Swiss canton launches new local currency


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Swiss canton of Valais has launched its own local currency in order to promote the regions produce and pay respects to a controversial historical figure

The canton is famous for its local produce and stunning scenerey

The canton is famous for its local produce and stunning scenerey
© akulamatiau/123RF

To say that Joseph-Samuel Farinet was a controversial figure would be an understatment, however this 19th century counterfitter has had a new currency named after him. In early May the city of Sion, in the Swiss canton of Valais, introduced the farinet - a brand new, local currency.

While Joseph-Samuel Farinet was a criminal in the eyes of the law he garnered huge popularity among the local population of the Valais, his adopted home after he had fled his native Italy. It is believed that Farinet arrived in the Valais sometime in 1869, and soon after began once again minting fake money - his specialty being the 20 centime coin which was dated 1850. In order to keep on the good side of locals Farinet was known to give out the fake coins he minted to the poverty stricken population, which was mostly comprised of farmers. In return for his generosity the locals would provide Farinet with food, shelter and protection from the authorities which continued their search for the forger.

Farinet met his end in 1880, at the age of 35, after being cornered by the police in the mountains above the medieval village of Saillon. Even his death became the stuff of legends, with some suggesting he was killed by the authorities which were hunting him and others stating that he jumped to his death as a last ditch attempt of avoiding capture. Regardless of how he died Farinet had curved out a place for himself in the history of Valais and forever being remembered as a sort of Alpine Robin Hood.

Today Farinet's name is a common sight in Valais, whether it's on a sign outside a cafe or hotel, in fact there are currently more than 150 restaurants, cafes, farm shops and even vineyards named after him.

The picturesque city of Sion was the first to introduce the farinet

The picturesque city of Sion was the first to introduce the farinet
© Roman Babakin/123RF

The farinet was officially launched in Sion, the capital of Valais, on May 13. The new currency comes in eight denominations - 1, 2, 5, 10, 13, 20, 50 and 100 - and has the same value as the official local currency - the Swiss franc. The currency is accepted in over 100 shops and business throughout the canton, including restaurants, cafes, artisanal shops and independent traders. The businesses which have agreed to participate in the scheme will accept payment either fully or partially in farinets and can be located using an interactive map on the currency's official website.

The farinet comes in eight denominations

Local currencies are nothing new, with the concept having existed since the 1980s. By introducing a currency which is restricted to a specific geographical area, authorities can encourage people to spend their money locally, which in turns adds a boost to the local economy. The new currency thus acts as a compliment to the official one rather than an actual replacement.

Other examples of local currencies include the Bristol pound in the UK and the Eusko which was introduced in the Franco-Spanish Basque region. Even in Switzerland the farinet is not the first local currency, with the 'léman' having been launched back in 2015. The léman, which has the same value as the euro, was launched in Geneva and can be used in hundreds of businesses around the Lake Léman region which include the city of Lausanne and neighboring France.

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Editorial Team
Posted on 04/07/2017 Modified on 16/11/2017
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