Currency for a new mini economy
May 23, 2006 2:44 AM   Subscribe

Help me find something I can use as currency for a baby sitting circle.

I'm in the throws of setting up a baby sitting circle. I trust these people to look after my children and all my worldwide belongings, so fraud isn't a worry. But, I need to find something to use as currency. Some kind of metal token / coin would be prefferable to paper based vouchers, but would almost certainly be prohibitively expensive. Based on 15 members with 15 hours credit each to start off with and 1 token being worth 1/2 hour, I'll need about 500. What do other baby sitting circles use?
posted by hmca to Home & Garden (22 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
This may be off-the-wall, but how about those chocolate coins? They're usually cheap in bulk.
(just keep them in the fridge, prevent meltage)
posted by Radio7 at 2:46 AM on May 23, 2006

You could try plastic chips, such as are used for poker or other games. Buy some kind of stamping utility and put a special mark on them to differentiate them from ordinary plastic chips. Alternatively, take a swing by your nearest hobby/comic/gaming store and see what they have in the way of plastic placeholders for map-based games.
posted by nightchrome at 2:55 AM on May 23, 2006

Oriental Trading has these plastic tokens that say "I was caught being good." You get 144 for $3.95. I've ordered from them before and not had a problem. Hope that helps!
posted by IndigoRain at 3:06 AM on May 23, 2006

You should be able to find bags of fruit machine tokens on ebay. Personally I'd prefer plastic.
posted by Leon at 3:31 AM on May 23, 2006

I should say I'm in the UK. Those Oriental Trading tokens look just the job, but unfortunately shipping to the UK doesn't look straight forward.
posted by hmca at 3:39 AM on May 23, 2006

Try doing a search for corporate gifts? Businesses will put whatever you want on all sorts of crap, including poker chips. Usually the more you buy, the cheaper it gets.
posted by k8t at 3:51 AM on May 23, 2006

Incidentally, are you aware of what's been written, by Paul Krugman notably, about the economics of a babysitting circle? It might be of interest.
posted by Ethereal Bligh at 4:24 AM on May 23, 2006

(This search with babysitting hyphenated might be more useful.)
posted by Ethereal Bligh at 4:26 AM on May 23, 2006

Some friends of mine use cheap plastic toy blocks cut in two. Just go into your nearest pound store and buy any small coloured plastic thing that looks a bit weird (building blocks/toys/clothes-pegs...). If you're worried they're a bit generic and the system could be gamed, break them in two or paint a coloured blob on them or something.
posted by handee at 4:47 AM on May 23, 2006

My mum's group used to use coloured tiddlywinks. Cheap & easy.
posted by i_cola at 5:27 AM on May 23, 2006

(Regarding EB's comments, I seem to recall that some of those problems can be avoided by having "currency" that loses its value over time, preventing hoarding. That may be more complicated than you want to deal with, though.)
posted by nebulawindphone at 5:38 AM on May 23, 2006

I don't know about baby sitting circles, but if you're interested in a secure token for any purpose, I recommend poker chips. The infrastructure is there to make them arbitrarily secure, and they aren't prohibitively expensive. The price varies based on how secure you need it to be (and also based on how nice the chips are - but I assume you would want the cheapest ones, since feel/looks won't matter).

You could get a custom hot stamp designed with your own graphic on it for about $80, and then get cheap chips stamped with it for a total of about 15-20 cents a piece, up to any number. These are the prices in the US - the same services are available in the UK, but I think they may be slightly more expensive. Alternately you could get them hot-stamped with a (preferably obscure) stock graphic and forego the $80 custom die charge - in the US, this would get you started for about $100.

However, you could reduce that even more by having two values of chips (taking inspiration from poker chips, again) - make one worth four or five times as much as the other, and you could reduce your total number of chips dramatically - I expect you could set up your currency for under $50 in the US, maybe slightly more in the UK. I'll leave the searching for a company up to you, but it shouldn't be hard.

Here is an example of what such chips look like. As you might expect, many designs are available, although you probably don't care that much. :)
posted by pinespree at 5:57 AM on May 23, 2006

Print up a "currency" the size of a business card, including some sort of graphic or color printing, eight or more to one sheet of paper, cut them out, have them laminated. Cheap and difficult to copy, hard to damage, easy to make more if you need to. In fact, you could even use business cards.
posted by jellicle at 6:02 AM on May 23, 2006

You can buy a bunch of smooth metal discs at most hardware stores. Get a bunch of them, then prime'em and paint'em. For added babysitting fun, you can have the kids that are old enough to get a kick out of this sort of thing over for a fun "design your own money" day.

Once the kids are done, you can take a picture of all their work to both record it for prosterity and to have a record to prevent future fakes ("There's only one 'Brown bunny head on yellow background' how did we end up with two?").
posted by robocop is bleeding at 6:38 AM on May 23, 2006 [1 favorite]

Flat washers in bulk from a fastener supply are as cheap as $0.03 each for a washer 1" in diameter. Add a custom steel stamp like this security marker and your good to go. For higher security get two stamps made and entrust each to a separate person, valid tokens must be stamped with both.

Even if both stamps cost you $150 the cost per token is less than 35 cents. A single stamp would get tokens at less than 20 cents.

If you wanted to get really fancy you could also get a number stamp set and serialize the tokens.

A further benefit to washers is the holes in the tokens can be threaded onto a carabiner for easy management.

You could use either two different sizes or two different materials (or both) to incorporate pinespree's multi value idea.
posted by Mitheral at 7:09 AM on May 23, 2006

Here is the story that EB referred to. IMO, Krugman gets it wrong by largely ignoring the price-fixing inherent in the co-op.
posted by Kwantsar at 7:13 AM on May 23, 2006

Isn't this the Internet Age?
posted by m@ at 7:39 AM on May 23, 2006

I'm so confused by the entire concept of this conversation. What is a babysitting circle? Why are there credit hours? Why do you need 15 people to watch your kids? Where are you going where you need to plan for 250 hours of babysitting? *so lost*
posted by nadawi at 9:51 AM on May 23, 2006

And somehow i missed the article that was posted up thread...ignore me. unless you want to explain further...
posted by nadawi at 9:53 AM on May 23, 2006

IMO, Krugman gets it wrong by largely ignoring the price-fixing inherent in the co-op.

Could you explain this more?
posted by joshuaconner at 1:24 PM on May 23, 2006

500 full-colour single-sided laminated business cards will cost about £70. I'll knock you up a simple design and tell you where to get them printed if you want. Email in profile.
posted by blag at 2:44 PM on May 23, 2006

For those that are interested, I ended up getting 500 business cards printed via vista print for £14.00
posted by hmca at 6:34 AM on June 12, 2006

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