Remember When: Pogs

BY RYAN FOSMARK | JUNE 29, 2009 7:21 AM

Pogs — oh, how much fun can one kid derive from a bunch of little cardboard milk caps with cartoons on them? Not that much, but two kids can have one hell of a tournament. High-stakes was the name of the game when you played Pogs (if you played it for keeps —the only real way to play it), and kids could get youthful adrenaline rush as collections were made and lost in single slamming sessions. No one entirely sure when this cardboard sensation of the ’90s originated, but it’s believed to have Hawaiian roots and to have been derived from the caps of a juice made from pomegranate, orange, and guava.

The competition aspect of Pogs was fierce. There was something primal and brutal in the act of slamming down a heavy piece of circular plastic into a stack of someone else’s Pogs and watching them scatter in an explosion of cardboard splendor. The circles flipping between the usually white backsides of the Pogs and the vibrant, sometimes sparkling colors of the printed cartoons was mesmerizing if the person slamming was a pro.

The best slammers had their technique down — usually it was in either the horizontal position (like holding a fly-swatter) or in the vertical position (like throwing a flat baseball). The serious Pogs players could flip a whole stack of around 20 with one throw. Normally, the stack was divided half and half between the players, so if someone flipped a whole pile, that player got to add 10 Pogs to her or his collection. This game was gambling with a dash of skill that was likely the feeble beginnings of many craps and blackjack enthusiasts.

Pogman, the official character of Pogs, was a hairy blob of a caveman, reminiscent of Cousin It from the “Adam’s Family,” only with a protruding purple nose and a Hawaiian vibe. The Pogman Pogs were highly valued, along with the Pogs competitor Silly Slammers, which made caps such as Fireflies — badass renditions of flies dressed as firefighters. There were shiny Pogs and spiky Pogs that spiced up the flips a bit, but nothing truly sent an enthusiast’s heart pumping like a well-thrown slammer and the look of utter melancholy on the opponent’s face. The game of Pogs created heroes among schoolchildren and victims among collectors.

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