How kids schooled adults on POGs in 1995

Collecting, slamming, winning, and trading the round cardboard discs swept the tween set in 1995, and Canadian companies swept in to make money on them.

Collecting craze started with bottle tops from Hawaiian passionfruit-orange-guava juice

Reporter Simon Dingley explores the craze sweeping schools and playgrounds in 1995. 3:21

What ever happened to POGs?

In January 1995, it seemed as if not a single elementary school in Canada was unaffected by the craze for collecting, slamming, winning, and trading the round cardboard discs.

For those who had yet to catch up with POG mania (that is, adults), CBC reporter Simon Dingley was there to help with a report for Midday.

"A POG is actually just a bottle top," he explained. 

Why POG?

POGs could be bought in packets, by the piece, or in bulk. "If you buy a lot of packages of POGs, then you're running out of money," pointed out a boy named James Feenstra. (Midday/CBC Archives)

Dingley explained that the genesis of the trend could be traced to Hawaii four years earlier. Kids started playing with the lids from a local juice known as POG — passionfruit, orange and guava.

In Canada, marketers spotted a lucrative opportunity. Six million packages of POGs, at $2.99 a package, had been sold in the month before Christmas 1994.

"In 1995 we'll do an excess of $100 million in POG," said Kenny Albert of Canada Games.

Some seven million POGs were being manufactured every week at a factory called Paper Cuts in Barrie, Ont. 

'They're hooked'

By "slamming" a heavier piece into a stack of POGs, players won any that were flipped over upon landing. Tailor-made POG tubes kept them safe for transport. (Midday/CBC Archives)

The CBC camera captured how the game, also known as POG, was played.

Kids gathered in twos or threes in a circle on the floor or at a table. A stack of POGs was piled, face up, before a player used a slightly heavier disc called a "slammer" to try overturning as many of the stacked discs as possible.

"The reason that it's become such a success is that the kids are actually playing with something. It's a game," said Albert.

By comparison, hockey cards as something for kids to collect had faltered because of their perceived value.

"They didn't want to touch the corners for fear of damaging the rookie card of some nobody," he added. "You let a kid play with one and they're hooked."

POG compulsion

Kenny Albert, whose company Canada Games made POGs, said his company expected to make sales of $100 million from the craze in 1995. (Midday/CBC Archives)

Anecdotally, Dingley cited an example of a girl who has spent over $100 on POGs.

There had been unsubstantiated rumours of gambling for POGs at an Edmonton school.

And a boy named Joel confirmed that POG obsession was real, as exemplified by another boy of his acquaintance.

"He plays POG all the time. He doesn't read or anything. But he goes to school and every free time he has, he just plays POG."

The POG craze seems to have evaporated within months. The CBC reported in July 1995 that Windsor police were distributing POGs with custom messages on them.

According to a 1997 story in the Globe and Mail, Canada Games had gone bankrupt after the bottom fell out of the POG market.

"I've never seen anything get that hot and die that fast — ever. It was nine months," said Michael Albert, a brother of Kenny Albert, who also worked at Canada Games.

At its peak, Canada Games in Concord, Ont. was printing seven million POGs a week. By the time POG wasn't cool any more, the company was unloading packages to retailers at two cents each. (Midday/CBC Archives)