How do you explain it?
Dutch tulips, beanie babies, pet rocks, mood rings, yo-yos, internet stocks.
Stop me if any of these fads sound familiar. You have a good memory if you recall tulip mania of the 1600s.
According to the website BadFads, POGs began in the flapper era on the island of Maui. The name came from an acronym for a Hawaiian juice drink made from oranges, guava and passion fruit.
Workers at the Haleakala Dairy invented a break-time game using bottle caps. The game had a limited audience at the time.
Fast forward to 70 years later, glass milk bottles are long gone but a Hawaiian schoolteacher reintroduced the game. It explodes worldwide and for a time school administrators have to ban the cardboard discs from campus as too disruptive.
Malcom Gladwell wrote a fascinating book, Tipping Point, compares what social epidemics share with their medical cousins.
When a video becomes popular it is said to have gone viral.
POGs went viral here in 1994. I can recall when kids my son’s age were crazy for collecting the cardboard discs. The big collectors would carry tubes packed with the discs. The game was similar to marbles, players would strike the cardboard discs with a metal slammer and try to knock it out. Players would lovingly reserve their collectable favorite pogs from play to keep them from getting damaged.
Today my son can’t remember the game.
Some 1920s Hawaiian fads like the ukulele have come back for a third wave of popularity. Pogs, not so lucky.
Here are some excerpts from Teresa Mariani’s December 21, 1994 story in the Focus section.
You play by putting cardboard circles about the size of a 50-cent piece into a stack — decorated side up, plain side down.
Then you take a heavier gamepiece, called a slammer, and drop it on the stack.
If you do well the POGs fly up in the air. Any that land flipped over get collected by the person who dropped the slammer. The ones that don’t flip remain in the game.
Then it’s the second player’s turn. The unflipped POGs are stacked again, and slammed, and divided up, and the game goes on.
The exact rules on how you can slam vary from kid to kid and game to game, and can get as complicated as federal tax laws.
Just ask any 9-year-old, and you’ll get an earful.
What makes POGs different, from say, checkers is that sometimes you play for keeps. You flip a POG, it’s yours.
That’s where the gambling part comes in. Adults may wince, but all of the San Luis Obispo kids contacted in the city Sun-n-Fun program for a thoroughly unscientific Telegram-Tribune poll are squarely in favor of it.
“I like it because I think it’s fun. It’s kid of like gambling for kids,” said Ashley Bridges,10.
“It’s like gambling, but you don’t really lose that much,” she said.
“The adults can go gamble in Las Vegas, so why can’t we gamble with POGs?” said Jamie McCollum,11.
The problem with laying for keeps is someone loses, for keeps. Kind of like real life.
“People really spaz out if they lose them,” said Sasha Fitton, 9.
…said Lisa Bukowski,11, there’s a simple way to make sure you won’t get taken in by a POG shark, or lose your POGs in a game,
“If you don want to lose them, don’t play them. Just don’t play for keeps,” she said, as if she was astonished grownups hadn’t figured that out.
Every kid in the county already has.
The advice from the kid experts contacted was: only bet with your friends. And never play with all your POGs, or your best POGs.
“You don’t play because you might lose your good ones. I’ve only played for keeps twice,” said Ulysses McKeown, 8.
There are POG Sharks – but they are easy to spot, the kids said.
The POG Sharks are usually older, and they usually come up to kids they don’t know well and ask if they want to play POGs.
“You can tell, because they’re like, ‘do you wanna play POGs?’ They just walk right up to you and that’s the first thing they ask,” said McCollum.
Another good clue: “If they have tons and tons of POGs but they act like they don’t know how to play,” said Bukowski.
And never underestimate the value of a good slammer, the kids said. “Slammers are the most important thing,” said Tiffany Plewinski, 8.
The slammers that are really good are like as big as six to 10 POGs (stacked up),” said Bukowski.
“Some people play for slammers. They’ll say, ‘slammer bouncies.’ or say if the other person catches the slammer, they get to keep it,” said [Branden] Welshons.
Don’t, repeat, don’t play that way, the kids said. It’s another sign of a POG shark.
Since this story was published just before Christmas the kids were also asked what the hot toys of 1994 were. Keep these in mind for the next gifts you buy. Here are a few selections from the sidebar story.
• Sega — A computer video game you play on TV, from the company that runs commercials with screaming at the end guaranteed to knock parents into sensory delirium.
• TVs — That’s right, televisions. Preferably hooked up to both Segas and cable, located in the child’s bedroom. You wouldn’t believe the number of kids who mentioned this one as a Christmas wish.
• Phones — Popular with fourth-, fifth-, and sixth-grade girls. To be located in the girl’s bedroom.
• Lion King Trading Cards, popular with younger girls, and boys too. Any Lion King gear you don’t already have — like the soundtrack or some stuffed animals — will be a hit.