Paul Turley and PEZ – A Sweet Story of Collectible Figures

Toy CollectorsCollectible figures plus candy — what’s not to love?

That’s what I thought, when I first read about Paul Turley.

And that’s what Paul Turley thought, when he started building his collection of PEZ dispensers.

Paul’s collection began with 30 to 45 PEZ dispensers he had gathered over the years and given to his son. When his now 31-year-old son showed no great interest in continuing to add to the PEZ collection, Paul continued to be curious about them. His curiosity led him to do some research.

One thing Paul learned was that PEZ have been around for a long time. Invented in Vienna, Austria in 1927, PEZ candy was originally a breath mint. The unique name comes from taking three letters from the German word “pfefferminz,” which means peppermint (1).

Paul also discovered something that surprised him: these little toy candy dispensers were collectibles.

From there, he was hooked.

The day I spoke with Paul, he had just finished a successful toy hunting expedition. As a diecast car collector, as well as someone who enjoys toy collecting in general, I understand a little bit about toy hunting. I had to wonder if the fun of toy hunting itself played a part in keeping Paul interested in collecting.

Indeed, it does.

“Today, there were three new Muppets that just came out,” Paul said. “Kermit and Miss Piggy have been done before, but they totally revamped them. And now, they added Animal. I went to several stores, and finally found them in a Rite Aid pharmacy.”

Paul shared with me that it wasn’t just the successful hunt that makes collecting PEZ dispensers fun. The enjoyment also came from finding out what’s new, and sharing your finds with your fellow toy collectors.

“Part of it is the excitement of finding out what the new releases are going to be,” Paul said. “I’ve known about the Muppets since July or August of last year. It’s a lot of fun to be the first person to find it, and to post online about it.”

Knowing how much competition there is among diecast toy car collectors in my area—and how often I return home from a toy hunt empty-handed—I had to ask if there was similar competition among those who love these collectible figures.
With a good-natured laugh, Paul said he had to agree that there was some competition between collectors in his niche, too.

And here’s another similarity: as with toy cars, there are also errors, variations and limited edition PEZ.

Have you ever seen a PEZ dispenser facing backwards in the pack? If so, you just found an error. That backwards-facing PEZ is known in collectors’ circles as a “Time Out,” as in when a naughty child is sent to stand in the corner.

The error category also includes what’s called an “invisible” PEZ, which is a package that contains candy, but no dispenser. Naturally, packaging errors fall into this category, too. These include PEZ dispensers that don’t match the card label. (For example, Paul has a Hello Kitty PEZ on a Sesame Street Card.)

There are also collectors who take it to the limit—the ones who go above and beyond in the realm of toy collecting. Along these lines, Paul shared a story about his friend who has some very unique Star Wars and Batman-themed PEZ dispensers. Even by themselves, they’d be great additions to a collection, but these pieces are extra special: they’re autographed by the actors who played the film characters. To make it even sweeter, sometimes that collector gets extra pieces autographed and sells them for charity.

PEZ collectors connect at annual conventions, and they also get together at “gatherings,” which are smaller in size and are often held at someone’s home. Although Paul hasn’t been able to attend a convention yet, that’s on his wish list.
As might be expected, Paul’s collection is extensive. Still, like most collectors, he has his favorites. “I’m a big Universal monsters fan,” Paul said.

Last year, Paul found his most-wanted piece: a Frankenstein PEZ dispenser from the 1960s. Although he had this model when he was a child, his first piece somehow ended up being thrown away—which is another scenario many of us toy collectors can relate to. Thanks to his connections, he was able to replace it. “A friend of mine who collects was selling some of her extras and she already had one, so she sold it to me,” he said.

However, Paul is still searching for Wolf Man and the Creature from the Black Lagoon.

One of the biggest benefits of collecting PEZ is the relaxation factor, as well as the friendships that are formed between collectors, Paul said. Paul’s full-time job involves making side impact bags for vehicles, but he’s got a bachelor’s degree in photography. His photographs, which can be viewed online, are a testimony to his creative talent.

We thank Paul for taking the time to share his knowledge and experiences as a PEZ collector with us. To learn more about Paul’s vast collection of these collectible figures and to view his wonderful photographs, visit