PEZ candy was established in 1927 and started out as a fine peppermint candy made by Eduard Haas III in Austria. Originally, the candy was introduced in small tins and it quickly became extremely popular. The name PEZ comes from the German word for peppermint, “Pffefferminz”. Taking the P from the first letter, E from the middle letter and Z from the last letter to form the now iconic brand name PEZ. The original shape of PEZ candy was round and called ‘PEZ drops’ but it quickly changed to the familiar brick shape we know today.
When the dispenser is everything
In 1948, the inventor Oscar Uxa patented a small mechanical box. This was for dispensing the tablets and the year after the first dispensers were officially introduced at the Vienna Trade Fair. On December 2, 1952, PEZ was awarded the first U.S. patent number for a dispenser: 2.620.061.
It was not until 1984 that the small tabs to the bottom of the dispenser base was added in order to help is stand upright. Today, these tabs are referred to in the collector community as ‘feet’ and help determine year and value of vintage dispensers. Oh yes, PEZ dispensers are very beloved items among collectors.
PEZ as collectible items
In 1993 Forbes Magazine features PEZ on its cover and the prestigious Christie’s auction house in New York held the first ever pop culture auction featuring PEZ.
The Tweety Bird PEZ Dispenser was even featured on an episode of the popular Seinfeld television show. In 2005, PEZ released the first ever limited edition: the Star Wars Collectors Set.
Even though the collectible dispensers are known for having heads of popular characters, the most valuable dispenser of all time doesn’t feature a character at all. Instead, the dispenser is crowned with the sculpted head of an astronaut. The 1982 World’s Fair PEZ dispenser is believed to be an extremely rare promotional item. In fact, only two are currently known to exist. One features a blue stem and an astronaut with a matching blue helmet. The other, featuring a green stem and white helmet, was at one point advertised for sale at $100,000. It resurfaced on eBay in 2006 and was sold for $32,205.
Ebay is an especially fitting context for the auction of the world’s most expensive PEZ dispenser, as an often-circulated rumor states that eBay was founded by Pierre Omidyar in order to help his girlfriend sell PEZ dispensers. Unfortunately for PEZ fans, such rumors are false. The first item Omidyar sold on eBay was actually a broken laser pointer.
Still going strong
PEZ is still going strong and have over time also appeared in a number of movies, including: E.T. (1982), Stand by me (1986), The Incredibles (2004), La Délicatesse (2012) and now in Marvel’s Ant Man and the Wasp (2018).
To see the trailer – and the giant PEZ dispenser (1:34) – have a look at: