PEZ candy was invented in Autria in 1927. This happened in Wienna, and the inventor was Eduard Haas.
The name PEZ was made by taking the first, middle and last letter from the german word PfeffErminZ. Pfefferminz means peppermint, and this was the very first flavour of PEZ candy.
The origins of the candy was that the inventor was opposed to smoking, and wanted to make a tasty treat for adults to help against the need to smoke, and to cover the smell of smoke. Haas wanted the PEZ candy to be a good alternative, so that quitting smoking would be easier. At this early stage, PEZ was sold in small tins.
In 1948, PEZ made the first step towards the modern dispenser as we know it today. The very first dispenser was designed by the engineer Oscar Uxa. It was ment to be a strategic move, and make it easier for people to carry their PEZ around in their pocket. Also to be more hygienic.
The picture below shows the original patent drawing that Uxa got approved in 1952.
These first dispensers are called “Regulars”. They were made in many different versions, and were popular as advertising objects for different companies. Companies would print their logo or ad on the sides of the dispensers. Collectors should be aware that in the recent years, illegitimate fakes of these early advertising dispensers have showed up in great numbers.
These first regulars were also called “BOX regulars” because they had the first patentmarking BOX on one side of the stem. Read more about patentnumbers HERE.
In 1952, the Haas company decided to expand into new markets, and established themselves in the US. This is where they got the first patent number for their dispensers.
The first years in the US were not a success. The PEZ candy was not well recieved in the market. Children and adults alike did not take to the strong peppermint flavour. The company decided to change strategies, and market their products more to children. Fruit flavours were introduced to the candy. Earlier, PEZ had been primarily marketed towards adults, but in 1955 the company decided to make PEZ dispensers look like toys, to appeal more to children.
These first toy PEZ dispensers are called “Full-body” dispensers. They were made with a complete body in one piece. The full body dispensers were made in with two different characters. Santa, and Astronaut. The astronaut was made in several different colors.
The PEZ company soon discovered that makes the dispensers this way was very expensive. The comprise became to make regular dispensers, but with heads shaped like different known cartoon characters. This is a marketing strategy that the company continues with even today.
In the end of the 1950’s the company released the first dispensers like we know them today. Popeye was among the first characters to be made into a dispenser.
The PEZ company did not only make these types of dispensers. In the 50’s they also made PEZ guns. These were small toy guns that kids could load up with PEZ candy and shoot. These became popular and were made in many different versions through the years.
The different types were called space gun and candy shooter. The candy shooter also came with it’s own firearms license shown in the picture below.
All PEZ guns were made in many different color combinations. Some are shown in the pictures below.
PEZ-dispensers stayed pretty much unchanged through the 60’s, 70’s and 80’s. There were lot of experiments with a wide array of colour combinations.
Especially in the 60’s and 70’s there were a lot of dispensers that were released with an enormous amout of color combinations. This ment you could collect many different variations of the same character. It’s around this time that PEZ-dispensers are beginning to be viewed as a collectible more than a disposable object.
Some of the most beautiful dispensers of all time were released in this period. Since there were so many different color combinations, some of the combinations have become rare and more valuable than others. Below is an example of color combinations of the Pony dispenser. This is one of the dispensers with the most possible different color combinations. Some of these are common, and some are extremely rare and valuable.
In 1987 there was a big change in the world of PEZ. This was the year that feet were added to the dispenser to make it more stable. The earlier dispensers did not have this foot, and they were prone to tip over. This creates the dreaded domino-effect that all collectors fear. Below is an example of a dispenser without feet, and with feet.
If you want to know more about how PEZ-dispensers are put together, read more under the page PEZ-ANATOMY
In the years since 2000 the PEZ company have started really paying attention to the collector community. A large number of collectors sets with complete series are released every year.
The PEZ company used to have a rule of not portraying any living person on their dispensers. This rule had been in effect since the very early days of the company. In the early 2000, they chose to abandon this rule, by starting to create collectors sets with real life characters. The very first people to be made into dispensers were Mike, Paul Jr. and Paul Teutl, from the TV-Series Orange County Choppers, that was a popular TV-program at the time. This set was released in 2006
Since then there have been numerous dispensers that portray actors and other famous people. This is a part of the PEZ companys marketing strategy, and they often release dispensers and collectors sets in conjunctiuon with the release of movies and TV-shows. This makes PEZ more recognizeable, and has contributed to the rising popularity of PEZ, and the growing number of PEZ-collectors.