Pez-azz



Photos by Becky Thurner-Braddock

The Pez dispenser is a pop-culture icon. First of all, “Pez” is one of those inherently funny words. And the dispensers are, let’s face it, a funny product. Is there an odder way to deliver a candy than by gripping a character’s head, tilting it back and having that candy eject from the character’s throat? Yum!

But the candy isn’t the highlight of the Pez experience. It’s clearly that clever, colorful, quirky and highly collectible dispenser. Dan Braddock, of Beechview, is one of those passionate Pez collectors.

When showing highlights from his collection of 500 Pez dispensers, Braddock concentrates on the sentimental centerpiece, the dispensers gifted to him when he was a kid: Daffy Duck, Tweety, Spiderman and Batman. “I come from a family of collectors, and we still go to flea markets together,” says Braddock, who works for KDKA-TV and WPCW-TV as a marketing manager and producer of “Hometown High-Q.”

While Braddock’s father, Paul, collects a more serious item—military dog tags—Pez dispensers “fit the offbeatness of my personality,” Braddock says. His collection includes superheroes, holiday characters (Santa Claus, Halloween witches and ghosts and the Easter bunny), Disney characters, Star Wars characters, even commercial icons from Lucky Charms cereal and Jack in the Box restaurants.

While collecting Pez dispensers is not unusual, Braddock is more than a casual collector. He’s attended Pez-collector conventions and is a student of Pez history. “Pez was invented in the late ’20s in Austria,” Braddock says, “and the first Pez candies were peppermint breath mints.” The word Pez, in fact, is derived from “pfefferminz,” the German word for peppermint. The dispensers we see in the U.S. today are manufactured in Orange, Conn.

Braddock shows the differences between some earlier Pez models, which do not have feet at the base, compared with the footed models introduced in the mid-’80s. He discusses some of the only Pez designed to look like real people (the family from the TV show “Orange County Choppers”), “test pieces” (some glow in the dark), “misfits” (a line of pieces in uncommon colors), box sets with likenesses of Elvis, “Star Trek” characters and characters from The Wizard of Oz.

Most of Braddock’s Pez picks come from flea markets, garage sales and stores such as Groovy on the South Side, and he estimates about 30 percent come from eBay.

How much value is in a Pez dispenser? Sometimes quite a lot. “It’s all based on rarity,” Braddock explains. “Some go for thousands of dollars. But you can usually get them very cheap because most people really don’t know the value of what they have.” Although he’s uncertain, he says his most expensive piece is worth “a couple hundred dollars.”

But Braddock collects for the fun of it. “I’m just a giant kid who loves plastic toys,” he says.

For more information, visit pez.com.

Edit ModuleShow Tags
Edit ModuleShow Tags

Hot Reads

The Best Bars in Pittsburgh Right Now

The Best Bars in Pittsburgh Right Now

Many Pittsburgh bars have solid beer lists, well-mixed cocktails or a bartender who's handy with a shot and a story. We need more than that. What makes these bars the best?
View Pittsburgh & Its People From The 1850s Through Today

View Pittsburgh & Its People From The 1850s Through Today

#pixburgh: A Photographic Experience features images from the Sen. John Heinz History Center vault, which contains close to one million images. The show features a sampling of 400 images from the 1850s through today — including landmarks, fun, folly and floods.
In Concert: What's Next for the Pittsburgh Symphony Orchestra?

In Concert: What's Next for the Pittsburgh Symphony Orchestra?

Melia Tourangeau, CEO and president of the Pittsburgh Symphony Orchestra, looks to lead the ensemble forward after a discordant strike.
Restaurant Review: Umami in Lawrenceville

Restaurant Review: Umami in Lawrenceville

Umami sets the bar for izakaya openings in Pittsburgh. But its owners still have steps to take to keep raising the standard.
Daytripping: Have Musket, Will Travel

Daytripping: Have Musket, Will Travel

The rest is history at ye olde Colonia Williamsburg, the former capital of Virginia and now a restored revolutionary war-era village.
Talk of the Tahn: The Consequences of Trespassing

Talk of the Tahn: The Consequences of Trespassing

I snuck into a steel mill. Bethlehem, Pa. I’d been bragging about how big Pittsburgh’s industrial ruins were when a woman in a bar told me, “Bethlehem’s are bigger.” Size matters.
Edit Module
Edit Module

Edit ModuleShow Tags

On the Blogs


RMU President Named to College Football Playoff Committee

RMU President Named to College Football Playoff Committee

Chris Howard will help decide which four teams will vie each year for college football’s national championship.

Comments


All the foodie news that's fit to blog
Restaurant Industry Fundraiser to Aid Injured Chef

Restaurant Industry Fundraiser to Aid Injured Chef

Zach Behm was chef de cuisine at Cure in Upper Lawrenceville at the time of a July car wreck.

Comments


Not just good stuff. Great stuff.
The Best 6 Places to Get a Cup of Tea in Pittsburgh

The Best 6 Places to Get a Cup of Tea in Pittsburgh

The quiet rise of Pittsburgh's tea scene gives us a few favorite gems.

Comments


Popularity of The Flats on Carson is a Mystery

Popularity of The Flats on Carson is a Mystery

After Dark visits the South Side bar which attracts big crowds on the weekend — and, on Sunday, was the scene of a well-publicized arrest.

Comments


Mike Prisuta's Sports Section

A weekly look at the games people are playing and the people who are playing them.
Tomlin Needs to Be Tomlin Against Brady, Belichick

Tomlin Needs to Be Tomlin Against Brady, Belichick

The Steelers are going to have to attack the game to survive it, to grab it by the throat and choke it to the desired conclusion.

Comments


Style. Design. Goods. Hide your credit card.
Tantalizing Textiles for the Table

Tantalizing Textiles for the Table

Check out the chic decor from Pittsburgh-based artist and designer Janice Nelson.

Comments


The movies that are playing in Pittsburgh –– and, more importantly, whether or not they're worth your time.
Scorsese's Silence Proves Worth the Wait (and the Weight)

Scorsese's Silence Proves Worth the Wait (and the Weight)

Reviews of "Silence," "Live by Night" and "Patriot's Day."

Comments


Everything you need to know about getting married in Pittsburgh today.
Pittsburgh Romance: How Their Love Survived Long-Distance

Pittsburgh Romance: How Their Love Survived Long-Distance

From coast to coast and continent to continent, these couples showed that absence really does make the heart grow fonder.

Comments


Weekly inspiration for your home from the editors of Pittsburgh Magazine
Urban Fit Co. Opening Flagship Shop in Sewickley

Urban Fit Co. Opening Flagship Shop in Sewickley

The locally owned active wear boutique is slated to open in March. Plus, get all the details on Pittsburgh’s new luxury residential real estate firm, Piatt Sotheby’s International Realty.

Comments


The hottest topics in higher education
Pittsburgh Artist’s Work to be Featured at Thiel College

Pittsburgh Artist’s Work to be Featured at Thiel College

Benedict Oddi’s collection “Scouts and Nomads” will be on display in a campus gallery.

Comments