Definitely, beyond any doubt, NOT junk!
If you just threw one out, better start dumpster diving, because the rarity of a 1982 World’s Fair PEZ dispenser has driven its price up to over $30,000. Why would anyone pay that much for a candy dispenser? Well, we’re glad you asked.
The Wacky World of PEZ Collectibles
As far as collectors can tell, the above-mentioned PEZ dispenser, from the Headley-Du Vall PEZ Collection, is the only remaining example of its line. Like other PEZ lines, it has ended up almost entirely in the landfill. This is because that kids tended to throw PEZ dispensers out after the first use, much like other ultra-cheap toys.
Unlike other toys, however, PEZ dispensers have not diminished in popularity. With PEZ boutiques and museums opening across the country, they are still part of the public awareness. This popularity has increased speculation in PEZ as collectibles, driving prices up across the board. Although the 1982 World’s Fair dispenser is the most valuable, many other PEZ dispensers are also worth hundreds or thousands. Oddly, a large chunk of the big-ticket items are, like the World’s Fair dispenser above, astronauts.
Looking at the astronaut PEZ dispensers on eBay, we can see why these rock the PEZ collecting world. Unlike the cartoon characters and popular musicians that fill the PEZ shelves, astronaut dispensers do not have any set or trademarked look, and instead reflect the time and culture when they were produced. An Austrian-only astronaut PEZ, valued at only $1000, shows a highly stylized diver helmet, while the 1982 World’s Fair astronauts show influence of American sci-fi movies. This variety makes it easy to date and place dispensers, and thus easier to distinguish rare ones from common ones.
Other Valuable PEZ Dispensers
Age counts for a lot in PEZ dispensers: the original Austrian dispensers, lacking any decoration, still sell for about $1500. More generic dispensers, like Mickey Mouse, can also sell for a lot if they are from discontinued lines. Since so many PEZ dispensers are thrown out, the ones that make it to age 40 or 50 tend to be worth real money.
Even newer dispensers can be worth a bit of money if they are rare or come from a set. Look for PEZ commemorating certain movies or world events. These typically only have one run and can appreciate rapidly.