PEZ is the brand name of an Austrian candy, the pocket mechanical dispensers for such candy, and an abbreviation of PEZ Candy Inc. The candy takes the shape of pressed, dry, straight-edged blocks (15mm (3/8 inch) long, 8mm wide and 5mm high), with PEZ dispensers holding 12 pieces of PEZ candy.
The name PEZ was derived from the letters from the first, the middle and the end of the German word for peppermint, Pfefferminz, the first PEZ flavor. PEZ was originally introduced in Austria, later exported, notably to the U.S., and eventually became available worldwide. The all-uppercase 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 each of the E and Z).
Despite the widespread 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 are part of popular culture in many nations. Because of the large number of dispenser designs over the years, PEZ dispensers are collected by enthusiasts.
PEZ was first marketed as a compressed peppermint candy in Vienna
. The candy was invented in 1927 in Vienna by a confectioner
named Eduard Haas III
. Haas invented peppermint candies using family owned baking powders, and decided to serve the mints in small, hand-size containers. He manufactured a small tin to hold the mints, similar to the modern Altoids
tins. The first PEZ mint dispensers, known as "regulars," were similar in shape to a cigarette lighter, and dispensed an adult breath mint marketed as an alternative to smoking. They were invented by Oscar Uxa. Haas Food Manufacturing Corporation of Vienna, Austria, was the first to sell PEZ candies.
World War II slowed marketing and production. In 1945, manufacturers devised and promoted the PEZ Box Regular. In 1952 Eduard Haas introduced his product to the United States, and Curtis Allina headed PEZ's U.S. business. In 1955, the PEZ company placed heads on the dispensers and marketed them for children. Santa Claus and Mickey Mouse were among the first character dispensers. Since 1950, over 550 different PEZ dispensers, including the original character dispensers have been created.
In 1973, PEZ built their factory in Orange, Connecticut. In 1983, Scott McWhinnie became the president of the PEZ company. He would retire in 2003, transferring the presidential position to Joe Vittoria. In the 1990s the size of the plant was doubled, the PEZ dispenser was expanded, and peppermint flavored PEZ candies were reintroduced along with remakes of the 'regulars.'
In early 2006 the family of the original founder of the company bought back 32.5% of the stock from investment company PGH for €18M. They now own 67.5% of the company. The headquarters are in Traun, Austria. The candies are produced in Traun and Orange, Connecticut. Dispensers are produced in Hungary and China.
Value of PEZ dispensers
Some PEZ dispensers can sell for large amounts as collectibles. The highest verifiable sale of PEZ dispenser was a private sale of a Mickey Mouse softhead at $7000 between an Austrian dealer and a California collector. This dispenser was never available for sale to the public, and was a factory prototype. The high prices which some PEZ items fetch has led to the manufacturing of fake PEZ items as well. The 2006 EBAY sale of a clear 50s Space Gun for $11,000 took place but according to noted PEZ author, David Welch, the dispenser was later proven by chemical testing to be a well made fake.
The PEZ collecting hobby has grown to the point where several conventions are held annually around the world. The oldest convention is PEZ-A-MANIA, which has been held in Ohio
since 1991. Conventions are also annually held in Missouri
, South Carolina
. PEZ conventions are a place where collectors and dealers can meet to buy and sell PEZ merchandise. There are also typically auctions for charity and games and contests with PEZ items as prizes.
PEZ candy has come in a wide variety of flavors over the years, including:
- Sour Watermelon
- Sour Green Apple
- Sour Blue Raspberry
- Sour Pineapple
- Sugarfree Orange
- Sugarfree Lemon
- Sugarfree Strawberry
The common American flavors of orange, lemon, grape & strawberry are available in kosher form in specialty markets.
There are several patents related to the PEZ dispenser. PEZ, Inc. has applied for and received patents related to the PEZ dispensers. Usually, the patent number is molded onto the stem changed every time PEZ, Inc. made a change in the design of the dispenser. The patent number cannot be reliably used to determine how old the dispenser is. For example, the 5.9 Patent was granted in 1999, but didn't first appear on a PEZ item until 2002. By 2007, 4.9 patented items were still regularly appearing on store shelves. Dispensers can also be found with several non-US patents, such as the German "DBP 818.829" (Deutsches Bundes Patent), and the Mexican "Patent Nr 141,242." The patent number timeline related to PEZ dispensers are the following.
||Name of patent; notes about the patent |
|| Pocket article dispensing container; First patent for the PEZ dispenser |
|| Dispensing Device for tablets |
|| Spring cage for use in a tablet dispensing receptacle |
|| Tablet dispensing receptacle |
|| Tablet dispenser |
|| Plastic spring |
Injection mold codes
PEZ dispenser stems will usually also be embossed with several injection mold codes [IMC]. Some, like those found on the bottom of the dispenser feet, will tell what mold position the specific piece came from. Another, found on the side of the stem, tells you the country
of origin. The IMC code 4 is followed by a superscripted second number which identifies a specific facility within that country.
Toy character head dispensers were introduced in 1955, after the candy was introduced in the United States. There are over 450 unique dispenser heads with thousands of variations. The company formerly had a general rule against creating likenesses of real people. In the 1970s, three historical figures were created: Betsy Ross
, Daniel Boone
, and Paul Revere
which were released as part of the Bicentennial
series. These dispenser heads were not made to actually look like the people they represented, but instead used generic faces with different accessories. In 2006 a limited edition series of three PEZ dispensers were made to look like the Teutul family from Orange County Choppers
. These are the first dispensers to have been made in the actual likeness of living people. The NASCAR
-themed dispensers are based on the helmets of famous drivers, rather than their actual likenesses.
In 2007 a limited edition Elvis set was released featuring 3 dispensers from different time periods in Presley's life. In 2008 the first Star Trek
dispensers will be released in a gift set with the 7 original series crew and the Starship Enterprise
There are many books and websites which catalog all PEZ dispensers which have been manufactured. Some will be found in the external links and references sections below.
European PEZ Vendors
PEZ vending machines were used in Germany, Austria, and Switzerland. The first German machines were introduced around 1954 (DWM and GWS), Switzerland followed suit, while in Austria they debuted in October 1956.
The vendors were produced by DWM (Deutsche Waggon- und Maschinenfabrik, Berlin Germany), GWS (Georg Wiegandt und Söhne, Berlin Germany), Theodor Braun (Vienna Austria), and Glerios / R.Seipel & Co.