How PEZ Works

PEZ Museum

PEZ dispensers are such a curious bit of Americana that back in the late 1980s, the Stamford, Conn., Museum and Nature Center featured an assortment of them prominently in an exhibition, "People and Their Collections." The show was even written up in by a New York Times critic, who felt compelled to explain to readers that the dispensers "were brightly colored plastic items about the size of a cigarette lighter … crowned by the heads of Mickey Mouse, Popeye and other cartoon celebrities, which snap back in order to eject the candy" [source: The New York Times].

Since then, however, PEZ dispensers have gained their own unofficial shrine, the Burlingame, Calif., Museum of PEZ Memorabilia. The museum, which is not affiliated with the company that makes PEZ, was established in the 1990s, when, in a spirit of whimsy, a computer dealer named Gary Doss and his wife Nancy began displaying PEZ dispensers between electronic wares. Pretty soon, the PEZ dispensers were getting more attention than the computers, and the Dosses gradually converted their entire shop into a mecca for PEZ heads. Twelve thousand visitors a year, some from as far away as Japan and Australia, pay admission to marvel at the impressive collection of rare dispensers, including a rare pineapple-wearing-sunglasses dispenser that took Gary Doss 12 years to find and cost him $3,000 to obtain. Also on display are assorted PEZ-branded items, from vitamins to vending machines, and a sign from the original PEZ factory in Austria. There's also an outsized replica of a PEZ snowman dispenser that stands nearly 8 feet (2.4 meters) in height and is capable of holding 6,480 of the candy bricks at a time [source: Levy].

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