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Farmington collects PEZ products

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Entertainment,Travel

FARMINGTON, N.M. (AP) — Chris Foy loves PEZ, but maybe not the way one would think.

"I don't eat them," Foy said on Thursday in his Farmington home, surrounded by four walls of PEZ memorabilia.

Foy likely has one of the largest collections of PEZ memorabilia in the Southwest, if not the country.

He estimates that he has more than 3,500 PEZ products, which he started gathering in 1985.

"The reason I got started was because three PEZ -- a Santa, something else, and a Mickey Mouse -- sold for more than a $1,000," said Foy, 54. "I thought, 'I could do that.'"

Foy, who sports a ponytail and lives in a fuschia-pink house, is a self-proclaimed "Hector the Collector," though it all started with his PEZ collection.

Aside from PEZ products, Foy collects a slew of other antiques that are difficult, or at least challenging, to find. He collects old Chinese checker boards, tinker toys, clocks and hot air balloon decorations.

He also collects posters and playbills that advertise the vaudeville performances that his grandfather, Eddie Foy, starred in during the late 1800s.

Still, his favorite collection is his assortment of PEZ.

The items are relatively cheap to collect, and they don't take up a ton of room.

Since he started collecting them, Foy has dedicated an entire room to PEZ products, including dispensers, candies and specialty items.

In each corner of the room, the typical cartoon-headed dispensers line the tens of shelves and display cases. Alongside the dispensers are items most people have never seen. A few of his rare finds include original dispensers from the 1950s that have no heads on them; more recent dispensers that talk; tiny, 2-inch tall dispensers; giant, 2-foot tall dispensers; toy guns that spit out the candies after loading a PEZ cartridge and toy phones that pop out PEZ when you pretend to talk into them.

Some of Foy's treasures were less than a dollar, and others cost him nearly $200 -- the latter mainly including some of the older pieces that date back to the 1950s. Though it's hard to say, Foy estimates he has spent between $5,000 and $10,000 since he began his hobby.

He has no idea what his collection's worth.

Eventually, Foy hopes to donate his entire collection to a children's organization, like a museum or a hospital.

"(The collection)'s got a lot of history, of pop culture, I guess you'd say," Foy said. "It's nostalgia."

From the Ninja Turtles to the Incredibles to a whole row of Bozo the Clowns, Foy's colorful collection of retro and modern plastics chronicles many of the pop culture icons that were popular on television or in film.

His collection, however, is not entirely entertainment-themed. Some of the items are car- and truck-shaped; others have U.S. presidents' heads on them.

"I would never in my wildest dreams imagine that there were so many different types of PEZ things," Foy said.

Because Foy has most of the recent releases, he now searches mostly for the original, older ones.

He even looks to find the pre-PEZ products that were not from the same company but likely inspired the company and other spin-off companies, like Click and Totem, which were founded before PEZ.

Other PEZ collectors are doing the same. Like Foy, about 1,000 people are regular subscribers to the PEZ Collector's News, a bimonthly pamphlet-style newsletter in which collectors can both buy and sell their items.

It also advertises PEZ conventions, like PEZ-A-MANIA, PEZ-Con and the Annual National PEZ Convention, alongside the PEZ classifieds and PEZ Letters to the Editor.

"You're like a drug dealer. You buy more to get your fix, but then you have so many you have to start selling them," said Richie Belyski, editor of the PEZ Collector's News.

Belyski began his own collection about 20 years ago and has since started his publication. He also hosts conventions.

"It's an addictive hobby," he said. "They're small, but, before you know it, one turns into 100. They're like rabbits. They multiply. They're everywhere."

And, in fact, they are everywhere.

The candy and its accompanying accessories can be found all over the world, as can their collectors. Most of the collectors purchase their new finds through eBay nowadays, though garage sales, antique shows and conventions still are popular hunting grounds.

One collector, who is not associated with the PEZ company, grew his collection to the point that he felt it appropriate to open the Burlingame Museum of PEZ Memorabilia, in Burlingame, Calif.

"We have every PEZ dispenser that was ever released," said Gary Doss, the founder and curator of the museum.

Of the more than 900 dispensers at the museum, Doss's favorite is an astronaut dispenser that was released in 1966.

He also loves a one-of-a-kind 1952 PEZ poster advertisement that he found.

Still, Foy thinks he probably has more PEZ collectibles than the museum itself, though that is not really his goal. He just enjoys the search for his next favorite object.

"I could spend two to three days just hunting for PEZ," Foy said.

"The bad thing sometimes about having such a big collection is you forget what you have."

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