There’s no sugarcoating it: Brian Trauman is the king of candy dispensers.
That’s because the North Caldwell, New Jersey, man owns 5,548 PEZ dispensers, making him owner of the largest collection of candy dispensers.
Brian has had many collections throughout the years, including baseball cards, stamps, coins, business cards, and beverage cans, but none of them really took off as his PEZ collection did.
He first started his collection in 1999 after finding a bag of dispensers at his mom’s house.
“I had a bag of about 100 in my closet at my mom’s place, and my mom decided it was time for her to reclaim that space,” said Brian.
I had to decide whether to throw them away or keep them. So, I kept them, and decided ‘I’ll just get the rest.’ Little did I know what that would entail!
Brian then decided to complete his collection.
“I started the quest to ‘get them all’ in 1999, when I finally had a decent internet connection, and access to eBay,” said Brian.
“I didn’t know how many that might be, or anything about how long they’ve been around.”
Brian originally began collecting very cheap PEZ dispensers, before moving on to rarer ones only available abroad and older, more expensive ones.
While some are only worth between one and two dollars, there are plenty worth more than $20, some worth more than $100, and multiple dispensers worth more than $1,000.
Brian says a few of them are even worth more than $10,000!
Besides the candy dispensers he’s purchased on his own over the past 24 years, Brian also has PEZ dispensers that were gifted to him by family and friends.
“My sister gave me a Yoda PEZ to help me study for the bar exam,” he said.
“There were others along the way.”
Brian finds joy in collecting candy dispensers and says he feels a burst of excitement whenever he adds to his collection.
“There are times (often) when I look around at the collection and wonder what I’m doing, why I’m fascinated by these, and why I spend money on them,” he said.
I wonder what I’ll do with them when I move, what my family will do with them when I die, how they’ll be burdened by the chore of selling them, and so on. But it brings me joy.
At one point, all of Brian’s dispensers fit into a small shopping bag.
Now, they take up a 15 by 30-foot room.
Brian even has a storage and organization process for each of his dispensers.
“Some of the excitement for me, and for some of the other collectors, is keeping a log of what I have,” he said.
“My organization involves a detailed spreadsheet as well as pictures and videos that allow me to see colour variations and other differences that are hard to capture in words.”
It is also very important for Brian to have his candy dispensers properly on display.
Although his displays have changed many times over the years, he currently has the candy dispensers stored in custom glass cases and on shelves without any visible barriers.
Although Brian says it’s not a “perfect” system, it does prevent the dispensers from getting dusty and protects them from damage.
“I wish I had a camera set up to capture people’s faces when they first walk into the room,” he said.
They know they’re going to see a collection, and I’m not sure what they think on their way to the collection, but when they get to the room there is an open-mouthed shock.
Brian’s PEZ dispenser room is set up like a museum and is well-lit, clean, and neat.
He even has security cameras set up throughout the room, a separate insurance policy for the PEZ dispensers, and special UV filters to protect them from fading.
Brian tries to maintain some symmetry in his collection so that there aren’t any mismatched racks or displays.
“I think this organization catches some folks off-guard,” he said.
“Some people spend a few minutes asking a few questions, and others are down on their knees, looking for their favourite characters, asking about the history, reminiscing about their own PEZ dispensers, and so on.
“That’s my favourite reaction, and yet I’m always still a little embarrassed about it all!”
Some of Brian’s favourite dispensers include ones depicting Prince Harry and Meghan Markle.
“Very few of these were ever made, and they were auctioned off by PEZ to raise money for Make a Wish,” he said.
I won an auction and made a sizeable donation to the charity, in exchange for these dispensers.
Brian also owns a handful of books that allow him to track which dispensers he currently has and which ones he has yet to collect.
“There’s The Original Collector's Price Guide to Pez by John LaSpina, a couple of solid books on specific variations by Jeff Rosenberg, and two bibles of history – one by David Welch and one by Shawn Peterson,” said Brian.
“I use these to know what I don’t have, and what the history is for some that I do.”
Brian has also created a spreadsheet that captures all the details from the price guide, as well as a dozen other characteristics that he tracks.
This makes it easier for him to keep track of details including which dispensers he currently owns, when he got them, what he paid for them, when they were created, and what unique features they may have.
Brian also has a method for tracking down the candy dispensers that are still missing from his collection.
While he used to primarily find them via eBay auctions listed throughout the world, it has proven to be difficult and time-consuming.
Although he will sometimes still browse eBay auctions, Brian now attends PEZ conventions to shop for missing dispensers.
“My videos have sometimes highlighted for viewers what I’m missing, and sometimes they send them to me,” said Brian.
And now that I’m at this ‘stage’ of collecting, I occasionally have some PEZ dealers come directly to me with pieces I don’t yet have.
Brian does have some regrets when it comes to certain candy dispensers that he never purchased.
“I’ve passed up a few that I shouldn’t have. I still think about those,” he said.
“It’s usually because I can’t see spending the kind of money needed to get those. I’ve never seen those up for sale again.”
Brian would like to continue adding to his candy dispenser collection and is thrilled to hold a Guinness World Records title.
“I spent a long time counting and documenting my collection for Guinness World Records, so it was great to see that pay off,” he said.
“I was worried all that work would be for nothing, but it was fun, and I kept checking the website to see if I got the title. That was a very cool day when I learned about it!”
For those interested in collecting their own candy dispensers, Brian says to be ready to do a lot of preparation and documentation.
He says that there are many ways to collect them, but it’s important to start with what you like.
“Some collect just one type, some collect just new things, or just vintage, or just ones without feet, or whatever,” said Brian.
That’s kind of the fun, understanding what you like and meeting others who understand what they like. There are a lot of creative and interesting people in this community, and almost all of them are very kind and helpful, especially to new collectors.
Brian currently has his eye on a few new and rare pieces and would eventually like to attend the Vienna International Pez Gathering.
For now, though, he’s enjoying his newfound record title recognition.
“My youngest niece is pretty excited that I’ll be in the same book as the guy with the longest fingernails,” he said.
I appreciate this opportunity! It has been and continues to be, lots of fun!Find out more about Brian's amazing records in Guinness World Records 2024, available from September 2023.
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