Wednesday, June 9, 2010

Why did they call it PEZ?

It's nowhere near Christmas, but I just remembered something. Every year at Christmas, my sisters and I usually received a PEZ dispenser with several of those cute little rectangular packages containing the PEZ pellets.

Maybe you received them, too. Or maybe you're planning on getting one for your children or grandchildren this year for Christmas. They make a pretty cool stocking stuffer. But have you ever wondered how they came up with that name?

As a kid you probably thought it was just called PEZ because that’s what it looked like and that's what it was. That’s what I thought, too. But now that we’ve gotten older we're beginning to wonder about things like that. At least I am.

So here’s everything I know about PEZ, so far.

The word "PEZ" is derived from the German word for peppermint — phefferminz. If you take the first, middle, and last letters of PheffErminZ, you get PEZ. And that’s where it came from, thanks to an Austrian candy maker named Edward Haas III. Originally the new peppermint candy was supposed to be an adult breath mint to be sold as an alternative for smoking. In 1947, Haas Food Manufacturing Corporation of Vienna began selling the brick-shaped candies in pocket tins. And in 1948, they came out with the dispenser that we all recognize now to be a regular PEZ dispenser.

In 1952, Ed brought his business to America. After some extensive research he decided to place heads on the dispensers and market them to children. That same year the first fruit flavored Pez was introduced along with the first Pez dispensers with character heads on them. The first flavors of Pez included cherry, lemon, orange and strawberry, and it’s believed that our friend Popeye was the first character to find his head on the top of a PEZ dispenser.

Several Disney characters were also among the first to appear. The top selling dispensers of all time are Mickey Mouse, Santa, and Dino the Dinosaur, from the Flintstones.

Many people collect the dispensers today because of the variety and rarity. But some of them are much more expensive than they were new. For example, a Locking Cap, Box Trademark Regular sold on eBay in March 2002 for $6,575. (What?)

I have had experience with PEZ, as I’m sure most of you have. Okay, not recently, although writing this is making me want to rush over to WalMart and buy me one of those dispensers. But was it just me, or did anyone else have difficulty getting that little stack of bricks into the dispenser without spilling them? It just reminds me of Ralphie Parker trying to pour those BBs into his Official Red Ryder 200-shot carbine action range model air rifle (With a compass in the stock and this thing which tells time.) (They go everywhere, his dad told him.)

So, if you’re looking for something to collect, this might be your thing.

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