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Get your GED in PEZ

by Matty filed under pez on August 3, 2003 10:28 PM

Do you think that a pez is something that you wear on your head to the lodge meeting? Here is a crash course in all things pez. (This is especially good for relatives who are trying to buy me gifts.) *smiles*


PEZ started life in Austria as the brainchild of a man named Eduard Haas III. He was a health nut, and created these compressed peppermint candies as an alternative to smoking. The first pez candies were sold in tins, similar to Altoids.

Even the name PEZ harkens back to these humble beginnings. You see, P E and Z are the first, middle and last letters of the word "pfefferminz" (the German word for peppermint). The first candy dispensers showed up around 1948, and looked similar to the picture on the right. They were marketed towards adults and had "adult" flavors like peppermint and anise (yuck!). Here's a drawing from the original patent (if you're into such things.)

Where's the happy cartoon head?

Somewhere in the 1950's a marketing genius decided to put a head on the dispenser and add a couple of kid-friendly flavors of candy. No one seems really sure what the first character dispenser was. The main contenders are Casper, a witch or Santa Claus.

Today there are over a gazillion (you want an exact number? buy a book) different character dispensers, with new ones being released all the time. To get an idea of the wide range of licensed dispensers, take a look at my virtual PEZ page.

Feet or No Feet?

In 1987 PEZ dispensers received an upgrade that makes them much nicer for the collector-feet. The feet make the dispensers more stable - very important if you are displaying them.

The feet (or lack thereof) are also an easy way for a non-collector to tell the difference between older PEZ and newer PEZ, right? Well, sorta... Like G.I. Joe used to say, knowledge is half the battle.

The problem is that there have been PEZ without feet made after 1987. There are also bad people in the world that don't use turn signals and will also file the feet off of PEZ (as to scam unsuspecting good people).

My advice is don't buy something because it does or doesn't have feet. Buy it because you like it.

Beginning Collectors

PEZ are a great collectible, because it's easy and inexpensive to start. At any given time in the U.S., there are around four score (or eighty if you prefer) different characters in production. You can pick them at pharmacies, grocery stores or dollar stores for between $0.99-$1.99.

After you find all the currents, check out garage sales, thrift stores, antique shops and online retailers for the more pricey stuff. I hear that ebay does thriving business on PEZ dispensers too.

**Here's a free tip for you, dear reader. If you buy PEZ on ebay, make sure to check out foreign auctions. You might pay more for shipping, but you may get a better deal on vintage dispensers. (Remember that it all started back in Austria.)**

Is that a dispenser in your pocket...?

Knowing how to load a PEZ dispenser is pretty important. If you know how to do it correctly can help you win friends and influence people (or not). Check back later for a quick tutorial.

Finally, if you don't collect PEZ, but have that box of them from when you were a kid, and want to make sure that they have a good home, feel free to contact me *smiles*.

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