In the 1990’s, people began to realize that the word “collectible” need not be limited to things like comic books and movie posters. Anything that someone wanted could be considered a collectible, especially if a group of people (like kids, for instance) wanted it. And with this realization came the birth of the pog. These small discs were designed for use in a simple kid’s game, but they became a phenomenon when toy companies realized their potential as a collectible. The result was one of the biggest kid crazes of the 1990’s.
Although pogs became a craze in the 1990’s, their origin actually stretches back as far as the late 1800’s. The small discs began their life in 1889 when H.P. and S.I. Barnhart got a trademark for their creation, the milk cap. These lightweight devices were intended to seal the mouths of milk bottles, but they also happened to be the perfect shape and size to be used as a toy by kids. The seeds of the Pog craze were sown in Hawaii when the children there began using the milk caps to play a ‘flipping game’ that resembled a cross between baseball card-flipping and tiddlywinks. The most popular caps used in this game were a brand of Hawaiian tropical fruit juice known as POG for its ingredients (Passion fruit, Orange, Guava).
The game that was played with POG caps became a tradition passed down from one generation of Hawaiian children to the next. The POG game began to fade into the background as other, more high-tech games popped up, but it never really went away. The tide turned for the POG game when a Hawaiian schoolteacher named Blossom Galbiso began using the old POG caps to teach lessons to her classes in 1991. She also showed them how to play the POG game. The young kids quickly became hooked on this pastime and it led to a full-scale revival.
The popularity of the POG game quickly spread to the rest of the U.S. By 1994, it had progressed from an interesting and old-fashioned diversion to a full-scale craze. Toy companies realized this was a toy that could be easily and economically manufactured, so they began to produce their own variation on these caps to compete with POG and milk caps. Like the Hawaiian fruit juice cap that inspired them, they were called pogs. These pogs could be made of materials as diverse as plastic, wood and aluminum, and they came in two varieties: normal-size caps called pogs, and ‘slammers,’ a slightly larger, thicker variety of pog that served the same basic function as squidgers in a game of tiddlywinks.
Pretty soon, kids all over were playing with pogs and trading them back and forth. As with any thing that is traded, pogs moved from mere toys to collectibles. This was aided by toy companies who began making pogs that advertised all different kinds of things, with an emphasis on kid phenomena like Mighty Morphin Power Rangers and The Lion King. The entertainment business also took note of the pogs craze, leading to pogs inspired by films like Batman Forever and television shows like Baywatch. By the time the pog craze hit its peak, every company from Coca-Cola to American Airlines had gotten in on the act and produced a set of collectible pogs.
Today, the craze for pogs has passed, but the pogs themselves endure. Though their day in the sun has passed, the continued production of pogs show that they have a future as a toy and a collectible.
This post originally appeared on the long defunct Yesterdayland website. We archive it here to preserve it.