KGO-TV Channel 7 Story

The Bay Area as a center of culture. We have some of the great museums of the world. In most cases, you've already heard about them. But as Channel 7's Wayne Freeman shows us tonight, there is one that continues to remain fairly obscure.
[Wayne Freeman] You never know but sometimes even the most innocent looking storefront may hide a treasure-trove inside. So here we are in the back room of a place called Computer Spectrum. In this display case, the Main Attaction, it deals in bits and bytes, but has nothing to do with computers.
[Gary Doss] Basically, when you see a Pez, you smile.
[Wayne Freeman] That's Pez as in candy and Museum as in people who actually seek this place out.
[Gary Doss] They made a Bullwinkle Pez, but they never made a Rocky Pez.
[Wayne Freeman] {Pez collecting} has changed Gary Doss' life, his wife Nancy's as well. {To Nancy..} How much are you willing to spend?
[Nancy Doss] It keeps escalating. Initially it was like $1.39. Now, a few hundred dollars doesn't look nearly as bad as it used to.
[Wayne Freeman]That coming from a couple that just spent $300 on this 1976 Olympic Snowman Pez {picture}.
[Gary Doss] He is a rare piece. We're happy to have him!
[Wayne Freeman] As any die-hard Pez collector will tell you, the word is short in German for Peppermint. The company began making candy in 1927, the dispensers came around 1952. The rest, as they say, is history.
By now, Pez has appeared on the cover of Forbes as an investment opportunity and hundreds of visitors have signed the Pez Museum guestbook.
[Gary Doss] We've had people from St. Louis, New York and Florida.
[Wayne Freeman] He will tell you that there is so much demand, they even publish a Pez page on the Internet {picture}.
[Gary Doss] On a bad day, we get 300 hits a day.
[Wayne Freeman] So if you're passing through Burlingame sometimes, feel free to stop in to see the Pez Museum. The Doss Family will be happy to broaden your horizons.

KRON-TV Channel 4

"The Bay Area boasts a plethera of museums all filled with semi priceless works of art. So many museums in fact that it seems there is something for everybody.
Tonight our Contact 4 consumer reporter Emerald Yea tells us about a recent addition to the cultural scene that looks back at the way we were.
[Emerald Yea] The sleek San Francisco Museum of Modern Art (picture).. the elegant Palace of the Legion of Honor... and now the Burlingame Museum of Pez Memorabilia. The Pez Museum. Yes those wacky little candy dispensers sold all over the world, now have a museum dedicated solely to them."
[Gary Doss] "People from , St. Louis Florida and New York have visited personally and have come to San Francisco to see the Pez Museum."
[Emerald Yea] "Why all the fuss you ask?"
[Gary Doss] "You look at a Pez and its a happy little product. You show it to anybody and immediately get a smile on their face."
(clip shown from the movie "The Client.")
[Emerald Yea] Pez.. an abbreviation for the German word for peppermint was invented in 1927. The little blocks of candy were originally sold in tins.
[Gary Doss] It wasn't until after World War 2 that they came out with the dispensers. And then in 1952 they came out with the dispenser with the cartoon heads, like Mickey Mouse and Donald Duck.
[Emerald Yea] Soon special Pez dispensers were created to celebrate holidays, historical events, and to simply celebrate the trends of the time. [Gary Doss] "A popular one is called the psycedelic eye. It is a giant hand with an eyeball in it. It was made in the '60s."
[Emerald Yea] Some people may sniff at Pez dispensers saying they're nothing but kitch. Just plain junk. But for Pez affecienados, it goes much deeper than that.
[Pez collector at Museum] "There's an attraction on a couple of levels. One is, it reminds me of my childhood. And so there is a very nostalgic factor thats there. It's ended up being just a real fun collectible."
[Gary Doss] "Pez came out in 1952 so all the mothers and fathers now remember Pez and they bring their kids in to share the experience."
[Emerald Yea] "Passing the generational torch of the way we were."

The Burlingame Museum of Pez Memorabilia is open Tuesday through Friday, 10 am to 7 pm, and Saturday, 10 am to 6 pm. Admission is free.

with Judd Rose

As baby boomers reach middle age, many of the things they grew up with have become museum pieces.
For example,(Story 1 - Barbie Hall of Fame in Palo Alto, California, Story 2 - International Museum of Cartoon Art in Boca Raton, Florida)a unique collection of hot heads at the Pez Museum in Burlingame, California, just south of San Francisco there are hundreds of dispensers on display.
[Judd Rose] What's the most expensive Pez dispenser in this place?
[Gary Doss] We have an item here called the Psycedelic Eye. It's worth about 400 dollars to collectors.
[Judd Rose] Sounds silly? All we are saying is "give Pez a chance."

Chicago Tribune
by Douglas Balz

In this suburb about 20 miles south of San Francisco, a couple of doors down from a Honda dealership, is the world's only Pez museum, concealed in a computer store.

Actually, it was a computer store until 18 months ago, when Gary Doss realized that his collection of Pez dispensers was more than a trivial pursuit. It was a way of life. Goodbye computers; hello Pez.

If you step inside the shop, it looks like anything but a museum. In fact, it looks like a gift shop, where every shelf and display rack is stuffed with Pez stuff. Gift shops are major profit centers at museums. They're getting bigger and bigger all the time. But this may be the only place where the gift shop is bigger than the museum.

In case there is anyone alive who doesn't know, Pez is a line of candy dispensers. In the world of fashionable breath mints like Altoids and Tic Tacs, Pez got there first. All the way back in the 1920s. The pepper mint-flavored candies (Pez is an abbreviation of the German word for peppermint, Pfefferminz) were sold in little boxes. They were manufactured for adults.

Then during World War II, the company started selling dispensers. The basic Pez dispenser is a small, utilitarian piece of plastic. It looks a lot like a disposable lighter, except that when you flip the top, instead of a flame, out comes a piece of candy. But someone at the company came up with the idea of selling to kids. (Historians, please note: There are holes in the Pez story, but unlike a competitor, not in Pez candy). Kids were the inspiration for the little plastic heads. Kids are what makes Pez collectible.

The first one was Mickey Mouse, with a painted face, one of the few prepared that way. By the early '50s, Pez had moved into the playgrounds of America. Every year, several new heads were manufactured, which means that by now there are 350-400 differently capped Pez dispensers. (Even at the museum, the exact count is unclear.) Most of the designs have been taken out of service, but at the Burlingame Museum of Pez Memorabilia, they are immortal.

Like all great collections, the one in Burlingame started small -- in the checkout line at a local supermarket, to be precise. Gary Doss, the museum's curator, was in the line for customers with nine or fewer items. His wife Nancy spotted a Woodstock Pez and wanted to buy it. But he didn't; one more item and the couple would have had to move to another checkout line. Feeling guilty, he later returned to the store, but Woodstock was gone. So he bought a Snoopy Pez instead, which Nancy put on her office desk. Soon, customers brought in a few more, and as one Pez led to another, the crowded desktop became a collection.

Most Pez are sold in drug stores and supermarkets to people far younger than Doss' wife. Children from 3 to 12 love them, beg their parents for a dispenser and often get their way. A Pez, candy included, is only a buck or a buck and a half.

But where once Pez was only for kids, now it has a hold on their parents too. Baby Boomers, who buy the things because they represent a piece of their childhood, have created a market for Pez collectibles. They go to Pez conventions; they surf Pez sites on the Web; they spot Pez dispensers on television and in movies ("The Client" and "Toy Story," to name just two).

None of this should be surprising. If it happened to Barbie and G.I. Joe, it can happen to Pez too.

Gary Doss estimates his collection of about 350 dispensers is worth around $30,000. And that's at prices that pertained several years ago, before $20 dispensers started selling for $200. Doss estimates that to put together a great collection today, it would take $50,000 or more.

"But that's for everything," he is quick to point out. What he means is that it is entirely feasible to put together a complete collection. There may be gaps in the official Pez history, but not in the collection. Every Pez ever made is available, for a price.

Mary Poppins is about $1,300 (the asking price on a Web site). Zorro and Captain Hook are about $110 apiece. The Luv Pez, a strange psychedelic dispenser produced in 1968 that features an open hand holding an eyeball, is worth about $800. Those are serious prices, for serious collectors.

But for anyone interested in starting a Pez collection, Doss has a sensible strategy. Begin with dispensers available in stores. There are about 80 of them, and they cost less than $2 apiece.

The next step is to buy imported dispensers. Pez dispensers are made abroad (the company's headquarters is Traun, Austria). The candy is made in Connecticut, where the packaging is done. Collectors can get the imported dispensers for $5 or so.

The last stage is to collect discontinued models. Many are available for $30 or less.

The most expensive Pez dispenser was on the shelves for only a few months. It was similar to a Mr. Potato Head, a blank countenance with lots of parts (eyebrows, noses, mouths, ears, eyes), allowing buyers to create their own face. But the company realized that all those tiny facial parts could be hazardous to the primary market, children under 12. So, the do-it-yourself Pez face was yanked, which is why it goes for at least $5,000 today -- a Pez worth a mint.

That particular dispenser is missing from the Burlingame museum, but the first Pez dispenser ever made (no matter which of the three candidates it was) is there, as are hundreds more, including every version ever issued of Santa Claus and Mickey Mouse. There they stand, surrounded by hundreds like them, standing tall in a display case that once was used to sell toothbrushes.

On a nearby wall are autographed dispensers from Lynda Carter (for the Wonder Woman Pez) and Jim Davis (for the Garfield Pez). Nearby sit two Pez ornaments from Hallmark (Santa for $24.95, a snowman for $19.95). Then there's the battery-operated Power Pez (it looks like a birth-control pill dispenser) for $6.

"Seinfeld" anointed Pez by featuring a Tweety Bird dispenser in one episode. The Tonight Show created a gag gift Pez in the shape of Washington talking head John McLaughlin. And Tribune columnist John Kass wondered in print whether President Clinton, after the Monica Lewinsky story made the papers, was anything more than "a Pez dispenser for government programs."(Pezident Clinton?) Pez isn't just a collectible; it may be, heaven help us, a contemporary icon.

For Gary Doss, the meaning is simple. Even in the heart of Silicon Valley the little dispenser has enough clout to dispense with one computer store.

Pez: a toy story for our times.

1. What is the most popular Pez character?

2. What is the most requested Pez character the company has never made?

3. Can you buy kosher Pez?

4. How many Pez characters are based on real people: 2, 20 or 200?

5. Who are they?

6. I want to collect Pez. Are there any books available?

7. Is there an Elvis Pez?

8. What do they call the head of the Connecticut company that makes Pez candy? 9. Where is the next big Pez convention?

10. How much was spent for Pez candy in the 12 months that ended in March?

(See answers below.)


1. Winnie the Pooh. 2. Any of the characters from the television show, "The Simpsons." 3. Yes. 4. Two. 5. Betsy Ross and Daniel Boone. 6. Yes: "Pez Collectibles" by Richard Geary (Schiffer Publishing); and "Collecting Pez" by David Welch (Bubba Scrubba Publications). 7. Yes, Elvis Pezley was created for the movie "The Client" and never sold commercially. 8. The Pezident. 9. St. Louis, on June 12-13, at the Airport Hilton; phone 314-416-0333. 10. $23.4 million, an increase of almost 16 percent from the previous year.

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