|HOLT, Mich. – It was billed as the $100,000 PEZ Dispenser; but, with all the PEZ world watching, it came up quite a bit short.
After the smoke cleared from the 10-day eBay auction, the dispenser sold for $32,205, still a hugely respectable amount and a record for a PEZ dispenser by a long shot as long as the sale is completed.
Jason Mitchell, who listed the item for its owners, said the $32,205 high bidder was from Singapore. Attempts to arrange payment have yielded nothing in the first days after the auction.
"I don’t like the sound of it so far," Mitchell said. "They (the bidder) looked to be low level collectors."
None of the underbidders, beyond the $30,000 reserve, appeared to have a history of buying items within the four-figure, let alone five-figure, ranges.
The dispenser, inscribed with “1982 World’s Fair, Knoxville, Tennesse” (Tennessee is misspelled on the piece) on the side, is owned by SuEllen Headley and her husband, Dean F. DuVall. The dispenser features an astronaut with a white helmet and green stem.
While the eBay listing said this was the only example, PEZ collectors say there are at least two. The second PEZ, recently found and photographed, has a blue stem and matching helmet, in addition to the same inscription on the side.
Attempts to contact DuVall and Headley were unsuccessful.
The description on the auction included: "Yes, this IS the fabled one-and-only PEZ gossiped about for years by hobbyists, collectors and investors, as well as being the subject of articles in magazines, newsletters, websites and blogs. It has been suggested by several enthusiasts that this is the first and only PEZ to possibly fetch one hundred thousand dollars if ever offered at auction."
While on auction, the dispenser was the third highest watched item on eBay. The auction listing had 55,480 hits, and more than 3,000 watchers.
The listing started at $500, had a $30,000 reserve and a "Buy It Now" for $100,000.
The statement that the offering was "the first and only PEZ" and that "several enthusiasts" suggested that the PEZ was worth $100,000 has been a contentious point among PEZ collectors. The value of the dispenser, which completed its 10-day run on Sunday, Aug. 27, remains a hot topic in the PEZ world.
"I think $100,000 is insane," Diane Leigh Davison, an attorney and adjunct law professor, said. "I’m a collector and I would never pay that much."
John LaSpina, a collector and author of an annual PEZ price guide, sold the PEZ listed on eBay about 10 years ago for $981 during a phone auction.
"I received it from the son of a former PEZ employee," LaSpina said. "The buyer sold it to its current owner several years later. It is one of two that is currently known, but us PEZ collectors know, more probably exist.
"I personally put its value at around $10,000," LaSpina said.
DuVall, who publishes and sells personal success material, paid for an advertisement in Pez Collector’s News in April 1999. Under the headline, "Only for the Big Spender," the ad went on to say it was the only known example of the particular dispenser and maintained it was a sound investment at $100,000.
Richard Belyski, editor of Pez Collector’s News, remembers the advertisement. He also has a copy of a book written by DuVall, and published by DuVall Press Financial Publications. How You May Earn Huge Profits from PEZ was published by DuVall in 1993. The 75-page booklet promises that "you can make up to $1,000 a week or more" by following DuVall’s suggestions.
PEZ collector, dealer and author David Welch was critical of the recent eBay auction. He contacted eBay on at least two occasions, insisting they pull the item from the auction.
"I am absolutely stunned they (eBay) let this auction run," Welch said. "The thing that bothers me, it’s not the item – it’s a rare item – it’s a good item, but the hype around it is false. The $100,000 price concept was initiated by the owner."
Welch argues, and many PEZ collectors agree, that if two World’s Fair dispensers are uncovered, more must exist.
"They (the PEZ company) didn’t just make two of these, it’s just not possible," he said. "If eBay has taught us anything, it’s that time is not on your side once you make the claim that you have the only one of any item."
The record for a PEZ dispenser is currently $11,121.11 for a 1950 gold-plated (simulated) space gun, according to Belyski. Formerly, the highest price for Pez dispensers was held by Welch who sold three dispensers for $6,000 apiece.
Ironically, the giant eBay was created in 1995 by Pierre Omidyar who came up with the novel idea of auctioning PEZ dispensers online.
Eric C. Rodenberg