Created in Vienna, Austria, by Oscar Uxa in 1948 to replace a plain tin container, the Pez dispenser was always made of plastic, said Shawn Peterson, author of The Collector's Guide to Pez.
``You look at the old photos and you can just see [injection molding] machines and bags of styrenic pellets,'' he said. ``If you see a photo of one that looks like a shiny gold, it was just a gold-plated plastic.''
The dispenser first resembled a lighter, then was revamped in the early 1950s when Uxa began putting cartoon heads on the top - and introduced fruit flavors to supplement the peppermint original - to try to widen the appeal.
The gimmick worked, providing both a toy and candy in one, and making the dispenser its own advertisement for the Pez, he said.
``It's a complete impulse buy,'' Peterson said in a July 2 telephone interview. ``Most people don't leave the house thinking that they have to buy a Pez dispenser.''
Pez came to the U.S. in 1952. Pez Candy Inc. in Orange, Conn., makes the candy and packages it with dispensers made in Hungary and China today for North American distribution. Pez Candy's global headquarters is in Traun, Austria.
Peterson, who owns ``thousands'' of the dispensers, said people think they have seen a Pez dispenser with a Superman head - a common misperception.
``They've never made Superman,'' he said. ``Superman isn't very interesting from the head up, and that's what a Pez dispenser is.''