Pop Culture Pezervation

Dave Bernier + Museum of PEZ Dispensers, Sanbornton

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When retired state Bureau of Traffic designer Dave Bernier goes to sleep each night, there are dozens of tiny eyeballs staring at him. Among the familiar faces squinting in the dark: Daffy Duck, Tweety Bird, Tom & Jerry, E.T., Speedy Gonzales, Batman, and Bullseye, the eye-ringed dog mascot of the Target Corporation.

The PEZ retail display rack and wall- mounted shelves of characters in his bedroom are a mere fraction of the hundreds of PEZ dispensers decorating his home and the countless thousands of others that unceremoniously live in storage.

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Dave and Patti Bernier, who got engaged at a PEZ convention, also had a PEZ-themed wedding cake topper.

“I just love the character heads, the bright colors and the history,” Dave says. “Collecting just takes me back to the late 1960s when I would be grocery shopping with my mom. It was a ritual for us to buy a new one whenever we were in the checkout line.”

For those unfamiliar with ubiquitous PEZ candy, the company was founded in 1927 in Austria, first specializing in peppermint tablets. PEZ came to the United States in the 1950s and introduced plastic character heads to their spring-loaded dispensers — which have becomepop cultural icons.

Dave proposed to his wife, Patti, at the 1999 Northeast PEZ Collectors Convention in Connecticut, and later hired an artist to make a PEZ wedding cake topper portraying her as Princess Leia and him as Mueslix (from the European “Asterix” comics).

“I’m just amazed that PEZ dispensers are still in the supermarket aisle,” he says. “New kids are discovering them every day.”

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Dave Bernier, channeling the spirit of a candy dispenser at PEZ headquarters in Connecticut, fondly recalls childhood grocery shopping with his mom whenever he sees PEZ.

Note from the editor: Supercollectors Square

This profile appeared as part of a larger article in the September 2023 issue of New Hampshire Magazine highlighting some of the fascinating collectors and passionate collectors in the state.

To learn more about the other Granite State Super Collectors, click here.

Categories: Collector’s Collections