Collector's Corner: PEZ Candy Dispensers
By Michele Alice
In the beginning, there was PEZ.
That is, the online auction universe was created by Pierre Omidyar in the summer of 1995, purportedly to help his fiancée connect and trade with fellow PEZ-collectors over the World Wide Web (http://www.businessknowhow.com/manage/perfectstore.htm).
Now, whether the story is apocryphal or not, eBay (nee AuctionWeb) and PEZ will forever remain synonymous, and so it only fitting to visit the subject of PEZ as a collectible.
Edward Haas created PEZ mints in Austria in 1927. Marketed as an alternative for smoking, the peppermint (PfeffErminZ) candies were sold in pocket tins until 1948 when the first "regular" dispenser, resembling a cigarette lighter, was invented. Wishing to increase sales in the American market, a marketing study suggested placing heads on the dispensers to make them appealing to children, and - voila! - the birth of a collectible.
Since 1952, there have been over 300 different official PEZ dispensers, and when one considers all their variations, the possible size of a collection can be mind-boggling. And in addition to both the domestic and foreign mass-market issues, there are limited editions, promos, and licensed merchandise like banks and ornaments. One caveat: the PEZ company has stated that it will never use a real person on a dispenser. Such pieces are referred to as "fantasy PEZ" and are the results of after-market creativity.
Also mind-boggling are some of the prices the older and rarer dispensers can command. Some pieces sell for several hundred dollars or more. In fact, the highest price paid for a single dispenser was for "a Locking Cap, Box Trademark Regular [that] sold on eBay in March 2002 for $6575." (http://www.pezlist.com/faq.html#424)
So, how can the collector determine the age of a piece? One general, but not always definitive method is to check whether it is "footed" or "non-footed." Prior to 1987, stems lacked the plastic feet since added to keep dispensers upright, but some recent releases and reissues have also been manufactured without feet, and note that it is also as easy to switch stems to deceive as to repair a piece.
A more accurate determination of age can be made using the patent numbers and injection mold codes (IMC's) found on almost all dispensers. A number of PEZ collectors books and Web sites provide charts to aid the collector in dating their pieces using this information. Listed below are several that are particularly helpful.
A 1995 newsgroup in its first incarnation, this terrifically comprehensive site provides history, FAQs, and a plethora of first-class links.
McPEZ Kooky Zoo
One of the best of the collector sites. Presents all information-patent numbers, IMC's, definitions, release dates-in logical, easy-to-follow format. Photo documentation is first-rate!
Official PEZ Candy Inc. Web Site
Offers limited editions, lists all dispensers for sale and upcoming promos
This is a free database program for keeping track of dispenser collections with a master database that offers a "complete,...listing of all the different dispenser variations ever made."
Collector's Guide to Pez: Identification & Price Guide
(Collector's Guide to Pez, 2nd Ed)
by Shawn Peterson
By David Welch
Pez Collectibles (Schiffer Book for Collectors)
by Richard Geary
About the author:
Michele Alice is EcommerceBytes Update Contributing Editor. Michele is a freelance writer in the Berkshire mountains of Massachusetts. She collects books, science fiction memorabilia and more! Email her at makalice @ adelphia.net eBay ID: Malice9
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