Wednesday, March 5, 2014

C2.Pennies From Heaven #pezoutlaw #hollywood

I think a lot about this now.
When you find it, grab hold n don't let go till your hands bleed.

For over a year prior to my trips to Europe I traveled all over Canada searching for Pez.
I used to pay roughly $1.15 to $1.25 for the pez I sold in the US for mostly $5.00 each, sometimes $15.00 n $25.00 each.
It was like I had a printing press in the basement making money.

The year I spent traveling in Canada was the primer for my decade searching the world for Pez..
Ria & Me at Pezamania 6


Canada, Where it all started.

picture courtesy of Rudi
This all began with a trip to Canada buying Canadian cereal boxes for my collection. While there I noticed a big 5 foot tall clown rack of pez dispensers. After looking it over I noticed that on it were things like Rhino Melody maker Pez dispensers, Duck Tales Pez dispensers and Tom And Jerry Pez dispensers. Doing toy shows in the US I was aware of dealers like Sue and others who were selling these Pez dispensers for $25.00 each. Realizing I could buy these Pez dispensers up in Canada for $1.25, then sell them at toy shows and in Toy Shop magazine for $5.00 to $10.00, I cleaned the racks out of non US Pez dispensers. What followed was big success in both. My toy shop advertisements went from about a dozen Pez dispensers on a page of other toys I was selling. To Two full page advertisements every 2 weeks of almost all pez dispensers.

The clown Pez Racks pictured at the left were in my experience unique to Canada. I must have bought & sold about 18 of them. The Pez distributor for Canada had a heck of a time getting the stores to hang on to them. Stores would throw them away, give them away or sell them

After that first trip to Canada I attended my first Pez convention in Cleveland. Not to sell, strictly as an observer, to see what was going on. I became aware that these pez conventions even existed because of the little classified adds run by some guy called "John the Cool Pez Man Devlin". I had notice his little classified add of 2 lines trying to buy pez for about a year. I up to then thought "this guy is some kind of weirdo". Who calls himself "the cool pez man"? This guy has to be some kind of geeky nut. After that first trip to Canada I notice another add under his for the Cleveland Pez Convention. At the time there were maybe 3 advertisements in Toy Shop Classifieds concerning Pez on a regular basis and that was it for Pez. John the cool pez man, John Laspina n Dave Welch. I always noticed The cool pez man, I mean how do you not notice a guy calling himself the cool pez man, But this month there was a classified for a pez convention.

I decided to drive down for the Saturday part of the Pez Convention. When I arrived the first thing I noticed was that it was a very small affair. The main sellers or tables were David Welch, John Laspina, Sue Sterfeld n I believe this is where I first met the guy with the freaky name "John The Cool Pez Man Devlin". There were other pez dealers but these are the people who stood out to me. 


From left to right. Me, Mary Anne Kennedy, John "The Cool Pez Man" Devlin and sorry I can't remember.

My intention was to just observe then leave, which is what I did. Dave Welch appeared to be the big deal, the guy everybody wanted to be a friend of. The Coolest Kid in Class. Dave is a good friend, but I have to admit I'm never quite sure where he is coming from, until recently when I received a very nice email where he opened up a little & gave me the advice of a friend. (On a personal note: Dave unlike your experience, with me a verbal & faxed agreement/contact was broken. Things didn't just go south as things sometimes do. People took direct actions in direct conflict with known agreements, with the intent of ruining my investment. In other words Scott & Gunther directly & consciously reproduced the Colors with the intent of causing my investment to suffer from there actions. I will probably never think those actions were acceptable.) John Laspina seemed to be the guy who wanted everybody to like him, which turns out fine because everybody indeed likes him. Sue Sternfeld was the show, the person who commanded attention & was completely on her game. That freaky guy who called himself "the Cool Pez Man" Him I remembered. He was the most genuinely nice person I met in my entire involvement in Pez & a friend for 10 years. Through him I met & grew to care a great deal for Marryann Kennedy who for me was the mother of the hobby of collecting Pez. When I decided to put on the first California convention the cool pez man was there & helped in any way he could, asking for nothing in return. Thank you "John the Cool Pez Man Devlin" the hobby has always benefited from your involvement.

At that convention I did buy 1 thing, a box of Smurf Pez dispensers from Sue Sternfeld. Today I don't remember why, but I was so mad about something concerning this purchase that I drove 1 hour past my turn north back to Michigan. I never bought from Sue again, though I did sell a bunch of Pez dispensers to her, including I think a thousand dollar pez bubble man. So in the end it all worked out fine.

After my first trip to Canada, my first pez convention and my first advertisement containing pez, I realized a couple things. There was a demand for pez dispensers not available here in the US and that this product was readily available just across the border in Canada. What followed was my Pez Outlaw primer for the European trips. For about a year and a half I traveled to Canada every month to buy Pez dispensers at Zellers stores. I went to every store in the Ontario Province (many multiple times), I know this because I had a list of all the stores. Before I was done searching for pez in Canada, I had traveled from Toronto to Saskatoon and later even British Columbia by way of Seattle.


These multiple piece head Tom & Jerry Pez Dispensers were common on the racks up in Canada at the time.              Picture Courtesy of Rudi.


This is where my life as a Pez Outlaw began. For one simple reason. You are not supposed to bring Pez Dispensers licensed to sell in Canada into the US for resale. Bringing them in required a great deal of preplanning. Where to cross borders, how to refer to them and how to refer to what you were doing. Different Pez Dealers handled the border different ways. Some hid the pez and flat out smuggled them in. Some shipped them in. I even heard of one dealer who used a drop site, though I never quite understood that one. I always preferred to hide my pez in plain sight, using friendly border crossing points. Using the the outward appearance of some crazy guy doing a nutty thing. Becoming that guy, the pez guy.


Merry Melody Pez Dispensers were aqlso common in Canada at the time.   Picture courtesy of Rudi.                                                                                   
My trips to Zellers in Ontario became so frequent that the stores thought I was the regional rep for Pez. To them I was this guy meticulously going through the racks reorganizing them. I always left the racks looking good and very organized. They must have just not noticed I was buying bags & bags of Pez dispensers retail as I left. I didn't start buying from the wholesale distributor of pez dispensers in Canada until later.


The Rhino Pez Dispenser in this picture is the one that got me thinking about going up to Canada. Dealers at toy shows were selling them for $25.00 each, back in 1992. This got me thinking, "I bet I could sell a few hundreds of these at $10.00 each." I actually sold a few thousand. I purchase probably 500 cases of the eight different Melody Makers pictured here. Picture courtesy of Rudi.


Some of the carded Pez I brought back from Canada. I was always accused of just being a dealer. Fact is I had a huge collection. Walls and walls covered in Pez. Plus about 10 Plexiglas Cabinets FULL of Pez dispensers. Which was separate from my massive inventory. 

Shortly After My Trips To Canada Started. I came out with the first Pez Handbook. These were always fun.





sorry I have no images of  Pez Handbook 8, 9 or 10
The Pez Handbooks were mostly printed in Black and White with a few exceptions. Each Pez Handbook was approximately 30 pages in length. Handbooks were meant to be promotional material and a sales tool. Even though I had a $3.00 price tag on them. I gave away almost every one with in person or by mail sales. For most issues I printed 300 to 500 copies. The handbooks had stories, convention promotion and a price guide. The last 2 pages were always items I had for sale. Plus as many pictures of Pez Dispensers as I could jam in it.

The Pez Handbooks were always the most popular Pez item I had for collectors. I was always being asked to include the latest issue.

Pez Outlaw Diary covers the character of Pez Outlaw from 1994 - 2003.
Notes From The Asylum covers Pez Outlaw from 2003 - 2017.  


Never in a million years prior to 1994 would I have thought the next 11 years of my life possible. This kind of thing only happens for other people or on TV. Looking back I still find my 11 years traveling around the world buying n selling Pez to be a bit unreal.

For a few years I lived beyond my wildest dreams. I went from an average of $30,000/$40,000 a year to almost a million one year. My ride was mind blowing. I went from not really having left Michigan to traveling to Australia, South Africa, Sweden, Switzerland, Germany, Austria, Slovenia, Czech Republic, Slovak Republic, Paris n Hungary. My fall was no less of mind blower, followed by an over 10 year deep depression.

I started my Pez adventure with under $4,000.00 cash, a tax return n what I could scrape together at the time. Over the next 11 years I turned that $4,000.00 into 4.5 million dollar gross sales. In 1998 Pez Corporation committed Fraud through Breach Of Implied Contract which eventually led to my near Bankruptcy. The only reason I did not file Bankruptcy was a mixture of stupidity and pride. 


24 years ago at the age of 44 I began the decade that in a lot of ways will define my life.
It took me 25 years to get to the point in 1994 that I was ready to make my move.
Finally I had scraped together a few thousand dollars to begin my journey.
The next decade flew by at light speed, as I traveled the world buying Pez.
I had finally caught the wave.

Everything was built on the momentum of the previous success.
Flea markets, Good Will stores, Collectibles of every description, McDonalds premiums, cereal premiums and finally Pez.
Every success rolled into the next, all building to the decisions of 1998.

In 1998 I remortgaged my home ($125,000.00) and took out an additional line of credit loan for $125,000.00.
I put that borrowed $250,000.00 plus another $250,000.00 of earnings in 1998 on the biggest play I had ever made.
I made my play, a half million dollars pushed into the middle of the table.

In late 1998 I lost, sj glew died n Pez Outlaw was born.
Everything I had worked a lifetime for ended.
Like I said my path in life has not been an easy fit.

Yes I earned 4.5 million dollars in 11 years on a $4,000.00 investment, but in the end I lost $250,000.00 on a half million dollar investment that should have yielded a million, minimum.

The question then became, when you have lost almost everything what's your next move?
All material resources gone, what's left to draw on?
It was at that low point that I realized the one asset I still had, my mind.

Over the next decade I used it along with the new tool of the internet to write my story.
The process has been very slow, 15 years now.
The goal to sell the Pez Outlaw story as a book and a movie.

I can say this much as to the progress of that dream.
Having your story optioned does not guarantee that the movie will actually be made.
So I continue working.

That day in 1998, all my dreams died.
I know Died is melodramatic but the life I had lived prior to my fall was a completely different life than the one I lead now.
4.5 million dollars in a decade to $30,000.00 a year is over a 90% decrease in income.

Before my fall as sj glew I traveled the world, now I rarely leave my property. 
Before my fall I had money, now I personally have no money.
I used to drive all over Eastern Europe, the USA n Canada.
Today I had to bring the car back from the airport n it was a challenge.
For more on or from Pez Outlaw

Notes From The Asylum - self explanatory...

The Cereal Box Price Guide Book...




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