Where Pez Heads Flip Their Lids
By Benjamin Pimentel
As seen in the San Francisco Chronicle 1/1/96

Gary Doss' passion for Pez is best explained by a flyer displayed at the Burlingame Museum of Pez Memorabilia - "You don't have to be a kid to get a kick out of Pez, because you never out-grow your taste for fun." Doss, a 41-year-old businessman and computer programmer, is definitely having fun with his exhibit, which began six months ago and has attracted Bay Area visitors and Pez collectors from all over the world.

"They're fun, they're cute, they're small," he said. 'To me, they're precious little items."

The museum, located at Doss' Computer Spectrum shop on California Drive, features the internationally known candy dispenser, which has appeared in many shapes, colors and characters since it first came out in the 1950s. Pez candy was first manufactured in Austria in 1927 as a breath mint, and its name is a contraction of the German word for peppermint, Pfefferminz.

The museum boasts a collection of about 280 Pez candy dispensers mounted on toothbrush racks inside a glass case, featuring such characters as Mickey Mouse, Batman, Popeye and Santa Claus. The one-room museum also features Pez jigsaw puzzles, watches and books on the toys' history.

Doss began his collection in 1988, inspired by his wife, Nancy, 36, who always kept dispensers on her desk. He went to garage sales, antique shows and got in touch with other hobbyists, eventually acquiring his unusual collection. Among his prized finds were a funky Pez designed as a psychedelic eye and another one of a snowman, commemorating the 1976 Winter Olympics.

Doss had kept his collection at his computer shop, to the delight of many of hiscustomers. Their popularity convinced him that he should start a museum.

"I just enjoy seeing other people enjoy the hobby," he said. "There's reallynothing like them. If someone stuck a Pez toy in front of your face, you're gonna smile. It's a toy that gives you candy - what can be more fun than that?"

He also started a Web page that shows different Pez images and is viewed byabout 200 people a day. The museum also gets e-mail inquiries from Pez enthusiasts from the East Coast and Europe.

Some tourists to the Bay Area have put the museum on their must-see lists. Doss has recently displayed an itinerary left behind by one group, listing his museum as the stop off after the Golden Gate Bridge.

Parents who visit the museum with their children tend to find Pez toys theyenjoyed in their youth. "It's a nice little generation-gap filler," Doss said.

Doss, who is also helping organize the second West Coast Pez Convention, tobe held in Sunnyvale this month, is trying to fill the gap in his collection.

He said he is still 15 short of the more than 300 unique Pez designs that havebeen issued since the 1950s. Among the rarest is "Make a Face," a dispenser designed like Mr. Potato Head, which was pulled from the market in the 1970s because the manufacturers feared that children could choke on its small parts, Doss said. That dispenser is worth about $3,000. "That's the Pez to have," Doss said.

But he also warned collectors to be careful of "some unscrupulous people." Doss said one collector showed him a Pez toy that appeared to be a space alien. It turned out to be a deformed Sylvester the Cat dispenser that the collector had bought for $20.

His own collection is now worth about $10,000. But for Doss, his love for Pez is really more about pleasure than profit. "To me, it's priceless," he said.

The Burlingame Museum of Pez Memorabilia, 214 California Drive, is open Tuesday-Saturday 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. Admission is free. The Pez dispensers can also be seen on the World Wide Web at http://www.spectrumnet. com/pez.

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Pez - Sincerely
by Michelle Nolan
As seen in the SAN FRANCISCO EXAMINER 2/2/96

So much popular culture has been demystified in the past 10 or 20 years, it's hard to find a hobby with a little intrigue left.

PEZ collecting, however, retains an element of excitement and mystery all its own.

PEZ, you say? Why, hasn't everybody heard of PEZ? After all, it has been a staple of American candy since the early 1950s.

That's right, PEZ. It seems that there's still a lot to learn about the colorful little character head dispensers that all baby boomers and many of their parents remember and still love.

The place to start is at the PEZ Museum, the only exhibition of its kind in the country.

The museum is actually an alcove in the Computer Spectrum store here run by Gary and Nancy Doss, 214 California Ave. Computers and the design of World Wide Web sites are the Dosses' livelihood, but PEZ is-their passion.

The two PEZ collectors and their associate, Robert Luster, cheerfully offer free guided tours of their museum. They're happy if you purchase a PEZ or two but they're more than happy to spread the gospel of PEZ collecting.

Gary Doss likes to begin by explaining that PEZ remains something of a mystery at the insistence of the company.

In an era when everthing that can be commercialized is - from comic books to Barbie dolls to McDonald's toys - for reasons known only to PEZ officials they prefer to ignore the hobby market.

And, make no mistake, it's a growing pastime. At least four books have been written about collecting PEZ, and the scarcer dispensers can go for hundreds and even thousands of dollars.

"I have no idea why they (the PEZ company officials) won't acknowledge the secondary (hobby) market and they won't say," Doss says. "I guess they want to leave a little mystery in the hobby."

Doss, 41, says this has led PEZ collectors on a trail of shared in- formation. He says that it has been difficult, and often impossible, to ascertain the quantities manufactured or the exact dates the dispensers were introduced.

Some of the books not only contain reproductions of all the known PEZ dispensers - about 280 in all - but even extend to interviews with former employees of the company.

'Learning about PEZ is a lot of the fun," Doss says. "You never know when a new dispenser will be introduced or a current one will be discontinued."

PEZ candy was created in 1927 in Austria by Eduard Haas, a food company executive who sought to market a breath mint to help people stop smoking. PEZ is short for Pfefferminz, German for Peppermint.

When Haas applied for an American patent for an automatic candy dispenser in 1949, the first dispensers failed to sell well be cause, ironically, they looked like cigarette lighters. So Haas tried licensing the heads of popular cartoon characters - the first were Mickey Mouse and Popeye - and a cultural icon was unintentionally created.

After all, who doesn't remember their favorite PEZ heads? The majority of popular characters have been featured at one time or another.

The mystery is why, for example, there was a Bullwinkle PEZ but no Rocky PEZ.

Doss laughs when he recalls the six businessmen from Ohio who were lined up at his store when he arrived to open it.

"I thought they were there on computer business, but they headed straight for the PEZ museum. They had seen our Web page.

Locating PEZ is a treasure hunt. "You find them in the oddest places," Luster says. "The latest PEZ dispenser is a copy of the original, with peppermint candy."
Doss says the rarest PEZ dispensers are the "Make-a-Face" models from the early 1980s, complete with tiny parts.

"It was ruled they were too dangerous for small children, so they were taken off the market after only about a week," Doss says. "Now they're worth about $2,000 to $3,000 to serious collectors."

Oh, yes, the candy itself. Current flavors are lemon, grape, strawberry and orange. In the past, cherry and chocolate have been marketed in the United States, but have been discontinued.

Not too many real people have been featured on PEZ dispensers. And, yes, there has never been an Elvis PEZ. There was, however, a "LOVE PEZ" complete with an eyeball head and a psychedelic design about 25 years ago. Today, it's a $300 item.

"The clue is to watch for PEZ dispensers produced with no feet (they are more than 10 years old)," Doss says."They are generally more valuable and harder to find."

PEZ collecting is big in Northern California, so much so that there will be a Second Annual West Coast Convention March 29-30 at the Sunnyvale Hilton Hotel.

Doss says PEZ collecting can be infectious, but even non believers often pick up a favorite character. I know, because I bought a Tweety PEZ from him.

But I past up a Sylvester PEZ. That cat tried to eat Tweety too often for my taste.

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An Enlightening Pilgrimage To Pez Shrine
by Sue Hutchison
As seen in the San Jose Mercury News (5/22/95)

Last week, I made a pilgrimage to Gary Doss' museum in Burlingame. Unfortunately, when I arrived, electricity was out.

But the darkness turned out to be an enhancement. Gary shone a high-beam flashlight over each piece in his collection. "This is Scrooge McDuck," he said, guiding the flashlight in a slow, dramatic arc. "This is Mr. Ugly - my wife's least favorite. Here's Spider Man. And this is Pez Boy."

Pez Boy! So that's who that is! It took a trip to Gary's Pez Museum in a blackout to discover the unfamiliar red Pez I received for Valentine's Day featured the head of none other than Pez Boy. Given Pez Boy's bizarre thatch of brown hair, I assumed he was supposed to be an 11-year-old Ted Koppel. In fact, I had been referring to him as "Baby Ted Pez." Man, is my face red.

But I never would have discovered the truth if I hadn't visited Gary's Pez Museum. OK, so it's just a humble display at the back of his CD-ROM software rental store, Computer Spectrum. And it's only going to be open through July. But as far as Pez devotees are concerned, it's a shrine.

"Yeah, Burlingame High School is down the street, and those kids are always over here," Gary said. "Some people are fascinated by Pez." Tell me about it.

To the uninitiated, Pez is simply a candy tablet stored in a slender rectangular dispenser with a plastic cartoon character's head on top. But to those of us who hoarded, traded and sneaked Pez to school, it's embedded in our notions of who we are as Americans.

Invented in the '5Os, Pez has since helped define and reflect the national character. Oh shut up, it did! How else do you explain a psychedelic '60s Pez featuring a hand holding a giant eyeball, known as "The Luv Pez?"

"Pez was invented by a guy who wanted people to stop smoking, so the first dispenser looked like a cigarette lighter," Gary told me. "It bombed. But then they started putting cartoon heads on top and well, you know..."

Yeah, I do. And seeing Gary's Pez display reminded me of some great unsolved Pez mysteries. Why was there a Bullwinkle Pez but no Rocky. Why does the combination Bambi/Rudolph Pez head look like Evil Red-Nosed Reindeer from Hell? Thoughts like this kept me up nights when I was 12. O.K., they still do.

Gary also has a row of Pez Boys decked out in an Indian headdress, fireman's hat and several other outfits. He tried to explain it was a special "costume" line, made for Pez Boy. But I couldn't wrap my mind around the concept that some Pezes want to dress up as other Pezes. It frightened and confused me.

Gary nodded sympathetically.

"You think that's weird; in Hungry they make plastic clip-on costimes for the dispensers," he said, shining his flashlight on a Pez "dress." "But they're not available in the U.S." All I can say is, thank God we live in a nation that protects us from the twisted depravity of Pez clothing. But, in the end, we agreed the only really bad thing about Pez is the candy itself. I told Gary that smarties are superior to Pez in every way. They're sweeter, without that chalky taste. I wondered if we could start a camaign to get Smarties candy in Pez dispensers. How hard could it be, considering all the licensing agreements Pez already has with cartoon companies?

Gary just stared at me. And, some time after I left, the lights came on.

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Just Give Pez a Chance
by Diana Marszalek

As seen in the SAN MATEO TIMES (2/3/1996)

In the opinion of Gary Doss, PEZ candies and their cartoon-crowned dispensers have secured a spot in American pop culture for one simple reason:People eat 'em up.

"It's a toy that dispenses candy,"Doss said. "What could be more happy than that?"

Doss should know. As owner of the Burlingame PEZ Museum - the only institution of its kind in the country - Doss is one of the foremost authorities on the wacky little candy carriers that have been part of American life for more than 40 years. Step into the museum, which Doss and his wife, Nancy, opened last year, and it's easy to see how a guy like him got so smart.

With a collection of about 270 PEZ dispensers, the PEZ Museum is a tribute to the sugary little sweets and their holders with heads. Among people who love weird things, PEZ dispensers are tops.

Though young, the Burlingame PEZ Museum, which is housed in the back of Doss's computer store, has become a hot spot for PEZ fans across the country.

Doss once showed up at work to find eight suit-clad businessmen who wanted to make sure they got into the museum before returning to St. Louis from a Bay Area business trip.

And hanging on the museum wall is an Austin, Texas couple's travel itinerary mapping out their trip to the Bay Area. In addition to crossing the Golden Gate Bridge and sipping wine in Napa, the PEZ Museum is listed as a must-do.
While the bulk of the museum's collection started out life in the same place - usually a supermarket check-out line - the highlights are far from run-of-the-mill.

The museum has some of the earliest, rarest and strangest candy-spitting contraptions out there.
Topping the list is one of PEZ's first creations: a Mickey Mouse model that may have been the first dispenser with a head, in the early 1950s. A spaceman and Santa Claus lucky enough to have arms, legs and torsos - PEZ briefly experimented with giving characters complete bodies, rather than just heads - also date back to PEZ's earliest days.

A psychedelic eye PEZ dispenser - branded with the colorful swirls of the 1960s, the words "Luv PEZ," and crowned with a hand holding a disembodied eye - is unquestionably the creepiest collectable.

The Mr. Ugly character, green face and all, has to be the biggest eyesore.

The collection also tracks PEZ through the ages. Original Casper the Ghost, Flintstone characters and Jungle Book PEZ dispensers are tributes to the hippest cartoon characters of the last four decades.

PEZ's bicentennial collection and a life-like spaceman on sale during the space program's heyday highlight PEZ's role in American history.

And PEZ's trademark cartoon character boy - who has been available in a range of costumes, ranging from a police uniform to a sheik's turban, to coincide with his appearances in the Sunday newspaper comics pages - showcases PEZ engineers' marketing expertise.

PEZ collecting is big business for folks like the Dosses, who started their collection seven years ago.

A rarity such as a make-a-face PEZ that was pulled quickly off the market because its removable pieces were dangerous for small children is worth $3,000. A Mary Poppins dispenser that came out a year and a half after the movie - and fizzled quickly - is worth about $700.

With that in mind, the museum also is a source of hard-to-find PEZ dispensers for the collector in all of us.

European Body Parts PEZ and costumes - that's right, in Europe, they dress their PEZ in clothes - are at the museum. So are some rarities, like a softhead - or rubber - Batgirl.

Who ever thought there'd be so much fun in little colored candies?

Probably not the original PEZ engineers in Austria, who created PEZ in the 1920s as a peppermint to help people stop smoking. The name PEZ is short for the German word for peppermint.

Cartoon character heads didn't appear on PEZ dispensers, and PEZ candies didn't become colored and fruit-flavored, until 1952. Either Mickey Mouse or Popeye was the first PEZ character head - but because PEZ officials keep information about the dispensers top secret, no one really knows which one debuted the company line, Doss said.

The PEZ business has its own mystique. PEZ officials rarely say which characters they're ready to debut, or which ones will be discontinued, Doss said.

And PEZ officials don't explain their decisions, like why they'd produce a Bullwinkle dispenser but never a Rocky, or why'd they'd leave Wilma and Betty out of a line of Flintstones characters.

"They're very secretive," Doss said.
Nonetheless, there's nothing under cover about Americans' love affair with PEZ. The candy has appeared in numerous movies, on magazine covers, is the subject of books - and is available in supermarkets and drug stores in big cities and small towns around the world.

"PEZ, in one form or another, are everywhere," Doss said.

"They appeal to everybody, bring back fond memories and what's more fun than a toy that gives you candy?"

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by Warren Lutz
As seen in the BOUTIQUE & VILLAGER (5/17/1995)

Should world tensions escalate, nuclear weapons spray across the globe and life cease to exist as we know it, it is certain one bit of Americana is going to make it through.


"Kids still enjoy them. You still see them in stores, and adults still find them nostalgic," said PEZ fan Gary Doss, explaining the undying popularity of the 4-inch toys that have been spitting out tiny, powdered bricks of candy for the past 40 years.

There's nothing really quite like a PEZ dispenser," he said. They're just fun."

Gary and his wife, Nancy, who own Computer Spectrum on California Drive in Burlingame, have been collecting PEZes for two years. Their compilation is currently on display at their store in what maybe the Peninsula's first and only PEZ museum.

The Dosses began collecting PEZes when Nancy saw a Woodstock model while shopping for groceries. Gary said no, they didn't need it. But Nancy persisted.

That was 200 or so PEZes ago. Woodstock started it all,"Nancy says now.

Something for everybody.

About 250 different PEZ dispensers, plus variations, have been made. Gary estimates he's got all except maybe 20, most of which were made in Europe.

The Dosses' exhibit is housed under a glass case, with characters lined up in rows in a commercial toothbrush rack and looking as if they're attending a football game.

Look for any major cartoon character and it's probably there: Charlie Brown and Snoopy, Miss Piggy, Casper, Batman, Tweety Bird, Bugs Bunny, Tom and Jerry. Even Thor.

There's also PEZ people, little elf-like creatures that take on different occupations and cultures. There are characters from early American history: an Uncle Sam PEZ, Betsy Ross PEZ, and a Paul Revere PEZ.

Psychedelia fans might want to check out the Luv PEZ, made in the late 1960s. It's "head" is a hand, holding an eyeball, atop a dispenser washed with rainbow colors.

In fact, the Luv PEZ is the priciest of the Dosses' museum, estimated at around $300. Other notables include Bullwinkle and Brutus, Popeye's nemesis. Both go for about $150.

After you spot all the familiar faces, the collection can get pretty kooky: A headless Arithmetic PEZ, with a teeny multiplication table. Tiny PEZ big rig trucks. A PEZ gun with cartridge loading. PEZ clothes for the PEZ people. A PEZ watch.

"Some of them you kind of wonder, 'What were they thinking?' " said Gary, as he shuffled through the plastic figurines.

Such oddities - along with special-order PEZes and ones that appeared and then quickly vanished from the market - seem to have fueled PEZ fanaticism over the years. Collectors hold annual conferences in Cleveland and St.Louis, and locally in Santa Clara.

Invented 68 years ago

Created in Europe in 1927 by Eduard Haas, PEZ candy originally came in a simple, metallic dispenser resembling a lighter. In fact, Hass marketed his product as an anti-smoking aid.

The name, PEZ, was short for pfefferminz, German for peppermint. It was the only available flavor at the time.
In 1952, Haas brought product to the United States where it promptly bombed until he re-marketed his contraption as a children's toy. Whether the first "head" on a PEZ was Mickey Mouse or Popeye is still a matter of dispute among collectors.

Strangely, and to the dismay of PEZ fans, executives at PEZ Candy headquarters near New Haven, Conn. do not answer collectors' questions nor promote the candy's hype, the Dosses said.

But a cult following continues to grow, aided by an occasional PEZ reference on TV or the big screen. (The recent movie, "The Client," mentions an "Elvis PEZley" in a hospital scene. No such animal, Gary said) For another strange reason, PEZ attracts people who work with computers, like the Dosses. The Prodigy computer bulletin board has a forum for collectors, and there are a number of pages on the World Wide Web on how to load a PEZ dispenser.

"They're kind of the 'in' candy for computer people," Gary said. One pack of PEZ candy is 35 calories, according to the Dosses. In the United States, they come in only four flavors: lemon, grape, strawberry and orange. But the Europeans have chocolate PEZ, which Nancy said "tasted like Coco Puffs" when she tried them.
PEZ also makes sugar-free candy at 30 calories a pack, but issues a special warning to consumers. Gary is blunt: "It gives you diarrhea." The PEZ museum will be on display from 10 a.m. to 7 p.m., Tuesday through Friday, until 6 p.m. on Saturday. Computer Spectrum is located at 214 California Drive in Burlingame.

And yes, the store sells PEZ candy and dispensers.

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© Copyright 1996 Computer Spectrum