Today’s item is a bit unusual as it is American, rather than British or Commonwealth in origin. They were used extensively by British troops during operations so it seems appropriate to include them here.
During Operation Telic, the British shared bases with the US Armed forces and used their canteens and shops. The shops accepted dollars, however there was a severe shortage of small change in theatre. Soldiers got a bit fed up of having to round everything up to the nearest dollar, but it was impractical to ship large amounts of heavy metal coinage half way around the world. To get around this, small plastic ‘tokens’ were issued instead. They came in 5c., 10c., and 20c., denominations and they had a variety of images printed on them:
The rear of the tokens indicated they were ‘gift certificates’ rather than coins:
This distinction is important as under US law only the treasury could issue currency, so to get around this they were described as gift certificates. Soldiers commonly refer to them as ‘pogs’ after the popular milk cap game from the early 1990s.
One British sodlier back in 2010 explained their use:
Back on R&R at the moment and my bloody wallet and Cbt Jkt pockets are full of them. Yes, they are in use and a pain in the arse. You never end up using them and the Tp just end up putting them in a tin where at the end of tour we are going to go to the EFI and exchange them.
Some squadies used the pogs to their advantage however:
The choggi wallah in LKG used to swap his POGs with me for real money. So what? I could still spend them in the EFI, he got real money for use out in Lash and my laundry was delivered to my bedspace the same morning. Up to 48h turn around or rooting through 1000 white bags looking for a flash of tag or bottle top? I don’t think so!