CAMP AL ASAD, Iraq -- Saddam Hussein might take little heart in knowing he's the rage when it comes to souvenir-hunting Marines.
Marines here are stocking up small stacks of Iraqi dinar notes featuring the former dictator's likeness. Iraq's got a new currency, but there's still plenty of the old stuff floating around and Marines are stuffing it away as keepsakes.
"I couldn't pass up the opportunity," said Gunnery Sgt. Noe Villa, a 35-year-old from San Diego who serves as staff noncommissioned officer in charge of 2nd Battalion, 7th Marine Regiment's civil affairs team. "Maybe the money will increase, maybe not. I know family back home likes it when I send them the money with Saddam's picture."
The new Iraqi dinar has been going at a rate of 10 million a day to people on base who hope to offer family members and loved ones interesting gifts.
"The money right now is virtually worthless," said Tom Reilly, 58, an employee of Kellogg, Brown and Root's Human Resources Department from Medway, Mass. "The value may or may not go up. If anything though it will make for a great gift. I know people like getting money from foreign countries. It's a great novelty item."
The business had been good for local merchants who sell the invaluable, yet in-demand, Iraqi currency.
"I sell out everyday," said Raid Nahee Fnesh, 23, manager of the local Al Aobedadi Shop from Baghdadi, Iraq. "I bring ten million dinar everyday from a bank in Baghdad. It is really good business, sells better than the cigars and cigarettes."
Fnesh sells a million dinar for $770, around 1,300 dinar per dollar. He said between 50 and 60 people come in to buy it daily. The money comes from a Baghdad bank where Fnesh takes a taxi every five months to cash in.
"I make a good profit," Fnesh explained. "But the road to Baghdad is dangerous so the taxi ride costs a lot of money, but it's worth it."
Military personnel are also becoming interested, buying new and old money, which sell for six bills to the dollar.
Most of those who are buying the currency understand the money may never amount to much. But, most can't resist sending home local currency to family members as reminders of their deployment.
"I look at it like if I were in Las Vegas," Reilly said. "If anything, I can always get my money back. But, this place isn't exactly a tourist destination. I plan on this being my only trip here. It's much better than filling my shampoo bottle full of sand."