Back in the 1920s, milk bottles, instead of having a foil covering like now-a-days, had a round disc of card which was waxed and fixed to the top. Some dairies would place designs on one side of the caps, and children collected them and came up with games to play with their caps.
What Games were Played with the Caps?
The main game that took off involved stacking a pile of the caps up, and the people playing would take turns hitting the stack with another cap trying to flip the caps over. If you flipped over any caps you would take them away from the stack and then rebuild the stack. The game continued until all the caps were flipped over; the winner being the person who had the most caps. All the caps were returned to their rightful owners. There was another version called 'playing for keeps' whereby you kept all the caps that you managed to flip over. There were several different versions that people played but the list is to long too describe here.
What Happened Next?
After a few years the game died out, but in the 1970s Haleakala Dairy, located on Maui, Hawaii, invented a new brand name for milk caps by putting the name of their tropical fruit drink on them, called Passion fruit-Orange-Guava or POG for short. The POG brand eventually went on to become the most popular of all the milk caps. Collecting and playing with POGs did not become popular until a teacher at a Hawaiian school saw children at play time playing rough games and thought, 'There must be a better game children could play', and she remembered back to her childhood when she would play with milk caps, so she went to the Haleakala dairy and managed to get hold of four tubes of milk caps and introduced them to the school. The children loved them and came up with new games and strategies, and the milk caps revival began.
In 1993 Alan F Rypinski, the founder of Armor All Corporation, purchased the international POG trademark and the POG drink from the Haleakala Dairy and set up the WPF (World POG Federation) and introduced the game to the world as the 'Old Fashioned Game of the Future - The Game You Collect'. The game was played in the same way except now a 'slammer' or a 'kini' was used to hit the milk caps instead of another milk cap. These were made of metal or plastic and were the same size as a normal milk cap except they were twice as thick. And so milk caps took off again with a load of extra merchandise, official game mats, equipment to make your own POGs and tons of different series to collect, as well as the usual rip-offs which were often cheap and flimsy and badly designed.
There were two types of POGs available from the WPF; the Designer POGs and the Classic POGs. The Designer POGs were the most common ones found, a fun Milk cap look-alike with lots of colours and shiny foil treatment printed on the front and back. The classic POGs were the authentic POG milk caps and these were basically the same as the ones found on the top of milk bottles. They could be identified by a staple, a thumb tab and a paraffin wax coating on the back. They were also available in only two colours.
If They Were so Popular Why Have I Not Seen Any in Shops?
This is because like all crazes or fads they died out, and ironically they were killed off by the thing that brought them about: school. Even more ironically they had started to cause fights in the playgrounds. People would be playing happily and then when the game was finished people would argue over whether they were playing 'for keeps' or not and so fights broke out. Schools banned them and so with nowhere to meet and play with POGs people forgot about them, and so shops stopped selling them and the craze was over.
A Glossary of Terms Used by Players of POG
Big Kahuna - 'The Man' who wins all matches and never smiles. Cool dude.
Black Widow - When a slammer hits the stack and sticks to the top of the stack. 'The stack is stung'. The slamming player wins the entire stack.
Boff - When a player misses the stack completely.
Con Cap Rip-off cap. 'Just a disc'. With unlicensed characters or without limited edition status because there is no manufacturer's name and no numbering with a collector card.
Criss Cross - Players agree to hold the slammer in a pinching fashion, with the middle finger crossed over the index finger.
Disc Jockey/Seller - Owner of thousands of unlicensed discs.
Earthquake - When a slamming player's hand hits the stack. Not legal.
Full Hood Lift - Stack of 11 flips 360 degrees, and nothing lands face down.
Granny POG - When a player wants to add more POG milk caps to the stack in order to get better leverage to slam. He or she can add, but you cannot take away once you have added.
Gray Matter Classic - 'No Keeps' matches with a special milk cap selected as a prize.
Wannabe - Any disc that is either a fake milk cap or carries no licensed character. Definitely not a POG milk cap. Usually found in 'bulk' purchases or bags of 100 or more for a low price.