Burlingame museum boasts every PEZ dispenser 

click to enlarge Hundreds of vintage dispensers are in a collection at the Burlingame Museum of PEZ Memorabilia, which attracts thousands of vistors every year. - COURTESY BURLINGAME MUSEUM OF PEZ MEMORABILIA
  • COURTESY BURLINGAME MUSEUM OF PEZ MEMORABILIA
  • Hundreds of vintage dispensers are in a collection at the Burlingame Museum of PEZ Memorabilia, which attracts thousands of vistors every year.
Hiding on a nondescript block in downtown Burlingame behind a nondescript façade, the Burlingame Museum of PEZ Memorabilia is nothing short of fascinating.

In a room at the back of a store that sells PEZ merchandise, the one-of-a-kind museum boasts an example of absolutely “every PEZ dispenser ever sold,” says proprietor-curator Gary Doss, who began collecting 22 years ago.

At the time, the Burlingame native thought, “What a silly thing to collect” and immediately began amassing his amazing treasure trove.

His personal favorite, among hundreds of clowns, superheroes and Mickey Mouses: 1968’s “Psychedelic Eye.”

Today the museum, which opened nearly 20 years ago, welcomes some 8,000 visitors annually; many are international PEZ aficionados.

Invented by Eduard Haas III in Vienna in 1927, PEZ takes its name from the first, middle and last letters of “pfefferminz,” the German word for peppermint. In an effort to boost sales of the rectangular breath mint, small plastic dispensers resembling cigarette lighters were available at a Vienna Trade Fair in 1948 and soon after in the U.S. Above the display cases, the museum’s walls are covered with fun artifacts about PEZ history, including a large vintage poster and the original neon sign that once graced the PEZ factory in Vienna.

A collection PEZ dispensers sporting the eBay logo are a nod to the (fabricated) story that eBay was founded to help the fiancée of eBay’s inventor trade PEZ dispensers. And one playful exhibit proclaims, “May the PEZ be with you!”

There’s more than PEZ on view, too. The Classic Toy Museum, a baby boomer’s paradise also on site, showcases toys that are over 50 years old in their original packaging: Lincoln Logs, Mr. (and Mrs.) Potato Head, Frisbee, Erector set, View Master, Ant Farm, Play-Doh, Easy-Bake Oven, Colorforms, Tinkertoys and lots of Legos.

The Banned Toy Museum is a unique selection of toys taken off the market. It includes lawn darts, which were banned in 1988 after a sharp heavy metal arrow caused injury and at least one recorded death; a 1951 Atomic Energy Laboratory with four containers of radioactive material; and Crayola’s “Magic Scent” crayons in “flavors” such as chocolate, grape and bubble gum, which, unsurprisingly, were irresistible for children to eat.

IF YOU GO

Burlingame Museum of PEZ Memorabilia

Where: 214 California Drive, Burlingame

When: 1:30 to 5:30 p.m. Tuesdays-Saturdays (call to confirm)

Admission: $3

Contact: (650) 346-2301, www.burlingamepezmuseum.com

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Jim Van Buskirk

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