The Bristol pound-usable only with member businesses in the city in southwest England-is to launch in September, and organisers are deluged with local firms wanting to sign up.
"The perception of banking and money is that it's a very ruthless system: people are out for what they can get," co-founder Ciaran Mundy told AFP.
"This is about saying yes to something new. It's tapping into a different set of values about money."
The scheme has "captured people's imaginations", he added, in a recession- hit year when British banks have been beset by scandals and ministers talked openly of a possible euro collapse.
Hundreds of businesses have joined, from the acclaimed Arnolfini arts centre to the Chandos deli chain, and the launch had to be postponed from May to September 19 because of the level of interest.
Security professional Richard Wright signed up his company Wright Guard as soon as he heard about the Bristol pound, hoping it would help him fight back against encroaching security giants.
"I'm Bristol born and bred, and I always want to support local businesses," he told AFP. "I'll want to keep the Bristol pound flowing."
The notes feature symbols of local pride from nineteenth-century religious writer Hannah More to the Concorde aircraft, partly developed in Bristol, and images of the St Paul's Carnival Caribbean street festival.
Evoking a long history of dissent, one side of the 5 note shows a tiger writing on a wall in graffiti: "O Liberty!"
Other British towns have launched local currencies, but Bristol, home to half a million people, is the first big city, and its scheme is ambitious.
Businesses can pay local taxes in Bristol pounds and the council has offered its 17,000 staff the option of receiving part of their pay in the currency.
Mundy's team-funded initially by grants-have designed an electronic system for payments by text message, plus what they say are forgery-proof notes.
Stores selling products from cider to skate shoes said they were considering joining the scheme, which Mundy believes will have a tangible economic effect.
"Eighty percent of the money leaves the area if it is spent with a multinational-but 80 percent stays if it is spent at a local trader," he said.