Of all the toys collected PEZS, German for Pfefferminz (peppermint) has one of the most unique histories in toy collecting. Invented by Edward Haas III in 1927 in Vienna, Austria, by taking the letters ‘p’, ‘e’, ‘z’ from the German word to get the candy’s name PEZ.
The company prospered until 1948, when Oscar Uxa revolutionized the PEZ experience, designing a PEZ dispenser that allowed one piece of candy to be dispensed at a time, as a sanitary measure that prevented people from touching each piece of candy before choosing one. PEZS were an anti-smoking campaign with early slogans for the candy stating “No Smoking, and PEZing Allowed.”
PEZ arrived in the United States in 1952 and was a hard sell due to the taste of peppermint that did not appeal to U.S. consumers, especially children. Curtis Allina, the first U.S. Pez president came up with the fruity flavor to draw children. The idea worked and PEZ has been a hit since. The first dispensers were a full Santa, Robot and a Space-Gun that sold for 49 cents in cigarette lighter type package. Since 1950 over 1500 PEZ dispensers have been created.
PEZ collecting is so popular that conventions are held across the country. In 1993 Christie’s held the first ever pop culture auction featuring PEZ. The auction realized record prices, taking the hobby to a new level of interest and respectability. PEZ has undergone few changes in design, with the exception of the adding of feet in the 1980s to add stability when the PEZ is standing upright.
PEZ is one of the few products in the world that has enough brand equity it doesn’t really have to advertise to sale the product. At any time you can find any number of different designs, from 25-30 in any given store to purchase.
One of the million dollar questions in collecting PEZs is do you keep them on the cardboard, open them or leave them in the bag. Experts advise leaving them in their original packages, but the golden rule of collecting is always do with your toys as you please, collecting them only for the intangible pleasure they provide you.
One of the largest collectors of PEZs is Gary and Nancy Doss, who have collected for over 20 plus years. They have 550 plus characters of PEZs in their collection, with a couple historical PEZS including one of Hitler, that Gary says will never be on display. The second significant link to history centers around a PEZ set gifted to JFK that was returned.
The story goes that in June 1961 summit with Nikita Khrushchev in Vienna, where PEZ is headquartered; President JFK was presented with a custom satin lined case with gift dispensers. A press released boasted that the company gave a Democratic donkey to JFK, a classy stem for Jackie and Bozo the Clown for daughter Caroline. A document at the JFK Presidential Library indicates that the Secret Service instructed the White House to return the gift, but doesn’t indicate why. The library archives contain no further information. The gift log kept by the White House merely states the items were ordered returned.
The Kennedy PEZs could be the holy grail of PEZ collecting. Part of being a collector is always having the next hunt to look forward to.

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