How much would you spend on your favorite Pez dispenser?
One candy collector forked over a massive $7,000 for one single Pez dispenser!
Can you guess what that character was?
We’re going to save the sweet details for later in this story. Until then, we thought you might want to know a little more about the history of Pez dispensers and how they became an American candy icon that continues to captivate kids and collectors alike.
Check it out!
Where did Pez dispensers come from?
Pez was invented in 1927 by Eduard Haas III in Vienna, Austria.
Before the brand started slinging sweets out of its famous dispenser, Haas developed the Pez Drop—a peppermint lozenge that came in a traditionally rounded shape. This concept was short-lived and Haas pivoted creating the Pez dispenser. Designed to be an alternative to smoking, the idea for the Pez dispenser mimicked the same flick and served as a cigarette lighter but instead dispensed 12 peppermint hard candies.
The world got its first look at the innovative Pez dispenser at the Vienna Trade Fair in 1949. In 1952, Pez launched in the United States and started selling its peppermint-flavored hard candy in retail stores in New York City. The low price and refillable capability made it an easy and attractive product for candy lovers and cigarette smokers who wanted to kick their habit.
While the product was popular amongst adults, Pez struggled to break into the younger market, so the brand took a chance and created the first Pez dispenser character, The Witch in 1957. Soon after Pez released the first licensed dispenser character with Popeye. The character concept proved to be the perfect catalyst for children loving Pez and soon after the brand started producing other famous characters such as Mickey Mouse, Donald Duck, and Santa Claus.
A year later, Pez hit the market with its Pez dispenser gun, a spacelike laser gun inspired by the 60’s space culture that had taken over American consciousness at the time. While this product was only on the market a short time, we’d be the first to tell you it was one of the best Pez dispensers ever made—just look at how sweet the thing looked!
Pez dispensers bring famous characters to life…
With all the success of the early character adoptions, Pez focused all of its attention on developing new characters that kids would love. This spawned the creation of Pez’s first and only historical figure collection featuring Besty Ross, Daniel Boone, and Paul Revere called the Bicentennial Series in 1970.
Around this time, Pez moved and opened its first factory on U.S. soil in Orange, Connecticut. Soon after, the brand got adventurous and started making new hard candy flavors like licorice, flowers, and chlorophyll—the first sounds great, but we’re not so sure about the other two.
Pez establishes itself as the best candy of the ’90s.
In 1990, Pez made its big break with the release of the Star Wars collection of Pez dispensers. These included everyone’s favorite characters like Darth Vader, Yoda, Chewbacca, R2D2, and StormTrooper.
Kids went rampant for the Star Wars release selling out the limited collection across the United States. By the way, Star Wars is still one of the best-selling series of Pez dispensers the company has ever produced.
Fast forward to 1987 and Pez put the flat bottom base on all its dispensers helping it stand upright for display. These flat bottoms are what beloved collectors refer to as “feet” and are used to date the release of all dispensers after 1987. Less than 3 years later, Pez was featured on the cover of Forbes and coined an American pop culture icon.
The brand even entered the famous and reputable New York auction house, Christie’s where it held the first-ever pop culture auction featuring Pez dispensers and some of its most popular characters.
In the early 2000s, Pez released its first Fuzzy Friends dispensers that featured a collection of furry animals that covered the entire dispenser in plush cotton fur. These were a smash hit amongst consumers which led to a partnership between Pez and General Mills–you know, the cereal company—where they snuck a slew of different dispensers inside boxes of cereal that kids could find in their bowls.
This is where the wave of Pez started to turn into an ocean of opportunity. After the success of its General Mills partnership, Pez started producing hundreds of different characters and series that caught the attention of children and collectors all over the globe.
This included a 2007 limited edition Elvis series that reflected 3 of the musician’s different looks over his career, a 2008 Star Trek series featuring 7 of the characters from the crew of Star Trek Enterprise, a 70th anniversary of Wizard of Oz highlighting Cowardly Lion, the Tin Man, the Scarecrow, Dorothy Gale, Toto, Glinda, the Wizard of Oz and the Wicked Witch of the West—of which only 30,000 were made, and a Snow White and the 7 Dwarves series of dispensers featuring a storybook that came with it.
And Pez didn’t stop there. The brand continued to pump out more characters connecting them with the youth of America including a limited set of Lord of The Rings that was released with Bilbo, Frodo, Sam, Gandalf, Aragorn, Legolas, Gimli, and Gollum. This line had an exclusive partnership with Walmart where it swapped Bilbo for the Eye of Sauron and sold only 150k units.
Then Pez turned around and capitalized on more cartoon success developing a Monsters University set with Mike Wazowski, James P. "Sulley" Sullivan, Scott "Squishy" Squibbles and Randall Boggs. In 2015, the brand went big creating a giant version of its product featuring the head of none other than Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtle, Raphael.
Today, the brand innovates new character ideas and partners with major motion pictures, popular toy products, superheroes, and even perennial favorites like Christmas ornaments.
How Pez dispensers became an icon in American pop culture.
Here’s the thing about Pez dispensers, chances are you've had at least one in your lifetime. Whether it was a famous movie persona, cartoon icon, or one of their 1,500 different tops that have been made since 1950, it’s become a staple in candy stores all over the world.
So much so that collectors clamor over them and are willing to pay top dollar to get their hands on the rarest Pez dispensers they can find. To give you an idea of how crazy these collectors are, the highest-selling dispenser on record was a $7k Mickey Mouse soft head between an Austrian dealer and a U.S. collector. This extremely rare find was a factory prototype and was never sold to the public.
Pez is so ingrained into American candy culture that President John F. Kennedy was known to be a beloved fan of Pez candy, making the brand’s Three Donkeys limited release the most expensive collection of Pez dispensers ever made—one of which Kennedy himself owned.
Hop on eBay and you’ll see bids as much as $485 for The Creature from the Black Lagoon, the psychedelic eyeball going for $500, and the astronaut helmet priced at a whopping $400. It’s even rumored that eBay founder, Pierre Omidyar, built the online store just so that his wife could collect more Pez dispensers. This is a wive’s tale that has been debunked, but we still like to believe this was the driving force behind the internet juggernaut’s growth.
All that said, Pez remains one of the most iconic candy products ever made and continues to capture the attention of children today.
Speaking of your inner child, did you know that we sell Pez dispensers?! Whether you’re a Star Wars fanatic, DC Comic lover, Hello Kitty enthusiast, or devoted Game of Thrones fan, we’ve got tons of different characters to choose from and an ungodly amount of Pez refills you can get right here!