I used to think it was strange the things that kids from times gone by used to play with. Like hitting a hoop with a stick for example. What person thought, “Christmas is coming up, I want 20,000 sticks and hoops on shelves by September! Every kid is going to want Santa to bring one of these!” Or the thing with the strings, cup and the sticks, (Google has informed me it is called a diabolo, quite a dark name for a child’s toy). These play-things always seemed odd to me because I was not born of that era when they were seen as desirable toys. Instead I was born in an era where we threw bits of plastic at little circular disks of cardboard, and where I went crying to parents or whatever authority figure was to hand when another child lay claim to my bits of cardboard because they had ‘won’ them in the game.
I am of course talking about the pog craze of the 90s. I do not remember when I first became aware of the craze, but I do remember my parents buying me some because my cousin had some. I was on holiday at a campsite in Wales, on Easter Sunday and just opened my pog egg, and I think I was on my way to fill up the water bottle for my parents, when a kid younger than me ran out of his tent with chocolate smeared all over his face, and excitedly declared to me “I got pogs!” and waving them in the air. I remember nodding and replying “me too.” Proceeding to show him mine from my pocket. I think every kid had them.
I do recall them always being pretty cheap, a shop near me had very shiny ‘tattoo’ ones with skulls, spiders, daggers and roses on. Unfortunately the shiny things designs peeled off pretty quickly so were just stickers on card I think. Shame. They were awesome.
I should probably explain what pogs were instead of talking about my memories of them as there will probably be someone born in the year 2000 reading this, and they will have sadly missed out on all of this.
I don’t know where they originated (look it up on Wikipedia if you are really interested!) but they were also called milkcaps so I am assuming they could have once been milk bottle tops. Essentially they were small discs of card with a design on, often traded or squabbled over. The idea was to play a game with them, we used to stack a pile up and take it turns with another player to throw a ‘slammer’ (a plastic or metal disc) at them, and flipped ones were ‘won’ ones.The winner was the one with the most flipped pogs. I don’t know if that is how other kids played it, but that is how we played it. Sometimes we played for ‘keeps’ but not often as that usually resulted in arguments.
Anyway, pogs were hot shit back in those days. And they must have been made in a huge supply, as they are still available pretty cheaply today.
I purchased four packets of ‘Alien Smash Caps’ from amazon for £1.99 each. There are many different themes from different companies but aliens are definitely high up there on the list of things that I like so those are the ones I chose. Unfortunately, with my fond memories of pogs and love of things that are extraterrestrial, I think I was probably expecting a whole lot more. I planned to wait to take pictures of them all for this post as I opened them, but obviously I couldn’t wait and had to open one packet right away so in this photo there are only 3 packets.
The packets look interesting enough. I am digging the slimy effect on the font that says Alien.
Anyway here are the first six I had already opened.
I really didn’t know what I was expecting. Maybe being an adult who has watched Aliens and Predator and games like Halo and Gears of War and all of the other good stuff with aliens in, my impressions of aliens have been somewhat warped. But right away I wasn’t hugely impressed with these. The designs look shit and the alien names were just awful. E-N-A-I? What the fuck is that? It looks like a poorly cut gemstone with eyeball sticking out of it.
After realising there was also an E-N-A-2, I picked up the accompanying card and discovered that it’s name isn’t E-N-A-I, it is actually E.N.R, which is apparently an acronym for ‘Evidence Not Received (Uncatalogued Aliens)’. Why?! Why are there uncatalogued aliens? These are designs (admittedly shit ones) that someone invented. Why are there ‘uncatalogued’ ones? What a load of tosh. They still have shitty names though. Wouka? Karkass? I am not on board with this.
The slammer is also perplexing. I like its shiny purple colour but don’t know what the picture is supposed to be. A satellite or a spaceship? Or a radar station. Who knows? I didn’t hate it though.
I was definitely less excited to open the rest of the packets. Perhaps why this post has taken about a month for me to do. But here is the contents of packet number two.
I liked some of the designs of the aliens on these ones. Hydrohops looks like he could be a ghost from the Real Ghostbusters toyline. And Znak looks like a video game enemy, perhaps something you would find in the instruction manual of early Zelda games. The slammer was a shiny silver one with a picture of a spaceship engraved on it. I didn’t take an individual picture of that as I don’t really think anybody cares. I don’t really care either.
So on to packet number three.
Aaand I am already getting doubles. Initially I could only see five pogs stuck in the bag and I thought to myself “I wonder if too much time has expired for me to ring the makers of these and complain?” But I found the missing pog. It was stuck onto another one. I was still tempted to ring and complain just because the aliens have stupid names and look stupid. I don’t think even five year old me would have gotten excited at these. The slammer is the same as last time just blue.
Final packet. Thank Christ this shit is nearly over.
More doubles, as you can see by the licking bush (two words I advise you not to Google) on the bottom left. I like some of the aliens in this one. The bottom right is clearly a pervert who is getting off by licking the bones of some dead thing. The top middle looks like a Tribble from Star Trek but one that could bite your hand off. The slammer is like the first one, but silver.
So was this hugely exciting and nostalgic? No, not really. I don’t have many recollections of opening pogs. I remember opening stickers a lot, and Walkers crisps gave away their version of pogs called Tazo’s in their packets of crisps, which were either Star Wars or Loony Toons.
I still have my folder full of Star Wars Tazos, which are fantastic and deserve a seperate post one day. They were the same as pogs, only they were plastic discs with the pictures printed on them, making them a little longer lasting than discs of card. They also had little indents and could clip together for some reason. I don’t know for what reason quite but it was fun to clip ’em together as a kid.
It was so exciting to open a packet of crisps and find a Tazo I didn’t have. It was also crushingly disappointing to find one that I did have. I remember hastily tearing into the bag to feel around amidst the crisps for the little cellophane wrapper with the Tazo in. My whole family made sure that any Tazos they received were sent to me.When I only had one left to get, which was Obi-Wan Kenobi as seen in my hand above, I distinctly remember my Dad opening a packet of crisps in front of me and asking me which was the last one I needed to get. When I told him, he smiled, reached into the packet and then handed it to me. I really miss the days where food had free gifts in them. Due to health and safety, you can’t find free gifts in cereal or snacks in the UK these days. Something I loved as a kid.
Anyway, I hope you enjoyed looking at the freshly opened pogs more than I did.I think looking at my old Tazos was a lot more fun than opening new pogs! I will be doing similar nostalgic things in the future so keep an eye out if you would like to see more.