In Vietnam, the CIA Paid Spies With Merchandise From Sears

Nothing says “clandestine espionage” like a mail-order catalog. Although movies have us believe that spies are paid in cash that’s stuffed into a bulletproof suitcase, in real life spies collect old-fashioned paychecks just like everybody else. However, that wasn’t always the case. In the 1960s, the U.S. government developed a plan to pay spies with merchandise from the Sears catalog. It was all part of a ploy to recruit more agents in Vietnam — agents who didn’t rely on cash. Intelligence officer John Wiant came up with the catalog idea after noticing that his potential agents relied on the barter system. So, which items convinced would-be spies to take payment in Sears merchandise? It seems that items like velvet blazers, denim jackets, and even bras were big ticket items with the spies. The system only lasted until 1967, when it started to become too dangerous in the area in which the agents had been working for anything in the Sears catalog to compensate.