Ancient dance to the POG Gods
The history of POGs, as any kid in the mid 90's would have told you started in the Hawaiian Islands in the 1920's. Here children were bored of surfing and tanning all day. They discovered that if they took the paper caps off the POG (Passion Fruit, Orange, and Guava) juice bottles and piled them in little piles, nothing happened. It was not until one child accidentally dropped a rock on the pile that fun was invented. Yes, before this moment in history, people almost had fun. At this moment, when the little caps were struck and forced into the air only to flip and land bottom side up that fun came into this world.
This secret was sacredly guarded on the Hawaiian islands for decades. Now somehow POGs made their way across the pacific. Maybe they were smuggled in an airplane or washed up on a california beach in a bottle, we may never know. The POGs' arrival in California was approximately in 1991. America is known to embrace weird fads. Who can forget the Hoola-hoop, the Pet Rock, or mood rings. POGs spread across The United States in quite the opposite direction of manifest destiny, passing pretty much entirely word-of-mouth from California east.Living in New Jersey, I do not remember experiencing POGs until around third grade. I was at a craft fair that my parents had dragged me to and there was a giant tent with kids playing a game. You can only guess which game. I fell in love with it at first slam. I was never an athletic kid, my reflexes were not even good enough to excel at video games, yet I could play POG.During their glory years, one could find a POG for about anything. There were Star Trek POGs, Simpsons POGS, Saved by the Bell the New Class POGs, the list goes on and on. There were even an official brand of POGs, which I will get into later. I even remember getting POGs as a give away at a baseball game. POGs reached their high point in 1995 and by 1996 they were gone, . I remember, one day we were playing POGs and the next day I brought them in, but no one was playing. The fad ended in a flash. It was as if there was a universal surge that past through us all and told kids that POGs were over. The Rules
With most games there are different versions played in different regions. How many versions of the card game Asshole have you heard, if you even call the game Asshole. But with POGs, I have discovered very few variations of play. The rules are extremely simple. Players would each put an equal amount of the cardboard discs in a pile. Each player would then proceed to take turns throwing their slammer of choice at the pile. They would then collect any POGs they overturned. In the end the person with the most POGs won the entire pile.The Sickness In my school you always played for keeps, it was the way of the school yard. This predisposed us to gambling at a very early age. A smart player never played with his/her good POGs. He/she had the secondary POGs. The playable POGs were the ones that they bought in the bargain bins, or the one's with gold fish, smiley faces, or other random images printed on them. I would spend hours in my room organizing my POGs. The best POGs, like my Mulder POG were kept in a special case hidden where no Slammer could ever find them. The fools played with their good POGs, and any person that foolish deserved to lose their Homer Simpson collectable gold foiled POG. The game played with your head and eventually schools started to ban the game. POGs started to go the way of the slap bracelet. We would play it in the shadows, smoking our finest candy cigarettes. The Slammer
I remember there were two ways people slammed. Players either just chucked the slammer at the pile (that's the way we rolled in my hood) or rested the slammer on your index and middle fingers and flipped the Slammer onto the pile. I only saw the latter done a few times, but those who did use this method had great success. The Slammer was also the store owner's best friend. How much could a retailer sell a small cardboard disc for, but the Slammer, that was a beast unto its own. The comic store by my house had certain slammers in a glass case, some running into the double digits. These expensive slammers were made of pure lead and lets face it, lethal weapons.
There was even different categories of Slammers. I preferred the plastic thick slammers and played well with them, but there was another kind of Slammer that appeared on the scene later in POG history. These Slammers were the saw shaped metal Slammers. My hatred for these Slammers is still with me to this day. These Slammers were just too much. They were just as effective as the plastic, yet the saw-toothed edge would dent and mare the POGs so if you won a pile slammed by one of these, you ended up with POGs that looked like a baby used for teething. There was only one kind of person who would use these Slammers, and those were Assholes. Total Assholes.
A normal kid would spend any piece of money they found on POGs. The amount of POGs one had determined how cool one was. In the school yard, first you got the POGs, then you got the power, and then you got the women (except due to the outbreak of cooties, we did not go near the girls). The collections of POGs were always kept in giant plastic tubes. Again, this is where the creepy comic book store guy made his money. I could never afford the huge child sized canisters. Even though these things were just hollow thin plastic, the stores loved to charge you close to fifteen dollars for a big tube. To an elementary school kid, especially one pressured to amass the most POGs he/she could buy, that kind of money was unfathomable.
The Official Pogs
The company that officially owned the word 'POG' was The World Pod Federation. This company bought the rights to POGs from the original juice company. All the other companies produced 'milkcaps'. The POG name is another example of the populous using a corporate name, like Band-Aids or Coke. We are all zombies. The official POGS were always my favorite. Not only were they well made, but they featured that freaky creature, The Pogman.
Is it a Wookie? Is it a Sasquatch? Is it one of those Sugar Crisp mascots? Not since The Noid has a spokes-icon been so strange, but we were not dealing with the average product. We were dealing with the POG.
I think I remember reading in a POG magazine (yes, a POG Magazine), that the POGman was supposed to be based off of a legendary Hawaiian creature like bigfoot. If this is true, I am positive the pogman is the true missing link.
When I first saw The Milkcap Maker in the store I could not believe my eyes. This machine made any image into a POG! Not only were these POGs, but they had a back that could be removed and then became stickers. This was Magic. Looking back on the machine, I realize that the machine actually had razor blades in it so it could cut the cardboard. That was a different time, the mid 90's, when children were real children. A toy with razor blades you say?!?! I'll buy ten for all my nieces and nephews!
What happened to POGs? Looking back, its easy to figure out what happened to this Fad. Over-saturation of the market. Towards the end of 1995, POGs were everywhere and being made by everyone. They were in cereal, they were being made by every card and comic company, i remember getting POGs in tv dinners even. Anyone could make their own copy of POGs and try to get in on this money-making craze, they were just cardboard. The simplicity that made POGs so different and kitschy was what eventually brought on its downfall.I also remember towards the end, POGs became less about the game and mostly about trying to get the most and the best. The Pokemon card craze would suffer this same fate. Atleast we played POGs for awhile, no one even knew how to play the Pokemon Card Game. So, POGs went the way of the Pillow Pal or Poppels. We children did not even seem to notice as soon we would have a new play toy to obsess over, the Tamagotchi.