Punk Money

In the Middle Ages, producers created their own money as a promise to deliver goods and services in the future, and spent it with people who trusted them. The promisee, who became the bearer of a new credit note, could transfer it to a third party as payment, by signing it on the back. If a note ever came back to the issuer, it would be redeemed for whatever it was a promise for. Personal currencies were effective forms of trust-based local money when bullion was in short supply.

Today, as we face another shortage of sovereign money, why not revive the old practice with new technology? Credit money can be created by anyone with something to produce, and some trust that they can deliver it. Twitter is in fact an ideal platform for this: it offers a public record, its format is brief, it is a social network, and it has some handy syntax to do everything we need.

So here’s a proposal on how to literally print money with Twitter, called #PunkMoney. You can be the Ben Bernank, and Wall Street can be punked – it’s easy…

To make #PunkMoney work best, I’ve put together a set of minimal rules for money issuance, transfer and redemption. They are just conventions, but offer consistency which can help to create trust. You can create #PunkMoney for an hour of French tuition, a cup of coffee, a banquet of Pizza, ten ounces of gold… whatever you want. You can send it all over the world at no cost, too.

My suggestion is to make promises you feel you can actually keep, as this makes it all much more fun for everyone else. Every time someone has a good experience with #PunkMoney, it builds trust in the meme and helps it grow. Consider it a collaborative experiment in open money.

Print money

To create new money, just tweet it into existence as a promise to somebody. I suggest the following phrasing:

@someone I promise to pay you, on demand, [Insert whatever you promise here]

@someone is the person you’re issuing this credit note to, and who will become the bearer. They will have the right to transfer or redeem the note, but more on that in a minute.

You might want to add some details, like an expiry date

Expires in X days/months/years

By convention, we’ll assume #PunkMoney is transferable. If you don’t want this to be the case, add

Non-Transferable, or NT

If you’d like your credit note to be transferable subject to your approval, use


This is especially handy if the promise is for something more personal, like a meal or a night on your couch.

Finally, hashtag your tweet with #PunkMoney. That shows you’re following #PunkMoney rules. Here’s some I printed earlier:

@someone I promise to pay you, on demand, one cold pint of beer. Expires in 60 days. TSA #PunkMoney

Transfer money

Let’s say you’ve received some PunkMoney from someone. What can you do with it? You might want to spend it as money yourself, by transferring it to a third person as payment, or a gift. If that’s the case, reply to the original message with

@issuer Please transfer this to @someoneelse

Since the replies are shown alongside the original tweet, you’ve publicly signed the credit note over to the new person. The new bearer now has the right to transfer or redeem…

Redeem money

If you want to cash in the promise someone has made you, rather than continue to hold it or transfer it, you can reply to the original tweet with

@issuer Please redeem

You might then want to follow up by DM to arrange the details. When you’re satisfied the issuer has made good on the note, you can close the note off with

@issuer Thanks for the [value delivered]

Record your trust

If you had a good experience, you can make a public gesture to record your trust in the issuer. Simply create your own list called PunkMoney-trusted and add them to it. That way other people can see who you trust, as well as who trusts anyone else. It creates some social currency for them, and is also nice way of saying thanks.

That’s all

PunkMoney is an experiment in popular money printing. It may seem crude – but that’s because there isn’t really much to a monetary system in the first place. Money is created and accepted as payment through trust. Technologies as simple as paper and pencil have been enough to create it in the past, so why not Twitter?

Now, if you enjoyed this post, punk some money my way.