DENVER - The first bills in a new, alternative currency will be released to Colorado businesses Friday evening.
COjacks are described as "the local currency for Colorado." Co-founder Brok McFerron said the name was selected to be short and memorable, with the "CO" representing both Colorado and the word "cooperative."
McFerron said work on the currency began about three years ago.
"The most time consuming part is developing the artwork," said McFerron, who said his background included several business ventures and a few years on Wall Street.
Each of the 1, 10 and 20 COjacks bills are differently colored, like Euros. Designed by co-founder and Denver native Deacon Rodda, each denomination's design includes a portrait of a Colorado animal instead of a president or politician, like the Dollar.
The bills are printed by a business in Centennial on waterproof paper that resists tearing. McFerron said they also have a layer of varnish that reacts to black light to prevent counterfeiting.
According to COjacks' website, a long list of local business members has already agreed to accept the alternative to greenbacks. They include several cafes, photographers, cosmetologists, artists and members of a dozen other industries.
The first of the bills will be released during a private launch party Friday evening at the 910 Arts building.
"It is a very slow moving train until launch because nobody can spend," McFerron said. "I would like to be at more than 1000 businesses within a year. We're at about 100 right now."
Businesses can become members of the COjacks network at two levels. At both levels, they pledge to accept the currency at a rate of $1 to 1 COjack.
Member businesses can purchase the currency at a rate of $1 to Cj3 for the "pro" level and $1:Cj2 for the "basic" level. Individuals can also exchange at a rate of $4:Cj5 through a personal membership.
The purchases of COjacks fund the work for McFerron and Rodda, who say they are a for-profit business.
"Those dollars are spent for things that we need to grow our organization. We don't actually self-issue any cojacks," McFerron said. "COjacks as an organization doesn't actually have any COjacks."
McFerron said he was inspired into the venture by authors and founders of other alternative currencies. He describes the venture as a way to encourage spending at local businesses and not a replacement for the dollar.
"The point is not to store it up in great numbers, like people often do with dollars," he said.
While Section 8 of the Constitution of the United States gives Congress the power "To coin Money, regulate the Value thereof, and of foreign Coin, and fix the Standard of Weights and Measures," it does not prevent the creation of alternatives, except for counterfeits of the official national currency.