Mickey Mouse Money, Monopoly Bucks, call it what you will, those of us stationed in the U.S. military in the Far East in the 1950s could only use Military Payment Certificates (MPCs) and were not allowed to possess or use greenback American dollars. This was supposed to curtail black marketing and help keep the actual value of the Japanese Yen at the official rate of ¥360 to the dollar. In practice, it was a nuisance that kept your wallet stuffed with 5¢ paper bills. The only American coins we had were pennies.
These bills came in denominations of 5¢, 10¢, 25¢, 50¢, $1, $5, and $10. Every so often, there were unannounced "conversion" days when everyone was confined to their closed post while the design of the funny money was changed. During my time this happened on May 27, 1958. When that day ended the older Series 521 bills became worthless, and anyone who still held them was stuck with pretty bits of colored paper. These were replaced by the Series 541, which remained valid until May, 1961.
Folks back home taking pity on your meager earnings could send you money orders to keep you in beer, but not greenback dollars. These MOs could be cashed at the bank or post office.
Although MPCs could be readily exchanged for Japanese Yen (¥), it didn't work the other way around. It was actually illegal to convert yen into dollars without special permission from their government. This was to keep their fragile economy afloat, which succeeded all too well in the end.
Of course, we quickly exchanged most of our MPCs for real money, namely Japanese Yen, to be used on the local economy. MPCs could only be used on U.S. military facilities, for such exciting things as laundry — or at the PX or EM Club. This conversion was done at the post bank, or downtown at the Tokyo USO.
I encountered a problem when, near the end of my service in 1959, I sold my year-old Plymouth car to a Japanese dealer. This was completely legal as I had owned it for over a year and was soon leaving, but the catch was that I was of course paid in yen, which could not be converted, and I was not staying there long enough to spend the several thousand dollars worth of yen. So I set up a table at the end of the pay line on pay day, and sold yen to the newly-flush troops at the official rate, saving them a trip to the bank where they would have to wait in line. I then used the resulting MPCs to purchase money orders, some which I mailed home to be deposited in a savings bank, and the rest to an officer in Hawaii who loaned me the money to buy the car in the first place.
MPCs are no longer used, having been replaced by the military in some areas (such as Iraq) with stored-value cards, which are similar to debit or credit cards and can be used to obtain cash or make purchases.
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