Monday, March 4, 2002

The Burlingame PEZ Museum

It's Monday, only a day after the previous post, so there's no new local news to pass on. Instead, we'll jump straight into the next installment of Debbie's and Tony's daytrips.

The Burlingame PEZ Museum - Feb 23

I don't recall exactly how we came to know about the existence of the Burlingame PEZ Museum; it was probably from an ad in one of the local papers. In any case, at some point we checked out their website, thought it looked like a fun place to visit and added it to our list of places to see.

PEZ Booty

PEZ, for those of you who've never heard of it, is the name of a brand of hard candy, marketed by the PEZ company and usually sold along with dispensers bearing the heads of cartoon characters (for example, see the photo at left). The candy is sweetly sour, like a Fruit Tingle, and each piece is about 1cm long, ½cm wide and shaped like a bar of soap. The dispensers are cleverly engineered - so cleverly, in fact, that there are 5 patents on their design - and highly collectible, as we were astonished to discovered.

The museum was a lot smaller than we expected - about the size of a standard suburban shop in Australia - but I guess there's only so much PEZ memorabilia you can collect in the one place. Then again, unlike any other museum I can bring to mind, the Burlingame PEZ Museum retails many of its exhibits, so maybe its diminutive size was simply the outcome of a recent, highly successful sales drive. Somehow I doubt this.

On the walls of the museum were signed photos of celebrities holding PEZ somehow related to them. For example, Jim Davis, creator of Garfield, featured in one photo, holding a Garfield PEZ dispenser and looking awkward. I felt a bit sorry for him. I mean, exactly what facial expression do you adopt when asked to pose with a plastic replica of a cartoon character that you draw 8 hours a day and you know clearly doesn't exist? Whatever that look is, Jim Davis hasn't found it.

For those people for whom PEZ is a significant part of their life, I guess the museum is as close to a shrine as they're going to get. There's certainly no lack of information about PEZ products on the web, both from the company itself and from PEZ enthusiast ('PEZhead") sites. From these, I've gleaned the following fascinating facts:

  • PEZ was first marketed as a compressed peppermint candy over 70 years ago in Vienna, Austria. The name PEZ derives from the German word for peppermint...PfeffErminZ.
  • Over 3 billion PEZ candies are consumed annually in the U.S.A. alone. That's 12 candies per person ... who ate mine?
  • It is the PEZ company's stated policy "not to put real people on a PEZ dispenser".
  • PEZ dispensers are manufactured and imported from Austria, Hungary, Czech Republic, China, and Slovenia. You can tell where a PEZ dispenser was manufactured by consulting the 'Injection Mold Code' on the right hand top of the stem.
  • As of March 2000, the tallest dispenser is Marge Simpson measuring in at 5-1/8 inches (I guess it's the hair that does it). Thor is the widest at about 2-3/8 inches.
  • The highest price ever paid for a dispenser was $6000 for a non-US elephant (gold shiny head) in May of 1998.

If you're keen to learn more, check out :

Originally posted by TC

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