Listen to the Recess! Clip
Pez on Parade Transcript
Children love candy, especially when it comes in unique and interesting packaging. Business-savvy candy manufacturers have long worked to capitalize on this interest, marketing a wide range of candy dispensers from gum-filled bubble wands to wind-up chickens that lay candy eggs. But arguably the most recognizable and sought after candy dispenser in the world is the Pez dispenser. Its popularity has taken it from a novel way to market candy to children to an object of desire for serious adult collectors. In fact, simply entering the search words “pez collectors” in one popular online search engine returns a startling 640,000 results!
Among those results are pages ranging from sites that detail the history of the Pez dispenser and its many forms to sites that list the best sources for buying rare Pez dispensers. For example, the site “Pez Collectibles Meet the World Wide Web” reveals that the first Pez dispenser was the invention of Austrian food company executive Edward Haas in 1927. Originally intended to resemble a cigarette lighter and dispense compressed peppermint candies as an alternative to smoking, the dispenser’s name was derived by using the first, sixth, and final letters of the German word for peppermint, “pfefferminz.” The concept failed with smokers but captured the imaginations of children, and Haas soon changed his marketing strategy to increase that appeal. According to journalist Andrew MacDonald, the first character PEZ dispenser, filled with fruit-flavored candies instead of peppermints, was “a full-body Santa Claus with moveable limbs and fine painted detail” (np).
Ironically, in their new form, the dispensers also found a place with the adult audience they had previously failed to entice. Today Pez dispensers are such hot collectors’ items that, as journalist Stephanie Ramp explains, the Guinness Book of World Records lists the most lucrative sale of Pez dispensers as earning $18,000 for a set of three rare models, a one-piece Shiny Gold Elephant, a headless dispenser embossed with “PEZ-HAAS”, and a soft-head Mickey Mouse (np).
This candy icon’s monumental popularity with collectors is also evident from the numerous Pez conventions held worldwide. Plugging in the search terms “Pez conventions” yields 58,100 results. One site, homepage of CollectingPez.com, boasts the occurrence of that organization’s 14th Annual National Pez Convention in June 2006 in St. Louis, Missouri, as well as the 5th Annual Pezcific Coast Convention in February 2006 in Los Angeles, the Northeast Pez Collectors Gathering in March 2006 in Stamford, Connecticut, and Pezamania 12 in July 2006 in Cleveland, Ohio. Other sites, such as the Indispensable Pez site and Pez Collectors News, list similar events. Apparently, as one avid Pez collector tells us, “Pez dispensers have created a community” (MacDonald np), and as the continually growing presence of Pez on the web indicates, the current popularity of the dispensers shows no signs of waning any time soon.