Saturday, June 20, 2009

PEZ Convention

2009 ANPC bounty
My bounty from the 2009 Annual National PEZ Convention - both trades and purchases.

Way back on Valentine's Day, Mike surprised me with the announcement that this year's gift was 2 Gold Memberships to the 2009 Annual National PEZ Convention in St Louis. His original intent was that our fellow-PEZhead friend would accompany me, but he had previous plans, so this weekend Mike and I trekked on a mini-vacation (because we both took Friday off) to St Louis for a few days on PEZ glory.

I had no idea what to expect, as the "photo gallery" on the site was pretty lack luster and full of pictures of people sitting in rooms (that's actually what it was like - by the way, not just poor photography coverage). It was enlightening experience to say the least. The median age had to be forty with the few exceptions of me, a couple Napolean Dynamite-esque teenage boys and a couple of elementary-age kids whose parents appeared to be PEZ dealers. Though shocked initially, it makes sense that collectors range in the middle age…who else has the vacation time to go to these 3-4 day conventions and the cash it takes to get the vintage PEZ. And these people are serious, making the PEZcon circuit throughout the year. It's a tight knit group, where everyone knows each other and their collections.

Friday we attended 3 approximately 1-hour seminars (I think all we missed on Thursday was a seminar on shopping for PEZ at local stores - which I actually would have like to hear as I have the toughest time finding PEZ - and a pin raffle of some sort). I'm not sure I would classify them as seminars, perhaps just talks because I think seminar implies learning something but that's not really the point. We saw one man's extensive collection…like thousands of dollars sitting in one flat display case and one of those Rubbermaid size containers. Like complete collections in vintage display boxes and all dispensers in original cello bags (like of sets of vintage Disney and PEZpals), several variations on vintage dispensers like Pony-Go-Rounds, and the piece de resistance…TWO incredibly rare black-faced Maharaja (like this but with an actual black face piece). These two are so rare that my latest price guide (which is from 2004) can't even estimate a price because there are so few in existence that really the "seller", if they ever really wanted to become one, could name the price. It was neat to see all these vintage dispensers that I've only seen in books.

We then heard a man speak about his extensive collection of pumpkin PEZ, as the convention theme was "Pumpkins." (Can you see what I mean about the term seminar being used loosely?) And the final seminar was definitely the most informative and exciting (though it would have been over the top if we could have actually seen the things the man was talking about)…a talk on what's coming up from the PEZ company in the coming year or two! Given by Shawn Peterson, who appears to be leading source for PEZ information, having written 3 books and having the persistance to finagle information from the actual company, us junkies were privy to the inside scoop only those in the candy business know from this year's Candy Expo in Chicago. I actually took notes, I think I was the only one!, so I could share the current plans with my uncle and our friend, Joe. The releases that have be the most excited are the Wizard of Oz collector set which is scheduled to be released in the fall of this year, the Snow White & the 7 Dwarfs set (the dwarfs are mini dispensers!) which is scheduled to be released next fall and the Toy Story set (that builds off the existing Buzz Lightyear with Woody, Jessie, T Rex, Ham and Slinky). During this talk I also learned that PEZ had recently went through managment change within the last couple years, and it all kinda made sense then. If you've been a collector as long as I have (probably going on 15 years now), you know that for the longest time the only PEZ you could find in stores were Flintstones, PEZ-a-saurs and standard issues like the panda, the Coach Whistle or Peter Pez. When I first started collecting those were snapped up quickly and then disappointment ensued on every grocery store trip thereafter until once or twice a year a new set would show up, mostly like a Christmas set or Easter. Eventually with the rise of the internet and it's availabilty, we discovered that there was a European market of dispensers we couldn't get in the US, and then Japanase variations as well - like the minis. And just as I realized there was a lot out there in the manner of new dispensers and that it would take some cash to get them from overseas, PEZ started popping up everywhere here. New sets all the time. It was around that time, according to Shawn, that management at PEZ USA went from a business-unsaavy man that could care less about the dispensers and their variety, to a man and new team who were driven to create alot of new thing through the whole spectrum - from Marvel superheroes to MLB teams to nearly every new animated release. Heck, even reaching out to real people (who until recently the only real person ever depicted on a dispenser was Betsy Ross - now we have the OC Chopper guys, Elvis x 3 and Austrian icons Mozart & Princess Sissi). The trends all fit into place now, I guess it should have been obvious, but I've learned that I'm not as hard-core when it comes to PEZ as I thought I was.

After the seminars, I participated in a swap, which after hearing some of the comments made during the seminar, I was a bit afraid to participate in. I didn't think I had anything worth trading. But as it turned out, those that participated were more on my spectrum or just really nice about making deals. I actually made quite a few deals (and managed to stun nearly every person by how little I asked for in return). What can I say, I have really no idea what my stuff is worth. I was only looking to get rid of some of my duplicates and get some stuff that I didn't have. My most successful score was definitely the Chick-Fil-A cow dispenser for the set of 4 Bugz party favors. Who knows if was an even trade, all I care is that I got that darn cow after the fruitless (but half-hearted) search a couple weekends ago. I was also granted an act of kindness by some nice ladies from Texas that allowed me to trade one measley blue cat from Bob the Builder, mint on a euro card for the boxed set of 4 Lightening Mcqueens.

The night ended with a rousing session of Bingo, where I managed to win (a porcelian vintage witch-shaped dispenser trinket box among a couple other pez licensed goods)! The prizes were a bit disappointing as not many prize sets included dispensers, but it was fun nonetheless.

Saturday morning was the realy reason people come to these conventions…the dealer show. A ballroom filled with dispensers, ranging from the newest releases to the old stand-bys to the vintage stuff that I am not in the market for at all. From what we could tell, the most expensive dispenser we saw displayed was a $1500 Pony-Go-Round (like this but a rare color combo). I managed to pick up a few European dispensers that I'd had my eye on, plus some newer stuff I hadn't seen yet. It was nice not to have to pay for shipping from Canada at the closest or bid on ebay. All prices seemed fair and reasonable to what I would have paid online, and by walking around a bit I was actually able to save a couple bucks on nearly each set.

I'm thinking that in the future, we might just come down for the day. It's $5 for the public to enter, and it's only a couple hours away. Plus Mike said he might think about just gifting me the cash it would have taken to buy the memberships and hotel for Valentine's Day, and that way I'd have a lot more money to by dispensers! I do think it would be interesting to visit a couple of the other conventions (there are 2 kinda close by in MN and OH, then we have a direct flight from our local airport to another in Myrtle Beach), so maybe every 5 years or so, I'll hit actual convention… :D


Jenna Z said...

This reminds me so much of when I was actively collecting and competing in the world of model horses! I competed at the national level for two years and I remember those conventions! (Some good memories (friends, finding bargains, trying new things) and some bad (the weirdos that hobbies like that attract, the cut-throat competitor/collectors who aren't there to have fun at all). What a nice husband to enable your hobby with a gift like that! Mine went to one model horse event a few years ago (when I had a relapse and returned for the summer to the show circuit) and never went back. :)

Lisa @celebrate CREATIVITY said...

That PEZ convention looks pretty cool. I'll bet there are some real collectibles to be found too.

Stacey C said...

I'm glad you found that cow! I bugged the people at our Chik-Fil-a a few times and they had no clue what I was talking about, but I gave them my number in case they got any in:) LOL

claire said...

What a neat collection -- love Wall-E the best =)