PEZ Collecting - Feeding the Obsession

PEZ has been around since way before my time. It started in Vienna, Austria as a breath mint for adults in 1927. The name came from the first, middle and last letter of the German word for peppermint - PfeffErminZ. My obsession started in the last century, with a 'PEZ Collectors Starter Kit' my hubby brought home from a holiday gift exchange at work.

Vintage PEZ on a shelf

It started with that first box, the memories of the fun little candy dispensers, and next think you know, I had 50 of them, all loaded of course, in a box. Then I started displaying them on the bookshelves in the den. Then, as the obsession grew - oh how I love the HUNT - I kicked my hubby out of the den and turned it into the PEZ PALACE.

Decorating was such fun! I found the amazingly bright rug at Lowe's, the shelves from the unfinished furniture store, the displays from ads in my PEZ Collectors Newsletter. After some bright paint and lots of drywall screws, the room was transformed.

How many do I have you ask? Of course it is all cataloged in a spreadsheet - lone dispensers (not in sets) - over 1200 to date, same in licensed items (that includes sets). I must admit my giant PEZ dispensers (they dispense whole packs of candy vs. a single piece) have spilled out into the rest of the house; but mostly everything is in the PEZ Palace.

Where do I find all these PEZ dispensers? I have my favorite spots, like Mr. Ed's in Cashtown, PA - it's an easy 75 mile one-way trip from Casa Harmon, so sometimes I call before we head out, but he always has the latest dispensers and sets. Not to mention he also carries my favorite gummy bears (Albanese - they have an A on their bellies and are so tasty). Last time we visited in January, we actually got to say 'Hi' to Mr. Ed himself. 

The vintage dispensers I find mostly at conventions, my favorite dealer is John LaSpina - he always has the best dispensers, and good prices. He publishes a yearly guide which is super helpful when I am reassessing my collections value for insurance. Yes - it is insured!!!

Which one is my favorite - that's hard to say. My first vintage was the Orange, from the Crazy Fruit line from the 70s. I just thought it was so cute. I really like the Pony-Go-Round as well - Bubba had a birthday cake made for me mimicking the dispenser! But honestly, they are all my favorites, or else I wouldn't collect them!

These Japanese minis are just amazing. They actually dispense PEZ. I must admit, some of the characters are totally foreign to me (pun intended!) - but they are so cute!

Which one is the rarest - in my collection, it happens to be the most expensive as well - and NO - I didn't buy it, I won it in a raffle! It's from the Crazy Fruit collection as well, it's the Pear, he's worth close to a thousand bucks alone - but I won it from one of 2 $5 raffle tickets. It was very exciting, we had traveled to South Dakota for vacation - then drove across the state to Minneapolis, MN for MNPEZCON. We had been to the convention once before and really enjoyed it. We had to fly home before the raffle was pulled, but when we landed I had a voicemail letting me know we had won. Sadly, that convention is no more, but there are many others that still exist.

My best find? Wow. Well, there was the year that we left the Northeast PEZ Collectors Convention and made a pit stop at one of the dealers shops to get a giant PEZ that I wanted (Dracula!), in Kutztown, PA. The Purple Cow is the name of the shop and it's in an antique market that is open year round. Once I loaded up on PEZ from their booth, we walked the market, and around the corner on the other side was a dealer in a booth jam packed with toys. I almost squealed out loud, I scored an Annie dispenser from the 70's, still on the card - for  $3. It's worth $100-150!!! I was kind and didn't buy every dispenser he had, but I walked away with several other vintage ones that I already had in bags, for $2 each. I was just amazed that I was the LUCKY PEZ collector to find this booth, with the number of collectors that visit The Purple Cow.

I don't hide my love for PEZ. It's always on my license plate. My first was "PEZHUNTR", then I had "PEZWAGON", then I went back to "PEZHUNTR" and now I'm "PEZCUBE". Yeah, I like cars as much as I like PEZ! Keeping my love of PEZ out there has paid off for me as well. A few years ago I was making a final trip of the day to Home Depot to get something, and a lady approached me and asked if I collected PEZ because of my license plate. Why YES I do - she offered me a box of them that she had in her attic - I met her at her job later that week, and in that lot there was a rare navy headed Daffy Duck that goes for about $150!!! The rest were duplicates, and as you can see from all these photos, I don't have room for them ... so we donated them to the Antique Automobile Club of America (AACA) Museum in Hershey, PA. They used them for a Christmas Tree display and gave us a shout out and free tickets to visit that year!

We've had some other great finds while out and about, if we have time we will always stop and walk through antique markets. Most of the time we find current dispensers that are way over priced, but occasionally we find vintage PEZ at ridiculously low prices. Those are the good days, and we hope to have many more. Looking forward to several conventions this year and more PEZzy finds!