Paying With Pogs

The early ’90s fad has seen a fascinating resurgence:

When the US military deployed soldiers to Afghanistan in 2001 for Operation Enduring Freedom, nickels and dimes probably weren’t important concerns. But soon, commanders realized that importing US coins for army purchases was, cumulatively, too heavy: there was simply no room for chump change in supply shipments.

800px-AAFESpogsIn stepped the Army Air Force Exchange Service (AAFES), the Army’s merchandise supplier and foreign base exchange operator since 1895. On its website, the AAFES pledges to “go where you go in serving our troops worldwide.” And that they did: in November 2001, they brought pogs back into play and began shipping them to Afghanistan. They drastically reduced the weight of shipments: $100 in quarters (5 pounds, 1 ounce), was reduced to 14 ounces in equivalent pog currency. …

The pogs worked. Soldiers use them to this day to buy anything sold in the 181 AAFES department stores across 30 countries (and all 50 US states). In addition, the AAFES has partnered with over 1,000 major retail and food chains; pogs are now valid as a form of currency at Taco Bell, Cinnabon, Burger King, and Popeyes.

Update from a reader:

The pogs post cracked me up. When I was in Afghanistan in 2010, someone had glued perfectly cut and cropped pictures of dicks/balls/hairy asses to the pogs. Whoever was doing it had produced them so well that they looked and felt just like the regular pogs, except instead of a picture of a bald eagle or an American flag or whatever, it was a picture of a giant butt-plug. These pogs, of course, made it into the circulation of the base economy, and were also accepted by the locals at the small bazaar. Senior officers grumbled, I’m sure, but as far as I know, the person producing them was never caught.

(Photo by Wikipedia user Lando242)