Remember POGS?

POGS? What the heck is that? POGs — essentially an acronym for Passion-Orange-Guava — were them thick cardboard-like paper-based round faux “milk caps”, measuring about 1-5/8″ diameter, usually including a pull-tab and sometimes a staple in it. They were a huge collectors (and game playing?) craze back in the early 90’s, when just about every business at the time jumped at the opportunity to use them as a vehicle for advertising.

According to Wikipedia, the story behind POGS goes like this“The game of pogs was played on the Hawaiian island of Maui as early as 1927. The 1990s revival is credited to Blossom Galbiso, a teacher and guidance counselor who taught at Waialua Elementary School in Oahu.  In 1991, Galbiso introduced the game she had played as a little girl to a new generation of students, soon incorporating pogs into her fifth grade curriculum as a way of teaching math and as a nonviolent alternative to other popular schoolyard games, one of which involved throwing a ball at one’s opponent as hard as possible. The game quickly spread from Oahu’s North Shore, and by early 1992, STANPAC Inc., the small Canadian packaging company that had been manufacturing the milk caps distributed by Haleakala Dairy on Maui (the same caps that were collected by Galbiso for her class), was printing millions of pogs every week for shipment to the Hawaiian island chain. The game soon spread to the mainland, first surfacing in California, Texas, Oregon, and Washington before spreading to the rest of the country. By 1993, the previously obscure game of pogs, which had almost been forgotten, was now played throughout the world.

I’m not really the collector type (loosely said), yet I do have a couple folders filled with Hawaii POGs from the early 90’s. Here’s just a few of the many I’ve got. Check it out…

Some of those logos are classic! Looking back at the design of them all together like this, the square-shaped “Portagee POG” actually stands out the most. See, us “portagees” are marketing geniuses! lol  If POGS were to ever make a comeback (and if it does, you know who’s taking credit for it!), I’ll propose making one shaped like a triangle musubi with a red ume in the middle, perhaps for businesses like Gulick Delicatessen and Tanioka’s, as well as my blog. Hey, why not?! Great business card idea!

POGS (faux milk caps) really were a great advertising vehicle at the time, being relatively cheap to produce and easy to get out the message due to the collectible factor. Of course, this was during the time before the internet was commonplace, as perhaps today if it were to try to make a comeback, may not be quite as popular. Yet I could be wrong on that!

Speaking of collectibles, check out Diner E’s “otaku” office collection of Gashapon (Japanese capsule toys)…

And here’s my “manini” (compared to his) office collection…

Speaking of Japanese superhero collectibles, I do still have my self-made Japanese superhero costumes…

Pomai’s take on “Hakaida 01”

Pomai as “HaynKikaida” at Front Street, Lahaina

Pomai as “Hakaida”

Pomai as “Kamen Rider” (some funky version I made up lol)

Dr. Giru ain’t likin’ this pic!

Pomai as “HaynKikaida” with Chance Gusukuma and Bob Enomoto of JN Productions

I made this Kikaida mask using broken VCR parts and bondo sculpted over a hockey mask riveted to the front of a baseball batting helmet, with the visor portion cut off. The clear plastic covering the “electronic brains” is made from a rather unusual half-orb hanging planter found at a thrift store. The eyes are made out of plastic sun glass lenses, while the metallic “ear” on the right (the blue side) is from the VCR’s tape drum. You can’t see it, but there’s a bunch of blinking LEDs in the “brains” section taken from various toys found at the thrift store.

The Kikaida mask has since been autographed by Ban Daisuke, the actor who played Jiro in the original Kikaida series, as well as the late Shunsuke Ikeda, the actor who played Ichiro in the original Kikaida 01 series.

When I wore the Kikaida costume the first year I made it for Halloween back in 1999, several people (locals of course) in Waikiki offered to buy it right off my back, with one guy offering $10,000 cash for the whole thing, including the suit. I kid you not. To this day, I refuse to sell it. This was back before the “Kikaida” craze made a comeback, so people were even more surprised to see “Kikaida” walking around “live” in person. It really was a riot!  When I wore it the next year for Halloween on Front Street in Lahaina, Maui, some of the mainland tourists were asking, “What are you man, some kind of Power Ranger?” While I remember one kid practically “de-dadded” his own father with him for me as “Kikaida”. It was hilarious! The dad was cracking up!

JN Productions “Kikaida” costume at Ala Moana Shirokiya, taken directly from the Toei Studios mold

My Kikaida costume ended up being used for various gigs by JN Productions, the company that produces the remastered Kikaida and Kamen Rider DVDs under the “Generation Kikaida” label. They’ve since gotten a professionally made, very authentic Kikaida costume taken directly from the Toei studio mold, as well as Hakaida, Kikaida 01, Bijinda, Kamen Rider V3 and a few more popular 70’s Japanese superhero characters.

Getting back to the original subject of POGS, I’ve got quite a lot more than shown above, including other variations such as colors, more schools, businesses and clubs, as well as anime.

Do you still have POGS, or did you collect them at one time? Did you ever “play” POGS?


Remember POGS? — 25 Comments

  1. I remember driving by a KFC in Miami in ’99 or so, and the sign out front said “POGS are here” (or something like that). I asked my friend what the heck a POG was, assuming it was a fried concoction. She told me it was a kids game of some sort, and that was it. This is the first time I’ve ever actually seen a POG. I always assumed they were more like a happy meal toy.

  2. POG is actually the acronym for ‘Passion Orange Guava’ Juice, which was pretty popular awhile back. The cap covers were originally placed over the tops of the gallon bottles. However, before then, the cap covers were actually the ones over the milk bottle gallon jugs that were delivered and/or sold by the milk man guys. L&L Dairy was one of those….that was the start up of L&L Drive In stuff. The original place is still located on Liliha Ave. which is, I believe, the start up location. In the ‘old days’, we used to play “milk covers”…what you did was to stack them up (betting how many you wanted)in a pile. Then, whoever got the first turn, would use another milk cover as their ‘cover’, to try to slap the down on the pile. whatever was ‘turned over’, from the stack, was then yours to keep. it had to be upside down! the next person would then have his chance, after repiling the stack, at whatever was left over, or, upping the ante, and then down the line. It was a kinda kids ‘gambling’ thing! Because, you could always raise ‘the bet’ and, the ‘stack’ anytime!that’s probably why all us like to go to las wages to gamble!

  3. Pomai, my cousins in San Francisco heard of pogs but never saw one in mainland. Costumes great did you sew it yourself?

  4. We used to play with the real deal after cafeteria clean up. Waimea Dairy milk covers, when the school lunch milk came in miniature bottles which we had to rinse, rack and stack for the milk man.

  5. Hi Pomai,

    The Honolulu Jaycees, who were the sponsors/owners of the 50th State Fair name, were the original organization to bring the “Kikaida” character to Honolulu.

    Each year the Honolulu Jaycee members ponder what creation can be introduced to the 50th State Fair to attract the crowd… and one member mentioned that this character called “Kikaida” was making a big splash among the kids generation on a japanese TV program and that started the ball rolling … early 1970s, Joanne Ninomiya at KIKU-TV was contacted to initiate the contact and contract with the “Kikaida” organization to be presented at the 50th State Fair … and the rest is history.


  6. @ h – Wow, that’s incredible that the “POG” craze made it out as far as the east coast. I’m still waiting for Hawaii KFC to do a Chicken Katsu plate, featuring Bull Dog Tonkatsu Sauce. Guaranteed it would do well here in the islands.

    @ Dennis– interesting story about L&L Dairy. I for one did no know they had roots in that type of business. Your explanation about the game play of POGS explains why the backside of them typically are blank, similar to a deck of cards. Otherwise, you’d think it would be printed on both sides. Also a first time to hear the euphemism “Las Wages”. Love it! That’s exactly what happens there! Just like “Whole Paycheck”. lol

    @ Amy – Thanks! My late aunt sewed them for me. Me sew? Are you nuts!?

    @ pat – Glad you pointed out “the real deal”, as the “POGS” of the 90’s always struck me as mock versions of what were once used as real milk caps.

    @ hilorain – you aren’t Layne Luna, are you? Just checking. In case anyone is wondering who Layne Luna is, he happens to be one of Hawaii’s greatest modern artists, based out of Hilo, and also a creator of some AWESOME Tokusatsu costumes! Anyhow, I wasn’t aware that Honolulu Jaycees were the original organization to bring “Kikaida” to Honolulu. I always thought Joanne Ninomiya was the brainchild behind it all. Still, she’s just as instrumental to the popularity of “Kikaida” in Hawaii back the 70’s, as well as KIKU-TV in general. Such an awesome lady. Love her.

  7. Wow, this post brought back memories about POGs, or milk covers as we used to call them. I remember playing milk covers during recess at Lihikai School here on Maui. We even had a grade-level tournament one year. I think it was third grade which would have been 1984-1985. So they were always popular here on Maui.

    I still have a bunch of rare milk covers that hopefully I can find and scan. I think I even have an old Lahainaluna milk cover. When I won rare milk covers during games, I would keep them instead of putting them back into a new game.

    I also had a couple of milk covers from a dairy in the Midwest somewhere. I put them on ebay a couple of years ago and IIRC the person who bought it said his Dad owned the dairy!

  8. @ David – GREAT stories about actually playing POGS there on Maui. Awesome! I’m somewhat curious what my collection might be worth. I’ll be back on Maui soon for a family gathering, when while there, will scope out the collector shops scene for current trends on POGS, if there is any. Huge mahalo for sharing all that, David!

    @ Darkling – Um, as in this?…

    @ Kelike – I’m, err, kinda’ “geeky”, but not THAT “geeky”. Or am I? LOL!

  9. Hi Pomai,

    Sorry to disappoint, I am not Layne Luna. There is no creative gene in me at all.

    That “Kikaida” character was a big success that year at the Fair, but more importantly the beginning for JN Production to bring all succeeding characters to Hawaii from Japan, credit all that to Joanne Ninomiya – I think she was a genius.

    My POG experience (it was called “milk caps” back then, and POG name did not yet exist) goes back to the 50s when we ACTUALLY played with REAL milk caps. As with no creative gene, there was no talent in “winning” milk caps either, so lost it all, lol.

    Really enjoy your blogs – keep it up…


    • hilorain,

      Thanks for the clarification. My memory is very vague on it, yet I do remember being at Pearlridge when Kikaida and a bunch of monsters made an appearance there back in the late 70’s. I was was probably like around 7 at the time. I just remember it being PACKED with kids. This was back when they had Playwell, a Japanese toy store where most of us Hawaii kids bought our “Kikaida” toys (and Inazuman, Kamen Rider, Ultraman, Rainbow Man, Zaboga, Robocon, Raideen, etc.). It was either from Playwell, Shirokiya or Hakubundo.

      Speaking of 70’s Japanese superhero toys, back around the late 90’s when eBay came around, those then vintage 70’s Japanese superhero toys were literally worth their weight in gold. Some Ultraman monsters that were unique to the Hawaii market were selling on eBay for as high as $1,500 each, while the Kikaida sidemachine (his yellow motorcycle) were going for that much as well. Same for the original Kikaida doll from the 70’s. I heard a rumor that one local guy back then bought a couple boxes from someone cleaning out their warehouse that were filled with brand new 70’s Japanaese superhero toys. He paid some ridiculous price, like $300 for it all. Ended up turning around and sold it for well over $100,000. Nuts!

      Gosh, all this talk about Kikaida, I think I’m going to have to pop-in the DVD and run around my house as a full grown man in my costume doing the “daburu chopu” (double chop). LOL!!!

  10. Hi Pomai,

    You keep hitting my memory bones.

    That particular appearance at Pearlridge actually became a huge safety issue for the organizers. When they first arrived at Pearlridge, they saw the size of the crowd and had to begin plotting a drop point and, after the performance, an escape route. They ended up in a sprint to the van (good thing they had one) for the escape as a crowd started to chase them.

    Another thing that was noticed that parents were placing their kids on the glass display cases for them to get a better view – imagine horrors if the worst had happened.

    Good news, all ended well.

    LOL, on your “double chop” comment.

    arigato for letting me expound some “memories”,

  11. brah!….10,000 for a costume!…….whooowee….why u wen turn em down??! Im sure u could make one oddah eh!?!

  12. @ hilorain – IIRC, back in the 70’s there were also a few Kikaida appearances at the main stage at Ala Moana Shopping Center. Again, very vague, however, I do recall also attending at least one of those. Do you recall that?

    @ kelly – Let’s just say a LOT of hours and dedication went into fabricating that Kikaida costume, so I wasn’t about to part with it the very first (Halloween) night wearing it, no matter how much I was offered. The reaction by old fans at the time was just too priceless. You should have seen them. Diner E was there, he knows. I wish we had it on video.

  13. Oh man, POGs! They were HUGE back in my hana buttah* days! I never had any real POGs – I don’t think anyone did. Passion Orange Guava juice just really isn’t a thing in PA. Instead, they were mostly neon colored, and had all sorts of extremely 90’s designs on them: 8 balls, skulls, flames, flaming skulls, skulls made out of 8 balls, flaming 8 ball skulls… Seriously, what was it with putting 8 balls on everything? I had a bunch of pog containers too, those ones that looked like an oversized 35mm film canister. I had some killer slammers too, but they banned those in school pretty quickly. They used to sell them in big bins, and you could just rummage around until you found the perfect ones.

    *This has become my favorite term to refer to childhood ever!

  14. Wow! I love you collection of POG’s featured above, nothing like this in the UK, if you ever want to sell these, please, please let me know, I would be very interested :)

      • Thank you for considering. I used to collect POG’s as a young boy, I have recently started again after finding them when moving house. I needed to complete and incomplete series which I have done but now what to continue growing my collection. I would like to compliment my collection with POG’s from other countries to offer some diversity. I find the ones you have very interesting, very different from the POG’s I grew up with in the UK.

        • Hi Ben,

          Stumbled upon this thread. I am a UK Pog collector and could perhaps point you in the direction of sets that are worth looking at. Always happy to share and swap knowledge with another collector…

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