If you’re a collector and you find yourself in the San Francisco Bay Area, you should definitely make the trip over to the Pez Museum. It was also recently featured in our article about 15 museums for collectors. The museum is located in Burlingame, California, which is not far from San Francisco Airport, and is about 20-30 minutes south of San Francisco by car. You can also get there by Caltrain (Burlingame Station) or Bart (Millbrae station, then a short taxi or transfer to Caltrain).
About the Pez Museum
The Pez Museum and the retail store consist are in two rooms, so it won’t be a long visit. But if you like collecting, there are some real gems here. In addition to a large Pez-related collection, there is also a collection of other toys over 50 years old (learn more below), and a Banned Toys collection.
It was founded over 20 years ago by Gary Doss, who’s been collecting for 23 years. He originally ran a computer store in this location (in fact, there’s still a sign for “Computer Spectrum” on the front door). He started carrying Pez dispensers and eventually shifted entirely away from the computer business.
He carries an example of every Pez ever sold and they’ve made over 1,000 styles to date. They introduce an average of three new Pez dispensers per month. The upcoming set is Super Girls and recently they introduced the Smurfs, the Power Rangers, and Trolls.
What I learned about Pez dispensers
Pez is over 67 years old. The first Pez was made in 1950 and it looked like a cigarette lighter and only served up peppermint candy. There was no decorative head on the original dispensers. You can see the original Pez dispensers in their original package here in the museum. The name “Pez” is an abbreviated version of the Austrian word Pfefferminz (Peppermint). Pez dispensers are always made in Austria.
What about the Pez heads?
In 1958, Pez decided to add heads to the dispensers. The first three heads were famous cartoon characters – Casper the Friendly Ghost, Mickey Mouse, and Popeye the Sailor. In 1965, they did the first monster heads. Up until 1980 Pez guns were on the market – they shot Pez dispensers and looked a lot like real guns!
Pez and eBay’s Founding
eBay was founded in 1995 by Pierre Omidyar. The popular story is that he created it in order to help his fiance buy and sell Pez dispensers. This tale has supposedly been debunked (see here), but it makes for a good story! In 2000, eBay commemorated this founding story with it’s own eBay Pez dispenser.
About the Exhibits
There are a variety of highlights at the museum including the largest Pez dispenser ever made, Pez-Inspired vignettes, various themed collections, Pez vending machines, Pez-related antiques, and autographed dispensers signed by luminaries such as Carrie Fisher (Princess Leia, of course), Stan Lee (Marvel) and Linda Carter (Wonder Woman).
In addition, there is a section devoted to other classic toys that are (like Pez) over 50 years old and still in business. In fact, Erector Set, Lincoln Logs, Tinker Toys are all 100 years old and are featured. Other toys include the Easy Bake Oven, which took two 100 Watt lightbulbs to actually cook food, and the original Mr. Potato Head kit which would require a real potato! There is also an exhibit of “Banned Toys” including a 1951 Atomic Laboratory that included radioactive material!
Have you been there?
Have you been to the Pez Museum? Are you a Pez collector?
Let us know about your visit or your favorite Pez dispenser in the comments!
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