COM 354 Molly Trahan October 4, 2007 PEZ Dispensers The average kid on the street may not know what a PEZ dispenser is. Though encompassing countless genres, and decades, PEZ dispensers are not all-together mainstream. Most children find them stuck in their Easter baskets or Christmas stockings every year. However, all too often the cute little dispensers with heads ranging from Santa Claus to Hello Kitty are forgotten about soon after the candy has been consumed. PEZ dispensers have come a long way from where they began eighty years ago, in 1927. Edvard Haas III gave birth to the idea of “the mint of the noble society.” The candy takes the shape of pressed, dry, straight-edged blocks (3/8-inch- long), with PEZ dispensers holding 12 pieces of PEZ candy. In those days the candy was only offered in peppermint. Originally, PEZ mints were marketed to adults. The first dispenser was produced in 1950 and looked very much like a cigarette lighter. The idea for the dispenser came along with the need to keep the candies in a clean box. Thus, the dispenser was born. COM 354 Molly Trahan October 4, 2007 Back then, no one even considered children as a marketable audience. It wasn’t until PEZ broke into the American market that kids were realized as a target group. PEZ began conquering the American market in 1956. In order to boost sales even more, they developed the idea of putting the heads on the dispensers. This, in turn, attracted children to the candies even more. From then on, PEZ was unstoppable. The first license acquired by PEZ for the dispenser heads was from Walt Disney in 1962. These boxes were decorated with Mickey Mouse, Donald Duck, and Goofy. The demand for these products was through the roof. With each following series of dispensers developed the brand PEZ into an icon for collectors. It amazed both young and old around the world. Since 1965, countless license agreements with popular comic book producers created popular character figurines worldwide. This ensured the loyalty of generations of PEZ fans in over 80 countries around the globe. In 1973, PEZ founded its organization in Orange, Connecticut. This guarantees both the production and sales for the American continent. COM 354 Molly Trahan October 4, 2007 From there the possibilities spiraled into multiple directions. Today, no one is able to tell just how many assortments and characters have been marketed over the years between 1962 and today. On average, however, each year between two and four new groups each containing four to six characters, are created. So, if you’re trying to collect every PEZ dispenser ever made – good luck! Making this even more difficult is the fact that old dispensers are not sold in stores. Once they finish being made they are sold off. Luckily, websites such as Ebay are available so collectors can buy and sell their rare PEZ findings. Don’t worry, PEZ did not stop at cartoon heads on dispensers. At the end of the 20th century PEZ launched a line of “interactive candy.” This was a whole new generation of PEZ dispensers and figurines. This line of dispensers guaranteed even more fun and entertainment than PEZ had ever offered before. The first on the market were Candy-Handy, a working flashlight, and Candy-Pen, a working writing utensil. Both models feature secret compartments for storing and dispensing PEZ COM 354 Molly Trahan October 4, 2007 candy. These two were only a driving block for the “interactive” line; new items are launched each year. Next, PEZ tackled the world of stuffed animals. In 2002, the cozy PEZ conquered the hearts of both young and old. Hidden inside the furry coat or animals such as puppies, bears, and kitties was a PEZ dispenser making the inside just as sweet as the outside. Besides stuffed and interactive dispensers PEZ has also experimented with different sized dispensers. They have them small enough to fit only two or three actual PEZ candies for keychains. They sell sets of party favors that hold four to six candies. And then they go all the way to giant PEZ which dispense whole packages of candy. So no matter what space you’re working with, there is a PEZ dispenser to fill it. PEZ has even branched into the fashion world. They sell everything from hats to T-shirts with the PEZ logo written on them. And they don’t stop there, a collector can get stickers, postcards, mouse pads, and books. COM 354 Molly Trahan October 4, 2007 Recently, the PEZ brand has brought itself full circle for its 80th anniversary. They have recently launched another refreshment candy for adults called PEZ Mini Mints. The dispenser is designed to fit perfectly into the pocket of any man or woman on the go. They are starting with two dispenser collections Andy Warhol and a Classic Moments Collection. 80 years and still going strong. For product so marketed toward children, the advertising was a bit risqué. The first PEZ ads featured what came to be known as the “PEZ Ladies.” The artist who originally designed the first PEZ ladies would probably never have imagined where his art would take the company and his career. His ladies were known, popular, and most of all – seen everywhere and by everyone. PEZ advertisements kept with the beauty ideal of the time and thus created one of the most successful ad campaigns of their time. Despite the worldwide recognition of the PEZ dispenser, the company considers itself to be primarily a candy company, producing over 3 billion candy bricks each year in the U.S. alone . PEZ Dispensers COM 354 Molly Trahan October 4, 2007 are part of popular culture in many nations. Because of the large number of dispenser designs over the years, enthusiasts collect PEZ dispensers. One can find PEZ dispensers almost anywhere that sells candy. They are available in grocery stores, convenience stores, and are available at the checkout counters of many retail and specialty shops. However, despite the high availability and low price of most PEZ dispensers some are not so easy to find or afford. Once a dispenser is classified as a collectable, they can sell for very large amounts. The highest price every recorded for a single PEZ dispenser was $7,000. Now this was no ordinary PEZ dispenser. It was never sold to the public, but was a factory prototype. The dispenser was a Mickey Mouse softhead and it passed between an Austrian dealer and a California collector. The potential profit of these collectable dispensers has created a market for imposters. It was reported in 2006 that a 50’s clear Space Gun dispenser sold for $11,000 on Ebay. PEZ author, David Welch, later uncovered that the dispenser was actually a well-made fake. So collectors beware! COM 354 Molly Trahan October 4, 2007 A common question many people and collectors alike have is where the name PEZ came from. It is actually a combination of letters from the German word for peppermint, PfeffErminZ. The newest generation of collectors would probably never guess that, seeing as most PEZ candies today are fruit flavors such as strawberry, lemon, grape and orange. However, the PEZ Candy Company continues to evolve its list of flavors. Now the catalogue includes a long list of general flavors, sour flavors, and sugar free flavors. Plus, at some specialty shops, there are even kosher varieties available. The all-upper-case spelling of PEZ echoes the trademark's style of type on packaging and the dispensers themselves, drawn in perspective and looking as if the letters were built out of 44 brick-like PEZ candies (14 bricks in the P and 15 in both the E and Z). PEZ candy and dispensers are definitely a part of popular culture. References can be found in television, music, and movies. An example of PEZ influences in the music world is the punk-ska band, Less Than Jake. The band debuted in 1994 with the album PEZcore, originally on Dill COM 354 Molly Trahan October 4, 2007 Records. The title of the album stemmed from bassist/vocalist Roger Manganelli and drummer/lyricist Vinnie Fiorello's unexplained fondness for PEZ candy, clearly apparent in their reportedly sizable PEZ dispenser collections. This love for PEZ is so intense that they chose PEZcore, partly as homage to their obsession, and partly as parody of the way in which many bands are described as [something]-core (starting with hardcore). Ever since, PEZ dispenser motifs have been a common feature of Less Than Jake's merchandise. PEZ was also visible in prime time television, specifically Seinfeld. A recurring feature of Seinfeld was its use of specific products, especially candy, as plot points. These might be a central feature of a plot (e.g. Junior Mints, Twix, Jujyfruits, Snickers, Nestlé Chunky, Oh Henry! and PEZ), or an association of a candy with a guest character, or simply a conversational aside. There is even an episode entitled, “The PEZ Dispenser.” A common misconception of PEZ is that the bidding website Ebay was founded to facilitate trading PEZ dispensers. This myth arose from the COM 354 Molly Trahan October 4, 2007 fact that Ebay’s founder, Pierre Omidyar’s wife is an avid PEZ collector. It was later discovered that this myth was created for marketing purposes. How does the PEZ Company keep its products free of copycats? It’s all about the patents. There are several patents relating to the PEZ dispenser. The patent number is usually molded into the bottom of the dispenser’s stem, to be updated any time the design of the dispenser changed. However, this patent number is not a trustworthy telling of the dispenser’s age. It has taken as long as three years in some cases for a patent number to appear on a PEZ dispenser. The first patent awarded in 1952 was for the general mechanism of the dispenser itself. The name of that first patent is Pocket Article Dispensing Container. Doesn’t that have a nice ring to it? The second patent, received in 1968, was for the device that would actually push the candy piece out of the tube for a customer to grab. The most recent patent, from 1999, was for a plastic spring. Despite their numerous patents there are still fake dispensers. Not to be confused with fake dispensers are “Fantasy” dispensers so called by collectors. There are numerous sites devoted to these “Fantasy” items. COM 354 Molly Trahan October 4, 2007 These items are usually custom pieces made by collectors or artists. Some are a reproduction of existing dispensers, but vary in color. Some are designs that were never produced, but people would have liked them to be. Sometimes, it's simply a mutilated toy head glued to a dispenser stem or the dispenser is fully functional. Sometimes, it's a custom molded creation or it's actually just a painted dispenser. There are endless ways to alter a PEZ dispenser. One may not think of PEZ dispensers and products as valuable collector’s items. However, upon simply searching “Pez collecting” 1,300,000 sites are at your disposal. Many of these sites offer tips and tricks to collecting PEZ dispensers as well as ways to determine if your PEZ collectibles are authentic or valuable. Some offer pricing guides and other resources so collectors know both what they are looking for and perhaps what they already have. Other sites focus on the buying, selling, and trading of the PEZ products. COM 354 Molly Trahan October 4, 2007 The Internet is the go-to resource for anything you need to know about PEZ. Even the simple task of loading your dispensers with candy is illustrated for you. How much could there be to a PEZ dispenser? Well there is actually quite an anatomy to the cute little candy holders. Starting with the more noticeable exterior there is the head, stem, and feet. The head is the ever-changing character portion of the dispenser. Whether it is Homer Simpson, Santa Claus, or Cinderella. The distinction is in the head. The sky is the limit for what a consumer can find as the head of a PEZ dispenser. The stem is a bit more straightforward. It creates the body of the dispenser. This is where you’ll find most of the information to be located. On the rectangular stem you’ll see the word PEZ written on both sides as well as the patent number, country of origin, and the injection mold code (IMC). The feet of a PEZ dispenser play a similar roll to that played by human feet. They allow for balance and keep the dispenser from falling over too easily. Unlike human feet, they are a flat plastic molded onto the COM 354 Molly Trahan October 4, 2007 bottom of the stem and resemble shoes. Originally, PEZ dispensers did not have feet and were just squared off at the base. PEZ “shoes” have been made and are marketed to PEZ collectors and their non-footed collectibles. Onto the inner workings of the PEZ dispenser, the non-collecting public would probably never fathom that these parts to a PEZ dispenser even have names. We’ll start with a very important component, the Candy Pusher. The Candy Pusher acts as a finger that is molded to the back of the head. Its purpose is to push the candy forward and out of the steam as you tip the head backwards. There is a spring located in each dispenser head that causes the head to automatically snap back into position after being tilted back. On older dispensers this spring was a wire coil. With more recent dispensers the wire coil has been replaced with a plastic blade leaf spring. This spring is molded right to the top of the inner sleeve. The first design of the plastic leaf spring had a single leaf that would fail over time causing a COM 354 Molly Trahan October 4, 2007 floppy dispenser head. To correct this, a multiple leaf design was created which are much more durable and can withstand the test of time. The Inner Sleeve acts as the candy tray. It is attached to the head and resides inside the Stem. Besides candy, what you will find sitting inside the Inner Sleeve is the Candy Button. This button is either a rectangular or oval shaped piece. The Candy Button acts as a spring- loaded elevator for the candy, pushing it towards the top of the stem. Pushing the Candy Button upwards is the Inner Sleeve Spring. Looking to start a collection? PEZ can be found almost anywhere. However, it is possible to get your hands on some rare collectibles at a good price if you know where to look. The best places for a good find are garage sale, antique store, and flea markets. A lot of times they are just thrown in with children’s toys and are sold at prices much below what they are actually worth. The PEZ Company has just released their first line of dispensers that are modeled after actual people. Never been done before, PEZ Inc., made dispensers to the like-nesses of the three main stars of the hit TLC COM 354 Molly Trahan October 4, 2007 program, American Choppers. There will be a set of three dispensers, one for each of the stars of the show: Paul Sr., Paul Jr., and Mikey. The release date is supposed to be around October. If this happens, it will represent a departure from PEZ's long-standing rule that no dispensers are made of real people. Dispensers showing "humans" are not prohibited, but dispensers showing a real-life person are, or were. A Princess Leia dispenser shows a "person", but that person is a character from a movie, not the actress playing the character. The OCC guys are real people playing themselves on the show, not actors playing a character. With the "no real persons" rule gone, the doors are opened for any number of "real life" dispensers--rock stars, actors, politicians. Remember that you should always collect what you like and what makes you happy. There is no telling what PEZ will make a dispenser for next.