Friday, January 9, 2009


If you don't remember POGS then most likely you were in a coma during the 90s but in case you forgot I'll give you a quick rundown.
Pogs or (milkcaps) started showing up in 1991 and continued to be a popular children's toy/collectable until the late 90s. They actually originated as a game created by a schoolteacher in Hawaii in the 1920's and actually used real caps from a juice drink that contained pineapple, orange, and guava juice (P.O.G.).
They were reintroduced in '91 and quickly became a huge fad. The pogs of the 90s were basically just flat cardboard discs with an image on one side. The first set featured a character called "Pogman" who looked pretty much exactly like Captain Caveman and was featured on the pogs in little gags. Within what seemed like only a few months Pogs were everywhere. Dozens of other Pog-like discs were popping up promoting fast food chains, cereal, businesses, theme parks, movies, and anything else you can think of.
According to the standard rules for the game two players start out by contributing equal amounts of pogs and stack them upside down in a pile. Players would then take turns using a "Slammer" which was a thicker disc made of a heavy material like plastic or metal to hit the pile. Whichever pogs flipped right side up would be taken by that player until the pile was gone. The winner is the player who flipped over the most pogs. You could either chose to play for fun or keeps. If you chose to play for keeps you get to keep the pogs you flipped.
Pogs were soon banned in schools for a couple of reasons. One, they caused plenty of arguments and disputes on the playground and second, some of the pogs were said to have obscene images. Also there were quite a few parents who shunned the game as gambling for kids.

I hadn't thought about Pogs for a long time until I was digging through the closet last night and I found a whole shitload of them I had bought from garage sales last year. I kept seeing bags of them and just for the hell of it I started buying them.
So I was bored today and I started looking through them. I quickly found myself laughing hysterically not only at the horrible artwork on some of the Pog knock-offs but the reoccurring themes.

About 50% of the Pogs were what you would expect, popular 90s movies, cartoon characters like Power Rangers or Simpsons, and advertising. I photographed a bunch below.


The rest of them were all kinds of random things, a lot of them were poorly drawn, some of them were just bizarre and not the type of thing you would expect for children. I noticed a lot of them focused on a few odd topics so I got a sheet of paper and a pen and went through them real good.

I counted 976 Pogs total

out of those,

105 of them had skulls on them.
65 of them had 8-balls on them?
45 of them had the word "POISON" on them for no apparent reason.
and 27 of them had Ying-Yangs on them.

To make it even more ridiculous a lot of them combine multiple elements like a skull with 8-balls for eyes, or ying-yangs with skulls in them.

I do remember 8-balls and ying-yangs being popular during the 90s but then again 'NO FEAR' was popular and I only found 1 No Fear related pog.

That may not sound weird, but I figure I got a pretty decent spectrum of Pogs since I combined the collection from about 4-5 sales around town.

And check this out, in comparison with that:
Out of the same 976 Pogs...

only 6 had a religious message
4 had an environmental message like "Save the Earth"
3 had a patriotic design (eagle, flag)
2 had a peace sign
1 had a safety message ("Don't Get Burned") from Walmart
and 3 had an anti-drug message and all 3 of those had a skull on them!!

So I had to scan these for everyone to see. I also picked the top 10 most ridiculous ones of all. I know the photos are small but if you click on the image and zoom in you can see more detail. Plus some of the Pogs are holographic or glow-in-the-dark so they may not have scanned as well.

I'll start out with the SKULLS



In the second set of 20:
#16 says "BONES RASTA" on it. A Rastafarian skeleton?
#17 has anarchy signs on it.
#18 is a skull eating a woman's head.
and #19, 20 are definitely satanic.

Now we have the word POISON



In the first set of 20:
#12 is a black guy smoking a joint with the word "poison" on his left.
#17 is a "No Poison" sign?
#18 is a golfing skeleton wearing a kilt with "poison".

In the second set of 20:
#3,5,12,14, and 17 say "Pure Poison" (I guess that's when diluted poison doesn't do the trick?
#1 is skull graffiti on a wall.
#3 is the skull king.
#5 is a skull with an apple stem on top of his head.
#7 is a skull anchor with horns.
#9 is eating roses.
#11 is wearing an Indian headdress.
#14 has an apple with an arrow through it on his head, and an arrow going into his mouth.
#15 says "Poison Eyes". What the hell are poison eyes?
#16 says "Colorado Poison" (they make great poison in Colorado).
#17 is smoking a pipe.
#18 says "Double Poison".
#19 is a skull ying-yang with "poison" written in the background.
#20 is someone stepping on an 8-ball with "poison" written in the background.

Now let's look at the Ying-Yangs.


#14 is an atomic ying-yang.
#16 is a bat ying-yang.
#17 is a ying-yang dartboard.
#18 is an eagle carrying a ying-yang.

Now let's take a look at the 8-ball pogs...




In the first set of 20:
#2 every pool ball is an 8-ball.
#11,12 are 8-balls being struck by lightning.
#19 once again, every ball is an 8-ball (hard not to scratch, isn't it?)

In the second set of 20:
#7-12 mix the 8-ball with spiders and webs.
#6,13 a clawed hand holding the 8-ball.
#14 a pentagram 8-ball.
#15,18 guy squishing an 8-ball with his foot.
#16 a joker juggling 8-balls.
#17 a crystal 8-ball.
#19 a skateboarding 8-ball.
#20 an 8-ball meteor falling on a dinosaur.

In the 3rd and most ridiculous set:
#2 an 8-ball hot air balloon.
and now we use an 8-ball for any sport...
#3 baseball.
#4 soccer.
#5 bowling.
The artists are getting desperate for ideas.
#6 an 8-ball wrecking ball.
#7 a shark chasing an 8-ball fish.
#8 an 8-ball penguin?
#9-12 8-balls in space.

Here's pogs with multiple items:


#1 8-balls with a ying-yang.
#2-5 skull ying-yangs.
#6-8 skull with 8-ball and 8's?

And finally here is the worst 10 Pogs of the whole bunch:


#1 satanic demon.
#2 a bearded robed man that says "Queen".
#3 is it alcohol or poison?
#4 a burning pentagram.
#5 a skull with shades smoking 5 cigars.
#6 a skulled knight with "EXCALIBUR" written next to it.
#7 a guy smoking a joint with "poison" written next to it.
#8 "Screwin'"
#9 was dumb enough, and then I found #10.

Not all the Pogs were lousy, I actually found a lot of neat ones also. Feel free to post a comment if you would like me to post a second blog with more Pog stuff.


Anonymous said...

The poison pogs were specialty pogs, where if it was flipped then the flipper doesn't get to keep any of the others that flipped with it. I am trying to figure out whether the 8 balls meant something special as well, but I'm not so could be like you said, that they were simply popular at the time...

Anonymous said...

Hey i grew up in the '90s and I had like everyone of those 'cuzz they were common, as well as the slammers, METAL ONES WERE AWSOME, any way, i traded ALL of my '90s pogs for 30 pogs that look like POG DRINK CAPS, even 1 says "Drink POG", they all have a stapl at the top of them, 2 of them say ther're for official tournement ply- World POG Federation. But I can't find any info. telling me how old they are, can you help me? my email is, year is 2009. thnx alot. :-)

Will said...

The Poison pogs were as mentioned, poison. People often made up their own rules for different designs. Like sometimes people would play that the last pog flipped had to be an 8 ball or include an 8 ball to take the official win.
Other people sometimes played ying-yangs would reverse the effect of a poison, or even reverse the call of the pogs flipped vs right side up.
Generally the skulls were poison, even if they didnt say poison.
there were some pretty overtly racist ones and some really whacked out super trippy ones too.

chgolfcars said...

Oh I love playing pogs when I was still a kid. That's the only toy wherein my mom wouldn't find a hard time making me drink my vitamins.

chgolfcars said...

Oh I love playing pogs when I was still a kid. That's the only toy wherein my mom wouldn't find a hard time making me drink my vitamins.
Golf Carts Tucson

jogi said...

Good post. Brings back good memories. I was actually searching what Poison slammers meant because I as well was going through my closet and found a buttload of pogs I bought a few years ago.

dj plis said...

Great article. Found my pogs the other day and found pretty much the same ratios of log themes. What dumbfounded me the most is that not only there had to be someone watching a conveyor belt of these silly images, but who were the artists of these silly images and who the eff was in charge of approving them!
I prepared a narrative of how I believe it went.
Jerry, I really like your sword pog idea, but it needs something else...
Thanks Rick, how about if I put an image of the word 'poison' and use it as a background.
Great idea Jerry! Do that, but throw in some 8 balls and a skull or two...

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