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Tired of Fights over Pogs, Schools Ban Popular Schoolyard Game

March 21, 1995 GMT

Schools around the nation are finding it’s easier to ban Pogs _ the marbles of today’s schoolyards _ than spend hours straightening out fights over who won the cap-flipping game and if students were playing for ``keepsies.″

``I got four pogs took away from me,″ explained Laura Arter, 10, of Wormleysburg, Pa.

Now the raucous recess game is over at her school: ``We have to put them away or we get sent to the principal’s office,″ she said.

The game is often played for keeps, with the winners taking home the spoils _ a situation ripe for conflicts among children who don’t understand that concept, said Mary Larcome, a fourth-grade teacher in Haverhill, Mass.

``It takes away from your teaching time when you’re trying to settle the problems,″ Larcome said.

The rules are simple: each player has some pogs _ small thin discs usually made of paper _ or caps and a heavier disc, usually made of plastic, called a slammer. The pogs are stacked up and a player throws the slammer on it, and the pogs that flip over are `won.′

Bottle cap flipping games date back at least to the Depression, but the latest version started taking off in Hawaii in 1992. Children there called the game pog from the abbreviation P-O-G on the caps of a popular Hawaiian drink containing passion fruit, orange and guava.

Soon after, kids on the mainland started flipping for the game. They eagerly collected caps and slammers, turning a sidewalk distraction into a multimillion-dollar industry.

The caps are now fancier, sporting designs from cartoon and movie characters to peace symbols and costing anywhere from a few pennies to about $7. Slammers are clear, opaque, with or without design, plastic or metal.

``It’s fun to collect and see the pictures and have a play and see who can play better or worse,″ Laura said as she perused the pog selection at A.C. Moore, a crafts store in Harrisburg, Pa.

But at Thompson Middle School in St. Charles, Ill., ``they became a pretty hot item to steal″ as well as sparked arguments, said principal Kurt Anderson. ``We just ask the kids not to bring them.″

While most spats have broken out in the schoolyard, adults aren’t above some squabbling over the game, either. After months of fighting about it, The World Pog Federation announced in November it had exclusive use of the word ``pog″ on its products after reaching an agreement with the Universal Pogs Association, which changed its name to Universal Slammers Inc.

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Anderson said school officials were surprised to find that some pogs were collector’s items.

``We didn’t realize the value of them and we thought, `This is crazy,‴ he said.

In Fawn Grove, Pa., school officials sent home a letter telling parents that pogs were causing fights. Plus, the slammers could be used as a weapon, said South Eastern Middle School Principal Benjamin Emenheiser.

The game also has been discouraged or banned in schools in Windham, N.H, Plano, Texas, and Spokane, Wash.

Anderson says he sees more pog frenzy ahead at his Chicago-area school.

``I can only imagine, with Michael Jordan back on the Bulls, his face will be all over a set of pogs. That’ll keep Chicago kids going for a while,″ he said.