AAFES necessity becomes collectible craze

  • Published
  • By Capt. Susan A. Romano
  • 407th Air Expeditionary Group Public Affairs
Since the inception of online Internet auction sites, collectors worldwide have been able to find exactly what they are looking for from the comfort of their own home.

Historically, Americans have been collectors of countless types of things, from stamps and coins to military memorabilia and baseball cards.

One can find virtually anything at an online auction site: false teeth, used socks, even shrunken heads. Now, servicemembers have joined the collectible craze with an item that is as common to people deployed here as bottled water -- the Army and Air Force Exchange Service pogs.

The pog goes back to the 1920s in Hawaii. A local fruit drink company bottled its product in glass bottles similar to old-fashioned milk bottles. The bottles were sealed with wax-covered paper disks. The company put different pictures on the disks. The juice was a combination of passion, orange and guava fruit -- hence the name POG. It was the children playing games with the disks that gave them the name.

The games’ popularity spread in the 1930s and 1940s before fading into obscurity. Then, pogs again became a national craze in the mid-1990s.

The exchange service uses pogs in the Middle East out of necessity. Because of weight, the U.S. Treasury Department does not ship coins to the area. So, AAFES officials chose to make their own version of the pog, in denominations of 5, 10 and 25 cents. AAFES pogs are about 1 inch in diameter and feature various military-themed graphics.

Currently, there are three series of AAFES pogs dating back to 2001. The first was simply the specific denomination as the design. In 2002, AAFES began issuing pogs with illustrations on them, such as aircraft, rockets and servicemembers in action. Pogs issued in 2003 have the year stamped on them, while those made in 2002 do not. Each denomination has 13 different designs.

Although AAFES officials said they never intended the pogs to become a collectible item that is exactly what has happened. Servicemembers are saving the cardboard circles as souvenirs of their tours of duty or as additions to their personal collections of military memorabilia.