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.

Sign Up for the 412 e-Newsletter

 

Our new, daily e-newsletter is curated by the editors of Pittsburgh Magazine and is designed to give you the very best Pittsburgh has to offer -- delivered directly to your inbox.

Sign me up!
* Email
 First Name
 Last Name
  * = Required Field
 
Edit ModuleShow Tags Edit ModuleShow Tags

Hot Reads

Best Restaurants 2016

Best Restaurants 2016

Which 33 Pittsburgh-area establishments did our independent Restaurant Review Panel include among its top picks this year? Find them here.
Six Pittsburgh Chefs Who Are Outstanding in Their Field

Six Pittsburgh Chefs Who Are Outstanding in Their Field

In addition to awarding Best Restaurant honors this year, our Independent Restaurant Review Panel also voted to recognize six chefs for their contributions to Pittsburgh’s culinary community in 2015.
Citizen Artist: Vanessa German

Citizen Artist: Vanessa German

German blends a collage of community activism and soul-searching artistry.
PittGirl to Wooers: ‘Not Today Satan, Not Today’

PittGirl to Wooers: ‘Not Today Satan, Not Today’

It only takes one person, one jagoff, one childish, attention-seeking, discourteous jerk to send a woo through PNC Park.
Daytripping: Canonsburg is a City of Antiques

Daytripping: Canonsburg is a City of Antiques

Nearby Canonsburg is a rare find for antiques collectors.
U.S. Open at Oakmont: Will The Town Finally Be a Player?

U.S. Open at Oakmont: Will The Town Finally Be a Player?

The U.S. Open is returning to Oakmont — and unlike previous tournaments, this one could make the community a vital part of the action.
Edit Module

Edit Module

Edit ModuleShow Tags

On the Blogs


5 Reasons PyroFest Will Light Up Your Memorial Day Weekend

5 Reasons PyroFest Will Light Up Your Memorial Day Weekend

PyroFest will also include live music, food, a Kids Zone and more.

Comments


Pittsburgh, only cooler
PittGirl: How You Should Grade A Squishy Tongue

PittGirl: How You Should Grade A Squishy Tongue

Kennywood Park opens soon and new this season is the return of the famed whale at the entrance of Noah’s Ark. In the name of science, PittGirl paid an early visit to test the squishiness quotient of the whale's all-important tongue.

Comments


All the foodie news that's fit to blog
Richard DeShantz Plans Two New Restaurants at Salt of the Earth Building

Richard DeShantz Plans Two New Restaurants at Salt of the Earth Building

DeShantz owns three other Pittsburgh restaurants and is about to open a fourth.

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


Highmark Stadium Pub Wants Your Attention

Highmark Stadium Pub Wants Your Attention

The in-house tavern at the Riverhounds' home stadium is now welcoming guests during weekdays. But is it worth a dedicated stop?

Comments


Mike Prisuta's Sports Section

A weekly look at the games people are playing and the people who are playing them.
Resurrected Penguins Writing Their Story Their Way

Resurrected Penguins Writing Their Story Their Way

These Penguins have been downright unrecognizable, individually and collectively, on the way to the Stanley Cup Final.

Comments


Style. Design. Goods. Hide your credit card.
Flip the Switch: Industrial-Style Lighting Made in Pittsburgh

Flip the Switch: Industrial-Style Lighting Made in Pittsburgh

An electrician by trade, designer Thomas Verscharen creates custom lighting out of repurposed pieces.

Comments


Sean Collier's Popcorn for Dinner

The movies that are playing in Pittsburgh –– and, more importantly, whether or not they're worth your time.
The X-Men Would've Done Better in Wonderland

The X-Men Would've Done Better in Wonderland

Reviews of "X-Men: Apocalypse," "Alice Through the Looking Glass," "A Bigger Splash" and "Love and Friendship."

Comments


Everything you need to know about getting married in Pittsburgh today.
Get with the (Wedding) Program

Get with the (Wedding) Program

Have you ever considered making programs for your wedding guests? If not, think again and get creative.

Comments


The latest tips and trends to refresh your home.
A Tiny House that's Big on Energy Savings

A Tiny House that's Big on Energy Savings

Spread out across the city for these upcoming events, including a “Tiny House” exhibit at the Carnegie Science Center displayed by the FIY Network.

Comments


The hottest topics in higher education
Duquesne University to Host Small Business Networking Event

Duquesne University to Host Small Business Networking Event

The event will connect hundreds of small business managers and owners and provide useful information to help them take their enterprises to the next level.

Comments