Minnesota teen's Pez candy dispenser collection keeps growing
13-year-old Evan Peloquin's collection of character dispensers ranges from Papa Smurf to Darth Vader, even though he admits "I dislike the flavors" of the candy.
ROCHESTER, Minn. — What do Lucy Van Pelt, Elvis, Darth Vader, Marilyn Monroe and Mickey Mouse all have in common? They are all part of 13-year-old Evan Peloquin’s Pez dispenser collection.
The Rochester teen's love affair with Pez dispensers started on Valentine’s Day when he was 4. His parents, Amanda and Scott, gave him his first dispenser, a heart-eyed smiley face, as a gift. Amanda told him a story about her cousin’s extensive collection of Pez dispensers in the 1990s that included a cool store display.
“After I told Evan that story,” Amanda said, “he decided he wanted to do the same.
“He, surprisingly, was not even disappointed that I told him he needed to keep it (his first Pez dispenser) in the original packaging,” she said. Eleven years later, Evan has learned that keeping that first Pez in its packaging wasn’t as much of a sacrifice as he might once have thought. Regarding the candy, Evan said, “I have eaten it, and I dislike the flavors.”
Quite the collection
Evan has 236 Pez dispensers in his collection. He’s managed to keep 205 of them in their original packaging. Some of the packaging is in cardboard-backed and plastic-bubble-fronted hanging packages. Other Pez dispensers are in soft plastic bags, and a few are multiple-character collections in tins or boxes. Some of these, like the Smurfs tin, which boasts Papa Smurf and three other Smurfs, include fun additions like game boards.
“I enjoy how they come in different characters,” Evan said. He also likes how he can find them in a variety of stores. “Every antique store and garage sale we visit we are on the hunt for vintage Pez,” Amanda said.
Evan’s dad Scott even drove out in a snow storm to get another piece of peg board to help Evan keep his collection organized and displayed in his room, complete with a fancy color-changing lighting setup.
Many of the dispensers in Evan’s collection have been gifts. One of Evan’s favorite Pez dispenser sets, an Elvis tin shaped like a gold record, is now worth $50 and includes three version of Elvis in different outfits like a green military hat or his classic sunglasses. The Elvis tin was a gift from his grandmother.
One of the oldest items in his collection is a "Wizard of Oz" box set from 1997. The set features eight characters from the classic story including Dorothy and the Tin Man. That set came from his mom, who owned it as part of a "Wizard of Oz" collection when she was the same age as Evan now.
Evan even has a one-foot tall Darth Vader Pez that celebrates the 40th anniversary of "Star Wars" and dispenses entire packages of Pez candy.
“Most of my Pez dispensers come from my parents and grandparents,” Evan said. “The ones I got the farthest away were Mickey Mouse characters and the 'Lion King' set that was purchased in South Carolina.” Evan hopes to expand his collection to include some Pez from other countries. “Maybe on my next vacation to Mexico I will be on the lookout for Pez,” he said.
“We have spent at least $1,000 on all my Pez,” Evan estimated. Though that may seem like a considerable expense for plastic toys that dispense pill-shaped candy that many, including Evan, don’t enjoy the taste of, some of those dispensers are gaining in value. For instance, Evan said his "Wizard of Oz" set is worth $80.
One of Evan’s garage sale additions to his collection is a set of miniature dispensers. The set is from 2001 and came out of cereal boxes featuring characters like Lucky the Leprechaun and the Trix Rabbit.
While Evan’s collection might seem strange to some, he is certainly not the only one interested in collecting Pez. PEZamania is a Pez-enthusiast and collector’s conventio n in Ohio that was started in 1991.
In Winona, Minnesota, Pez on the River will celebrate its 10th anniversary Sept. 7-9. The event includes a Pez toy show and sale, and some of its proceeds will help support Home and Community Options Inc., which provides support and residential services to people with developmental disabilities.
After sharing a photo of part of his Pez dispenser collection with one of his friends, Evan’s collection became something of interest to his classmates. “The next day at school he bought me some new Pez, and showed my classmates all my Pez,” Evan said. “They thought it was cool, so they made me bring in my favorite one to show.”
Not everything is Pez
When he’s not busy collecting Pez dispensers, you might find Evan playing basketball, baseball, and soccer and spending time with his friends. “Evan is truly an old soul,” Amanda said. “He has a couple of collections, including old and rare coins and baseball cards, but this one has truly been a collection that brings us together. We are always on the hunt for the next Pez find.”
“I like collecting Pez because not many people would think to collect Pez, and it’s fun to have unique things,” Evan said. He foresees his collection will keep growing. “I will be a forever collector.”
Pez facts to ponder
Need a few sweet facts about everyone's favorite candy dispensers? Here's all you need to know about Pez:
- Invented in Austria in 1927, Pez gets its name from an abbreviation of the German word for peppermint: Pfefferminz.
- The all-caps "PEZ" logo is intended to look like each letter is built from the squarish-shaped candies. The P has 14 bricks, and there are 15 bricks in both the E and the Z.
- Pez’s first dispensers were shaped like a cigarette lighter and were intended to dispense mints that were an alternative to tobacco.
- Pez candy comes in a variety of flavors including exotic flavors like lychee and comfort food flavors like vanilla cupcake.
- The first Pez dispenser was introduced to the world at the 1949 Vienna Trade Fair, and the product was later introduced in the United States in 1952.
- The first character heads were put on PEZ dispensers in 1955, and some of the first characters represented were Santa Claus, Popeye, and Donald Duck.
- A documentary film called “The PEZ Outlaw,” which tells the story of Steve Glew — a Michigan man who travels to Eastern Europe after the Berlin wall fell to find a secret Pez factory with the most valuable Pez dispensers — premiered at the 2022 SXSW film festival. The film is streaming on Netflix.