By, Bill Myers
Bill won Best-of-Show with his Pogs exhibit at the
The United States has deployed soldiers to many areas of the world since the terrorist attack on 9-11-01. Wherever soldiers are deployed, there are merchants available to provide services for the soldiers. Since the Revolutionary War, merchants, called sutlers, have followed the soldiers to provide their services and the Sutler Tokens are a numismatic reminder of that era. In 1867, due to corruption in the sutler system, only authorized traders were allowed on post. In 1889 this system was replaced by canteens. Finally, in 1895 the exchange service was established to provide support for the soldiers, which today is provided by the Army Air Force Exchange Service (AAFES). They provide services including a Post or Base Exchange (PX or BX), barber shop, beauty shop, gift shop, movie theater and food court.
When soldiers were first sent to Afghanistan, there was a shortage of coins in the AAFES system, so small cost items such as candy were used as change. This system was not optimal, and AAFES wanted to make maximal use of their available shipping weight for goods for the soldiers and not use-up part of that weight to ship coins. The wife of an AAFES executive suggested the use of a plastic disc to act as an "IOU". This idea was developed and AAFES instituted the use of plastic discs, called "POGs", in the value of 5 cents, 10 cents and 25 cents.
HISTORY OF POGS
The plastic discs that AAFES issues are called POGs due to their resemblance to the children's toy. POGs date back to the 1920s-50s in Hawaii. Children collected milk bottle caps. They devised a game where they would stack the caps art side up. They would then take another milk bottle cap, called a hitter or slammer, and throw it and try to hit the stack. Any caps that were flipped over with the blank side showing were collected by that player. As cardboard containers replaced glass milk bottles, children turned to juice bottles sold by the Hileakala Dairy in Maui for the bottle caps. The word POG stands for "Passionfruit, Orange and Guava", a tropical drink sold by the dairy. The name POG stuck. POGs are still available, though they are no longer bottle caps but are manufactured specifically as toys.
An earlier version of modern day POGs is from Camp Davies NCO Club in Saigon. The Vietnamese workers could not handle Military Payment Certificates (MPC) that were used by the soldiers for purchases, nor could they read English. To obtain take-out food, a soldier would pay for the order at the cashier cage with MPC and would receive a chit. The soldier would then give this to the cook to receive his order. The chits were of three types: square pieces of cardboard, cardboard inventory tags with metal rims and cardboard milk bottle caps. They were all stamped with "CAMP DAVIES NCO EM" and had the food item and cost hand written on the face, along with the Club Sergeant's initials. The bottle caps were from the Valley Farm Dairy, J.P. Serpa Dairy, Bristol, RI and Weltmer's Farm Dairy, Perrysville, OH. How these caps ended up in Vietnam is a mystery, as they did not provide milk to Vietnam. These could be classified as the first Military POGs.
POGs can only be used at AAFES facilities. AAFES officially labels the POGs as gift certificates. This stems from the law that only the U.S. Government can manufacture coins and paper notes. POGs are not produced by the U.S. Mint or U.S. Bureau of Engraving and Printing, so they cannot be called "money" and should instead be classified as tokens.
The AAFES POGs are polystyrene discs, 23 mm (1.58 inches) in diameter. They have a medal turn. There are multiple printings of POGs. Once a printing is completed, it will never be reissued.
The first printing has "Gift Certificate" across the top, "AAFES" across the bottom and the denomination in the center on one side of the POG. On the other side the denomination is located at the top, "AAFES" on the bottom and three lines of text in the middle which state: "This gift certificate has a retail" (line 1) "value of (5, 10 or 25) cents and is redeemable" (line 2) "only at your BX/PX" (line 3). The background is white/grey on the 5 cents, brown on the 10 cents and red/brown on the 25 cents.
AAFES POGSBy, Bill Myers
For subsequent printings, each denomination has a common image on one side, and variable images on the other. The common side has "AAFES" across the top and "Gift Certificate" curved across the bottom, with the denomination in the center. The background is blue on the 5 cents, green on the 10 cents and orange on the 25 cents. There is one variant. The word "Bassett" appears under the denomination and above "Gift Certificate" on POG 5L101 (see classification system that follows). This was done to promote the fact that AAFES sells Bassett furniture.
On the variable image side, going around the rim counterclockwise from 11:00 to 7:00 is printed "This gift certificate has a retail value of". At 6:00 the denomination is listed in large print. Continuing counterclockwise from 5:00 to 1:00 is "and is redeemable only at your BX/PX", for the second and third printings, and "and is redeemable at any AAFES facility", for the subsequent printings. What is placed at the 12:00 position varies. For the second printing, it is blank. The third printing has "2003". The fourth and fifth printings have "2004". The sixth printing has '2005" and the seventh "2005B".
The placement of a picture on the variable side of POGs was started with the second printing. They were primarily of modern military scenes. The overprints of Operation Enduring Freedom (OEF) (Afghanistan) and Operation Iraqi Freedom (OIF) were placed on some POGs, as well, starting with the second printing. The third printing continued with pictures of modern military themes, but also included non-military but patriotic themes as well as two with AAFES themes. These AAFES themed POGs have the overprint of "we go where you go" and "proudly serving those who serve". The fourth printing was similar to the third but has the addition of black and white historical photographs. The fifth printing starts the addition of POGs both with and without the OIF/OEF overprint on the same background photo and denomination. This is why some denominations require 13 POGs to obtain a complete set. The sixth and seventh printings have a variety of military and patriotic pictures, including several photos of Elvis Presley (6th printing only) as a soldier, military football teams, race cars and past U.S. Presidents (7th printing only).
The first printing has only one POG for each denomination. The second, third and fourth printing have 12 different POGs for each denomination. The fifth printing has 13 different POGs for 5 cents and 25 cents and 12 POGs for the 10 cents. The sixth and seventh printing have 13 different POGs for the 10 and 25 cents and 12 for the 5 cents.
POGs are manufactured at the AAFES facility in Dallas. They are printed with nine sets of the same denomination per sheet and are punched out and put into trays for shipment. There are 400 POGs per tray for the 25 cents ($100) and 500 per tray for the 10 cents ($50) and 5 cents ($25). They are then warehoused at Mainz-Kastel, Germany and shipped to Kuwait, Afghanistan and Iraq as needed.
Some of the information about POGs is classified. This includes the cost of manufacturing, the process of design selection, as well as the exact quantities of each POG design printed.
The introduction of POGs was to save shipping weight. Table 1 gives a comparison of the weight of a tray of POGs versus the weight of the coins they replace. The difference in weight ranges from 1 lb 11 oz to 4 lbs 10 oz per tray.
Doug Bell and Steve Swoish have established a website for information on POGs - www.aafespogs.com. They have classified the POGs so they can be readily identified. They use an alpha-numeric system. The classification system first lists a number which identifies the printing. This is followed by a letter for that design (A for the first printing, and A to M, skipping I, for the remaining printings). The next number is the denomination. This is followed by a 1, representing one each. For example, 4H101 represents the fourth printing, design H with the value of 10 cents. The POGs that carry the OIF and OEF overprinting, that starts in the fifth series, are classified as with ("w") and without ("wo") the overprint. POGs with and without the OEF overprint are 5G251, 6M101, 6G251, 7A101 and 7L251. POGs with and without OIF overprint are 5H51.
AAFES POGSBy, Bill Myers
The number of errors reported for POGs has been very limited. Only off-center cuts have been identified. Slightly off-center cuts are not unusual, but POGs with portions of three different POGs visible are rare. So far, seven are known.
The lifespan of a POG is unknown. They do show wear and some are so badly worn that the design cannot be identified. They can also break. Badly worn POGs and those redeemed outside the countries they are issued for are destroyed by AAFES. There is no accepted grading system, as most POGs can be obtained in new or nearly new condition.
POG USE AND ACCEPTANCE
No mention has yet been made concerning the use of one cent coins or POGs. Any U.S. coins present where POGs are used are brought over by soldiers and other workers. Prices in AAFES facilities were listed to the cent, but the final totals are rounded-up or down to the nearest 5 cents. This has been well accepted by the cashiers and the customers, so there is no need to produce one cent POGs or to import cent coins. Perhaps this means that the U.S. public may very well accept the discontinuance of the cent coin, as well.
The POGs are generally well accepted, but not without some issues. One soldier received his first POG in change after ordering at a food court. He initially thought his order number was 10, as that was the denomination of the POG he received. Many soldiers stated that the POGs did not feel like money and they either threw them away or refused to accept them at the cash register. It is not unusual to find POGs lying on the ground or left on counters. Certainly AAFES profits from these non-redeemed POGs.
Like other areas of numismatics, POGs have related materials that can be collected. POGs are shipped in plastic containers. These containers measure 190mm x 100mm and have two troughs for the POGs. They have either 400 ct or 500 ct stamped on them, the former having shorter troughs. The 5 and 10 cents POGs are shipped in the 500 count trays and the 25 cents POGs in the 400 count trays.
A trifold POG holder was released by AAFES for collecting POGs. They have military-themed photographs on the cover, with "Operation Iraqi Freedom – 2003 – USA" printed on it. Each page has 13 slots for POGs. One slot is to display the denomination side and 12 for the picture side. The holders are listed with a price of $4.95.
The photos on POGs appear on other items that can be collected. Two postcards for sale at AAFES facilities have the same pictures that have been selected for a POG. The bottle-nosed dolphin from POG 2L51 appears on a postcard, which also shows the trainer. The postcard is labeled "United States Army preserving hope". The soldier pictured on POG 5G51 also appears as the center photograph of three photographs on a postcard for Operation Iraqi Freedom 2004. Many of the historic photos have been seen in history books, such as the well known photo of the crew of the Enola Gay in front of their plane on POG 5A101. Military Payment Certificate (MPC) collectors will recognize POG 6B251 as the vignette from MPC Series 681-$10, and POG 7D51 has the same vignette found on MPC Series 681-$1. The November 2004 issue of "Soldier" magazine has a photograph of a Humvee driving through flooding in Djibouti, found on page 7, that is the same photo featured on POG 5E101.
AAFES distributed a 22 x 28 inch poster with the same design on both sides. It has an image of the common side of the 5, 10 and 25 cents POGs and explains the use of POGs. It was designed to encourage acceptance of POGs by AAFES customers.
The collecting of AAFES POGs is an active and evolving area of numismatics. There is more information to be acquired and future series of POGs to be released, for those who have the interest and desire.
AAFES POGSBy, Bill Myers
William Myers has had a long interest in Numismatics and has become quite active in recent years. He is currently the Secretary of the Georgia Numismatic Association and President of the Augusta Coin Club in Georgia. He has won awards for exhibits at FUN, GNA and SCNA shows - including Best of Show at 2006 FUN, for his exhibit on AAFES POGs. He is currently an Orthopaedic Surgeon in Augusta, GA as well as a Colonel in the U.S. Army Reserves, with 18 years of service. He most recently served with the 67th Combat Support Hospital in Mosul, Iraq from Oct. 04 to Jan 05, where he furthered his interest in POGs.
Schwan, Fred Comprehensive Catalog of Military Payment Certificates. Port Clinton, Ohio: BNR Press, 2002, p.291.
Giedroyc, Richard. "Cardboard Coins for U S. Forces in Afghanistan' Numismatist, 116 (Apr/. / 2003), pp. 42-44.
Reid,Steven. Letters. 'Points About Pogs" Numistmatist,116 (June 2003), p. 14.
What's Happening. 'Pennies and POGs: The Dollars and Cents of Setting Up Shop in a War Zone."Family, (July 2005),
Tog Gift Certificates Instruction Sheet' August 2004
Army Air Force Exchange Service, http://wwwatmll/factsheetasp?fs/D=162
"AAFES News Online. Release No. 04-007 January 2004," www.aafes.com/pa/bots/botPABottom.htm,
"AAFES POGS. " www.aafespogs.com
"What in the World is a Pog?" www.aafespogs.corn/world is a poghtm.
"The Civil War Token Society" http.//www.cwtsocietycom/history.html
Personal communications with Steve Swoish.
Personal communications with Ray Bows
Bows, Ray A. "The Origin of Military POGs" - unpublished article
Bows, Ray A. "Vietnam Military Lore, 1959-1973'; Vol Hanover, MA: Bows & Sons Publishing 1988.
DENOMINATION WEIGHT OF CASH VALUE WEIGHT OFTRAY OF POGS EQUIVALENT COINS
5 CENTS 11.4 oz $25.00 5 lbs 8 oz
10 CENTS 11.4 oz $50.00 2 lbs 9 oz
25 CENTS 14.0 oz $100.00 5 lbs 1 oz
16 FUN-Topics Summer 2006
This article was first printed in the