Recollections of Vietnam
As noted in the introductory paragraph, Military Payment Certificates (MPC) were supposed to control the illicit underground market in U.S. currency. To that end, I suppose they were somewhat effective, although I never saw an Indian money changer who didn't have an ample supply of U.S. bills. Further, MPC supposedly could only be used by authorized U.S. personnel, although those same Indian money changers would readily exchange almost any other form of currency for it. One of the ways in which they could use it was to buy merchandise (primarily cigarettes and liquor) from U.S. servicemen with it. Although supplies of tobacco and alcohol were strictly rationed, there were certainly many people who didn't use one or the other or both. Nonetheless, they got the same ration chits as everyone else. On-base prices for these commodities were extremely low; cigarettes were $1.00 per carton, hard liquor was $1.00 to $1.10 per quart, and beer was the same price as soft drinks -- 10 cents per 12 ounce can. An enterprising person could (illegally) sell these commodities to a civilian in exchange for MPC at a reasonable markup. The purchaser, in turn, could add his markup and sell the merchandise at well below the normal market price. Needless to say, that whenever the opportunity for a profit like this shows up, someone will take advantage of it. In order to discourage this activity, the MPC was changed from time to time. This was done on very short notice and you had a very limited time to convert any you had to the new series (if I remember correctly, it was about 24 hours). The only problem was that the Indian money changers knew about the impending changes before even the finance people on the base did and they rarely got caught holding worthless MPC. Sorry about the slow page load time -- I really shouldn't put this many images on one page.
Military Payment Certificates These three certificates are from Series 681, with the front shown on the left and the back on the right. Actual size of these bills was about 4 1/4" by 2 1/8" These four certificates are from Series 692, with the front shown on the left and the back on the right. Actual size of these bills was about 4 1/4" by 2 1/8". The one dollar bill was somewhat larger at 4 1/4" by 2 5/8"