Most people have had PEZ candy at one time or another as kids, and it is amazing how many adults are adicted to the stuff! That's not as surprising as it sounds, since PEZ was originally designed for adults and didn't move into the kids market until several years after its release in America.

According to the PEZ FAQ, PEZ candy and the PEZ candy dispenser were invented by Edward Haas III. The letters P-E-Z come from the first, middle and last letters of the German word for peppermint, PfeffErminZ. PEZ was originally sold in Austria as peppermint candy in 1927.

The PEZ dispenser, invented in 1948, was a first in that the dispenser made eating candy fun. Now there are all sorts of unusual candy dispensers, but PEZ was the trailblazer (and is also unusual in its reloadability). The PEZ dispenser resembles a cigarette lighter -- before the character heads appeared, the original target market for the dispenser was adult smokers.

People collect PEZ dispensers in a big way. A search of Ebay's completed PEZ auctions reveals a cult of thousands of people -- rare dispensers have sold for hundreds of dollars! New dispensers appear as earlier ones "retire."

The dispensers are patented, and the patent number on the dispenser tells you something about its age:

For more information, see newsgroup: alt.food.pez

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