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Ogden man's love of PEZ dispensers leads to podcast

Justin D. Hansen, the co-host of “The PEZ Collection Podcast,” stands with part of his PEZ collection Jan. 31 in Ogden, Utah.

OGDEN, Utah (AP) — Justin D. Hansen ends each episode of his podcast with the same sage advice for his listeners: “Go out and dispense some good today.”

It’s a fitting admonition given that the topic of the weekly show is PEZ dispensers, those handheld, spring-loaded candy dispensers topped with the heads of cartoon characters and cultural icons.

The Ogden man, who co-hosts “The PEZ Collection Podcast” with fellow collector Andrea Gage, of Dos Palos, California, collects all things PEZ-related. He has everything from 1950s-era dispensers to the latest styles, boxes of the tiny candies the dispensers eject, and shirts, pajamas, posters — anything with the PEZ name on it.

“PEZ is just so much fun,” Hansen said. “Everybody’s got a story from having PEZ when they were younger.”

Hansen’s story began two decades ago in Slaterville, where he started collecting PEZ as a Fremont High School student. Just two years ago, he saw a set of Garfield and Odie dispensers, and he suddenly felt the urge to collect them all.

Today, Hansen — by day a window washer for Extreme Cleaning in Ogden — estimates he owns about 2,000 dispensers from Austria, Sweden, Hong Kong, the U.S. and elsewhere. He admits his collection is small compared to some.

“You can never really have them all,” he said.

The official PEZ website states that the candy was created in 1927 by Eduard Haas III, of Austria, packaged in small tins with the name “PEZ” coming from “pfefferminz,” German for peppermint. In 1949, the first dispenser was patented and introduced by Oscar Uxa.

“It was actually made for a nonsmoking tool,” Hansen said, though it didn’t work well for that. So they started marketing it to children, and that’s when the whimsical dispensers really took off.

The company is constantly adding new dispensers. In the 1960s, it came out with a Mary Poppins dispenser in honor of the movie, but Disney put an end to that. Today they are quite rare and valuable.

For the wedding of Prince Harry and Meghan Markle, the company made dispensers in the couple’s likenesses, but they made only one of each and auctioned them off for Make-a-Wish, Hansen said.

Given the ample lore and love for PEZ, Hansen and Gage haven’t run out of material for the weekly podcast they started last June. They’ve done about 30 episodes thus far for listeners in 10 countries.

“In the beginning ... we started out with PEZ facts and things like that, but it’s developed into a sort of ‘People of PEZ’ podcast,” Hansen said, with guests coming on to talk about their collections. “Mostly it’s about people and their history and their stories.”

Hansen and Gage met in an online “Let’s Talk PEZ” group after Hansen asked if there were any PEZ podcasts around out there. There weren’t any to speak of, and Gage, who was just learning how to produce podcasts, volunteered to work with Hansen on the project.

He handles booking guests, she does the back-end production. They record each show in a video conferencing program called Zoom, usually on a Sunday; the podcast is then available Thursday.

“I think Justin is a wonderful guy,” said Gage, who has yet to meet her co-host in person. “It’s amazing how quickly you can become friends over just a small thing like PEZ.”

Hansen is always happy to share his passion for PEZ with others, and he invites people to check out his website, thepezcollection.com, or to contact him at info@thepezcollection.com.

“I just want everybody to know that PEZ is for everybody,” he said. “And everybody’s got a story about PEZ. The more I dig into it, the more I realize everybody has got some kind of memory of PEZ.”

Copyright 2019 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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