Detritus and abstract concepts have replaced physical currency among many Blacktip Island residents. (photo by Wendy Beaufort/Blacktip Times)
Blacktip Island merchants this week were surprised by a sudden uptick in the use by many of the small Caribbean island’s residents of what has been termed ‘crypticcurrency’, business owners said.
“It’s sort of like cryptocurrency, only different,” said Peachy Bottoms, owner of the island’s sole grocery-and-sundries store. “Folks’re basically swapping out physical goods and services for items, gestures and concepts they say are of equivalent value. Just today Linford Blenny paid for his groceries with a dried iguana foot and a mumbled prophecy. Like with cryptocurrency, I don’t quite get it, but folks sound convinced, so I’m willing to give it a try.
“The first one to use it was cousin Dermott and, frankly, I was too scared to say ‘no,’” Bottoms said. “The way he explained it, it’s a form of semi-formalized bartering. And everybody’s doing it now, so I guess it’s here to stay. As long as I can pay my suppliers with it, I’m good.”
The currency’s creators say crypticcurrency is still in its formative stages.
“Can people make up non-physical items to exchange for physical ones? Sure,” Christina Mojarra said. “But so far no one’s really abused that. We’re all working together to come up with some kind of rough metric we can use multilaterally for our transactions.
“While we gather data, it really all depends on what the other person’ll accept, Mojarra said. “It’s actually kind of fun—no one’s sure what things are worth when put in these terms, so it’s a great cooperative, community-building exercise.”
Some locals say the currency is backed by island spirits.
“Saying nobody knows what things are worth, that’s a bunch of hooey,” handyman James Conlee said. “The duppies set the value of everything. Always have. Their island, you know. They just let us live here.
“They’re the ones’ll be policing everybody, too,” Conlee said. “Don’t doubt the duppies. Don’t cross the duppies. Not sure you can hear ‘em, or what they’re saying, ask me. I’ll tell you what’s what. Trust me on that.”
Other island residents refuse to use, or accept the new currency.
“They’re all deadbeats making it up as they go,” Eagle Ray Cove owner Rich Skerritt said. “Nut jobs like James and Dermott are robbing everybody blind. Me, and my businesses, we still use money. And’ll only accept money. Duppies? Bring ‘em on. Dermott tries to pay rent with a chunk of driftwood and the color orange, I’m chucking him out on his ass.”
Others were more open minded.
“Today Finn paid off his bar tab with what he had on hand,” Sand Spit bartender Cori Anders said. “There was no cash involved, but at least he paid it off. Sort of. The wild part was making change when the payment was neo-Hegelianism, a Humphrey Bogart impersonation and the number 42. I gave him a bird call and photographic reciprocity. He seemed happy with that.”