Pez Dispensers, A Sweet Collectible

By Anne Gilbert

What happens when you combine candy and a toy into one sweet object? The answer is Pez®, one of today's hot collectibles that is capturing the interest of adults as well as kids. Even though these plastic candy containers with dispensers in the form of various type heads have been around since 1948, only in the last several years have collectors taken them seriously. So seriously that one of these small items can fetch from $200 to over a $1,000 at auction. Hake's Americana Collectibles auctions is where they turn up with regularity. Otherwise, collectors haunt garage sales and flea markets for the Pez® rarities and attend Pez® conventions.

Collector/author Shawn Peterson can remember paying 50 cents for Pez dispensers back in 1990. His collection now numbers in the hundreds. His Collector's Guide to PEZ® Identification & Price Guide 2nd Edition offers colorful photos, prices and perils and pitfalls.

CLUES: There are many collectible categories that include heads of monsters, Disney and holidays. You name it, and there is probably a Pez® depiction. How about Elvis? Well, not exactly. "Elvis" was never made by Pez®, but it exists. Fans have made their own, and they are known as "Fantasy" pieces. Peterson points out that they can sell for $25 or less. Fakes and reproductions of rarities are out there. Mismatched stems and heads are no-no's. Prices can vary on a Pez® and a look-alike when one doesn't have feet (small rounded plastic protrusions that allow the dispenser to stand).

Rarities like the rare 1962 World's Fair astronaut can fetch $3,000. Even rarer and more costly is the Republican Elephant Pez® made in Austria in 1961. Few have been found. An example could be priced at $6,000.

Pez® had its beginning in Austria as a small peppermint flavored tablet. The name Pez® is derived from the German word for peppermint, pfferminz. Its creator Edward Haas took the first, middle and last letter, and Pez® was born. In 1948, Oscar Uxa invented the little mechanical box that pushed out the candy. He later added the three-dimensional cartoon head to the top and introduced the product in America.
While it was marketed to children, adults discovered it as a new collectible. As they say, "the rest is history."

When you become a collector you are known as a "Pezhead". There are many other things for collectors to learn that can be found in the book's glossary. For example, "loose" means a dispenser is out of its original packaging, and "Club Med" means a character's face is tan. For would-be Pezheads, the book lists convention locations and dates. It is published by Krause Publications, 700 East State Street, Iola, WI 54990-0001.

(R.) Zoe, pre-production painted sculpt, $890.40, and Big Bird test dispenser; $666.40, including 12% bp. (Photo: Hake's American and Collectibles Auction.)

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