By Zack Zeigler
Ever think you'd want to own a pog again? Neither did we, but the Army Air Force Exchange Services (AAFES) did something to change our minds by placing images of Captain America, Iron Man and She-Hulk on the front of some very special ones.
To come clean, AAFES has been using pogs – 1.5-inch polystyrene discs, for those who don't recall the 90's fad – as currency on military bases in Afghanistan and Iraq since 2001. Putting Marvel super heroes on the pogs in June 2008 simply made the program a little bit cooler.
"We can't print money," said Dr. Jim Skibo, VP of Marketing and Advertising for the AAFES. "[And] we will not ship coinage into the warzone. It costs a small fortune to ship stuff like that, so we use [the pogs] as gift certificates."
After AAFES sent Marvel a list of suggested characters that included Spider-Man, Spider-Woman and Silver Surfer—Captain America, Iron Man and She-Hulk made the final cut to appear on the pogs, being given values of 25, 10 and five cents respectively.
Unfortunately for Marvelites, AAFES won't issue any pogs to non-military personnel. If you want 'em, your best bet is to check eBay (using AAFES + pogs in the search engine).
"We've had numerous requests from people who are not in the military but collect military paper to ship them sets [of pogs], but we don't," Skibo said. "I can't tell you how many coin collectors asked us for sets of these. We didn't mean to create that demand, but it made them more than just handing the soldiers and airmen a dime or a nickel."
Think of the AAFES pogs like chips in a casino; the pog, like a casino chip, is assigned a monetary value and can be traded in for cash when a soldier has completed his or her tour of duty. However, soon after the program started, Skibo and the folks at AAFES realized that soldiers and airmen were keeping them as mementos of the war. That's when they decided they should make them more interesting.
To do that, AAFES held photo contests open to military employees. The response was overwhelming.
"We got 7,000 envelopes with photographs in them, [and] some were very touching because people mailed their dad's original photo albums from WWII," he said.
Those photos and other images used on the pogs paved the way for an evolution (or would it be a mutation?) that led to a collaborative effort with Marvel. As for the future of the program, it's not going away any time soon. It will continue as long as there is a need for cash in the warzone, which leaves us with a burning question: Which super heroes are in AAFES' queue for the next series of pogs?
"I don't have a list off the top of my head… [but] we would ask Marvel if we could do certain characters, we wouldn't do just one, we'd do a series," Skibo said.
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