PEZ—The Sweetest Hobby

Published: May 22, 2024

a woman with bright green hair stands in front of shelves of thousands of Pez dispensers
Chrzanowski holds a 2024 PEZZY Award for Best Gathering. She was hard pressed to give just one response when asked about her favorite PEZ but eventually decided on her vintage Dopey dispenser, a beloved Disney character. Photo courtesy of Chrzanowski.

Beware of crushes. Especially as a 10-year-old in 1995. They might lead to a lifelong hobby, rooms of your house dedicated to your collection, a quirky and supportive community, and even a spot in an Emmy-winning documentary. Katie Chrzanowski, however, has no regrets.

After a brief crush on someone who collected PEZ, and thinking that starting her own collection would be a fun competition, she’s now the proud owner of more than several thousand PEZ dispensers, the host of the Maryland PEZ Gathering, and an extra on the set of The Pez Outlaw. But Chrzanowski ’07, visual arts, doesn’t just collect PEZ paraphernalia for the fame and glory.

She started her collection with a pumpkin head and a snowman, gifts she held onto before knowing they would snowball into a collection requiring dozens of professional plexiglass PEZ dispenser displays. (“Otherwise, they just fall over like dominos.”) Chrzanowski, who is a senior web experience/digital designer for commonvision, UMBC’s student-facing print and design shop, attributes her long connection with the fanciful candy company to the community.

Chrzanowski gives a tour of her PEZ collection.

When she began collecting, PEZheads (as they call themselves) were already active on the nascent internet. In addition to being active on the online forum, in the mid-1990s she signed up for a monthly print newsletter, which she still receives. “Everyone was so welcoming and engaging. It’s been amazing to be a part of for so many years.”

Like the animation major she was, Chrzanowski has a sweet system for organizing her collection, starting with the studio the licensed dispenser is from—Pixar, Disney, Blue Sky, and so on. “Then I organize it by franchise release date and then oldest on the left and newer on the right.” The result is a meticulous, museum-worthy, 360-degree PEZ accumulation that lets Chrzanowski show off her almost 30-year hobby.

For anyone interested in joining Chrzanowski, she says, “Start with what you love. Whatever makes you happy—there’s no right or wrong way to collect.”  

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