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Jackie Hope: Grand slam for poggers

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Remember pogs? Those little cardboard discs with randomly off-center and utterly unrecognizable designs on one side, and absolutely nothing on the other?

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They were about the size of quarters. Remember quarters? You used to be able to feed them into vending machines, and get a can of Dew for two or three of them. Or play a whooping big game of pinball for four of them. Now you only see people feeding them into that Coinstar machine at the supermarket, where they rattle around like a bagful of BBs in a boxcar. And what do you get back from those Coinstar machines, anyway? Ever see one of them spit anything out? Maybe they pay out in pogs.

Pogs was a revival game fad in the ’90s, pinching its name from POG juice, which was what Hawaiians drank instead of Hawaiian Punch. The POG juice bottles had colorful cardboard caps. Colorful collectible cardboard caps.

The game of pogs likely originated on the island of Maui, around the time of the Great Depression, and used POG caps and a “slammer,” which was thrown onto a stack of those POG cap pogs. The pogs scattered, and any that landed face up in front of a player were kept by that player. He who finished with the most pogs was the winner. Not exactly on a par with “Jeopardy!” or “Dungeons and Dragons,” but hey, the pogs were easy to get hold of, and any old rock would work as a slammer. So anytime, anywhere, you got game.

Time passed; fads changed. Hula hoops were invented. Were they invented in Hawaii, too?

Then, in 1992 — according to the all-knowing and all-seeing Wikipedia — along came an elementary school teacher on Oahu, who had played pogs as a kid. She collected enough POG caps to hook her students on pogging games and a fad was reborn. Stanpac, Inc., a Canadian packaging company, was manufacturing the bottle caps which Hawaiian kids were using as pogs. Stanpac knew a good thing when it slammed them, so they began printing caps by the millions, and selling them to vendors in Hawaii, for resale as stand-alone products.

Pogs bounced across the United States and around the world, like Bitcoins on a Hong Kong holiday. Oh, and BTW, there are 12½ million Bitcoins bouncing through cyberspace at the time of this writing. Isn’t that a bit much?

Pogs soon popped up with public service announcements on them. Pogs were freebies in Mcdonalds Happy Meals. Pogs were printed as promos for “The Tick” TV series. Remember “The Tick?” Totally awesome show, man, but that bad boy did not even last as long as the pog fad did. Batmanuel, the flying, uh, flying something-or-other, was my fave character. OK, you had to see Batmanuel in action. He owned coolness; trust me. Sweet series.

Remember the baggies of pogs you could buy at the second-biggest big box store? You’d plop down some bucks, earned from delivering The Advertizer door to door, and you’d get a couple hundred cardboard circles with knock-off pics of Hello Kitty or Gene Simmons’ Kiss Demon look-alikes. Hey, it was the ’90s, people, and Hello and Gene rocked.

They still do, come to think of it.

Good thing about pogs: They did not take up much space, so you could collect a gazillion of them and still have room for a Nintendo and all its Mario and Donkey Kong game incarnations on top of your bookcase. Remember books and bookcases? Kind of like your own little piece of a public library. And you did not have to plug in the books every 12 hours to recharge them. Bad thing about pogs: If you spilled a can of Dew on them, you’d quickly have soggy pogs, and you were then rendered pogless.

Enter the pogtainer. It was a plastic tube designed especially for keeping your pogs safe and dry. Really. C’mon, you can’t make up ideas that goofy. Pogtainers cost beaucoup more bucks than pogs, because they actually had to DO something. They kept your pogs sealed in a time capsule until the 21st century.

Today, the first pog hit you catch on eBay is for 1,000 vintage Hawaiian pogs, plus 20 slammers, for the handsome sum of $25, with $12.50 shipping. So how heavy are cardboard discs, anyway, that it costs half their selling price to mail them?

And get this. There are 27 people watching that pile of pogs. The epitome of pogs? The peak of modern day pogmania? eBay has the complete set of Beatles pogs — to die for! — listed at $2,500. Who’d have thought?

Start digging in your closet, dude, because pogs may become the new Mickey Mantle rookie cards. And if you find one with a pic of Ringo, call me.

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