Mandrake Summers didn’t set out to maintain a collection for 20 years when he started a competition with his friend in his senior year of high school — in 1992 — to see who could collect the most Pez dispensers.
The Aurora Highlands resident, who has been working in Arlington County’s Department of Aging and Disability since 2009, has amassed a collection of well over 1,000 Pez dispensers at this point.
“Partly, it’s a compulsion,” admitted Summers. “I can’t walk into a store, see a Pez dispenser that I don’t have, and not buy it.”
Summers, 37, cites two key advantages to his Pez dispenser collection, as compared to other types of collectables: It takes up very little space, and Pez dispensers are easy to find.
“If I were collecting antique gliders, that would be very problematic,” said Summers, whose hobby also persisted when he stationed in the Ivory Coast for the Peace Corps in 2000.
“I would keep an eye out but my post was pretty rural,” said Summers. He caught up on his collection when he returned stateside.
While he has told his coworkers about his hobby, Summers surmises that if he has gotten any notoriety for it, it’s because he posts his new acquisitions on his Facebook page. One friend told us that he likes the posts because many of the photos bring back nostalgic childhood memories.
Summers owns a number of books on Pez that he uses as field guides, and he is part of an internet community of what he estimates to be approximately 100 or so forum members, who exchange information about new finds and reliable vendors.
Asked if he has any advice for would-be collectors, Summers said: “I guess I would say collect something that’s small because if you collect large items, they’ll quickly take over your house. Decide early on what you want to collect and sort of just commit to that.”
For those who take up Pez collections, Summers has more specific advice.
“My recommendation for anyone who’d want to start, is to go out to stores that are selling Pez dispensers and just buy as many different dispensers as you can, he said. “You can start there and within a few months you can probably get 30 or 40 dispensers without having to go on eBay.”
As for whether he developed a sweet tooth via his Pez collection, Summers says he doesn’t actually eat the candy — he gives it to his stepson.