volume.
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