Friday, April 18, 2014

Pez: A Treat to Eat in a Puppet That's Neat!!

P is for PEZ. Didjya know that the name PEZ is actually derived from the German word for peppermint, taking the first, middle, and last letters of the word PfeffErminZ? That's right, kids! To go all the way back to the beginning, some 87 years ago - candy maker Edward Haas III, invented PEZ candy in Vienna, Austria, in 1927. Haas designed the mint-flavoured candy as an alternative to smoking. These newly minted PEZ candies (see what I did there?) were sold in pocket-sized tins, much like today's curiously strong Altoids. They were packaged that way until 1948, when Oscar Uxa invented the PEZ dispenser. Originally these dispensers resembled lighters (again with the anti-smoking stance that Haas had intended) and were introduced to the US in 1952, and after a few years, character heads were added to the dispensers. The first ones of these new character heads being either Mickey Mouse, Popeye, or Santa, as there seems to be differing stories on which one actually came first. Today, the candy that was once marketed with the slogan, "A Treat to Eat in a Puppet That's Neat," can be found pretty much anywhere and everywhere around the world - and that includes the nearly 2,500 found in my home. That's right.

The year was 1998, the month was February, and I had just met a young woman by the name of Amy. Four weeks later, on Friday, March 13th, we were married. That was sixteen some years ago, and we are still, going strong, as they say. But with this marriage came a dowry. That dowry consisted of eight PEZ dispensers. Bugs Bunny, Mickey Mouse, Santa Claus, a Halloween Witch, the Easter Bunny, Daffy Duck, a Valentine Heart, and Taz, aka the Tasmanian Devil. These eight little guys sat, all lined-up, upon my new wife's dresser, and I began thinking to myself - "Hey, these guys need some new friends!" And thus, an obsession was born. Soon, these eight became twenty, and then thirty, and were moved from dresser to a shelf on the wall of our bedroom. Then this thirty grew to fifty and sixty and seventy, eventually relocating from the aforementioned bedroom wall shelf, to a cabinet in the corner of our dining room. As the years rolled on, from 1998 to '99 to 2000 and 2001, fresh new Pezzy faces were added into the ever-growing collection-cum-obsession. There were the Flintstones and the Muppets, Garfield and his friends, Batman and Spider-Man, Luke, Leia, and Chewie too. Bugs, Daffy, and Taz were joined by the buds Tweety and Sylvester, and Tom & Jerry also came around to stay. There were new Halloween and Easter and Christmas PEZ too. The gang grew to 100 and then 200 and 300, moving from corner cabinet to a full size bookcase. Along with all these new dispensers, there also came other Pezzy items. There were PEZ pens and rulers and stencils. PEZ snow globes and plastic cars and trucks. PEZ Halloween masks and Christmas ornaments. PEZ hats and tee-shirts, and even pajamas. There were PEZ items galore. But this was just the beginning.

Our collection grew to 400 and 500 and 600 plus. There were exclusive online PEZ dispensers, all done in different crystal colours, and ones only available in Europe and Japan. There were mini-dispensers and giant foot tall dispensers too. There were hundreds of different versions of the Valentine hearts (PEZ knew we completist-minded collectors would buy anything and everything they were willing to toss at us) and multitudes of Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles too. And there were fantasy PEZ, made by fellow collectors too. Many of these were crappy knock-offs, but some were quite stunning works of craftsmanship. We have a Hunter S. Thompson and a Rat Fink that are just beautiful. The collection grew and grew. From 600 to 700 to 800 and 900, and then... then came the 1000 PEZ Party. With new additions like the mini Japanese PEZ and additions such as The Simpsons, Winnie the Pooh, The Lion King, Sponge Bob, Bratz, Mario Bros., Toy Story, The Smurfs, brand new versions of Looney Tunes and Walt Disney, and new Star Wars and superheroes as well, not to mention stuffed dispensers and other plush Pezzy toys, boxsets and collector's tins, and even PEZ dog treats (that's right!), the collection finally hit the 1000 milestone sometime in 2005. By this time, our collection was taking up an entire room - the PEZ room, and wherever we moved, there was always a special place put aside for the now 1000+ PEZ collection. It has been part of our dining room and bedroom, part of our guest room, and now these guys reside in the hallway between our second floor staircase and the bathroom. It's always fun to see newbies' faces when they ask which way is the bathroom. Priceless. Oh, and have I mentioned the conventions yet?

That's right gang, conventions - PEZ conventions. There are actually a bunch of these around the world. From Cleveland (the first one) to L.A. to St. Louis to Bloomington Minn. and Stamford Conn., to Myrtle Beach to Japan, Austria, Sweden and Finland, PEZ conventions abound. My lovely wife and I have been to four conventions (Stamford, Cleveland, Myrtle Beach, and Stamford again) and have loved 'em all. Sure, there are a lot of so-called freaks there (nowhere near the wonderful freakdom at a comic con or Trek convention!) but they are what make it so so fun. From room-hopping and PEZ bingo and auctions to the convention room itself, these trips are fun - even it one of them was in Cleveland. And these conventions helped more than anything this side of eBay (there's an apocryphal story of how the online flea market was founded because of PEZ) to fill the coffers of our collection/obsession. As the collection grew from 1000 to 1300 to 1700 to over 2000 dispensers (and probably about 500 other various PEZ-related items) and now onto 2450 some, the legend too grows and grows and grows. Our collection was featured in both the magazine Non-Sports Card Update and on a special collector's edition of our local news website, PennLive, and many pics can be viewed on my Facebook page (of course) and now pretty much everyone knows about our collection - and some have even visited just to see said collection. We and our PEZ are a landmark, baby. There used to be a PEZ museum in Easton, Pa (they sadly closed down back in 2003 or so) and even they couldn't compete with our collection. So there!

I could go on and on about how Amy and I visited the PEZ factory in Stamford Conn. last year (wearing paper coats and hair nets) and how we were able to get exclusive PEZ dispensers found there and only there (and a bucket of PEZ, hot off the mill - seriously, it was still warm). I could go on and on about all the new PEZ always coming out - from Kiss and Elvis, baseball and football teams galore, Angry Birds, Monsters Inc., the Mr. Men series (you know, with Little Miss Sunshine and all) in both English and French, the Geico Gekko, the Chick-fil-A Cow, Hello Kitty, Star Trek, The Hobbit, The Wizard of Oz, and all the Disney Princesses and Fairies. I could talk about all the vintage PEZ that are part of our collection, and how Amy was so beyond thrilled when we purchased the 1960's Giraffe PEZ at our first convention. Or maybe how Amy won a raffle at another convention, winning us a vintage Rudolph PEZ. Yeah, I could go on and on about any and all things PEZ, but I probably should stop at some point, and let ya'll get some sleep, or whatever it is I am keeping you from. This has been my P is for PEZ post. That's it gang. See ya 'round the web. I'll leave you with a colony of Batman PEZ.



8 comments:

  1. Love the Batman with the wings. We used to collect them when we were kids and most of the time found them at a German Deli. I am trying to remember which ones we had as they might be collectible now...if we had them. I just gave one away! It was Gonzo-the muppet. What's funny is we bout them for the actual dispenser as the candy was so hard it could chip a tooth. Everyone collects something:)

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  2. I knew some of the PEZ history. Thanks for filling in the rest.

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  3. Thanx for checking out my Pezziest post in a long time. Everyone loves themselves some Pez.

    See ya 'round the web.

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  4. Visiting on the 18th day of the #challenge. I have a daughter-in-law that collects Pezz figures too. Looks like you're having a wonderful time this month. If you have time or interest, I'm writing about gardening and related topics. Take a break and come visit.

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  5. PEZ are fun! I do like the PEZ candy. I had no idea there were PEZ snowglobes, cars, rulers or stencils. I always thought there were just PEZ dispensers. I never realized that there were that many different kinds of PEZ dispensers either. I learn something new every day. :-)

    Stefani @ Dreams of Nyssa

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  6. Thanx for stopping by everyone. Fun to share the PEZ love with all of you. Oh, and Stefani, I only scratched the surface. There is pretty much anything you can think of PEZ. Soda bottles, mouse pads, yo-yo's, mechanical dispensers, banks, halloween costumes, ashtrays, mugs, popcorn (that's right!), money clips, wallets, juices, and so on and so on...

    See ya'll 'round the web.

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  7. Cool post. I collect Pez dispensers but I never knew the history! I'd love to go to the factory, sounds fun!

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  8. As someone who has seen this collection live and in person, I gotta say it is a fuckin' sight to see! And yea, there is a Sadaam Hussein Pez dispenser in this collection! Top dat, yo!

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