The decades-old underground network of PEZ collectors are out there, and they're coming to Orange, thanks to the presence of the . When they arrive, they'll see a colorful facade, the factory floor where PEZ is made -- and a new recurring feature showcasing some of the world's best private PEZ dispenser collections. And a woman from close to home is this month's featured collector.
Amy Potts of Milford started collecting PEZ dispensers on a whim when she saw a rack of truck-shaped dispensers at . Those original trucks are on display at the visitor's center, along with a selection from more than 750 PEZ dispensers she's collected over the years. She's a rabid collector -- not just of PEZ. It's in her blood.
"My family all has a collection of some sort or other," she says. "I probably have seven or eight of them."
Her collection isn't just limited to PEZ dispensers -- although there are plenty of those, from rare Donald Ducks to factory prototypes. There are PEZ puzzles. ("I put this one together every five or six years," she says, "just to refresh myself.") And mementos from the days when PEZ collection was an underground subcultures of aficionados and obsessives.
Before the internet came along, PEZ collectors had to get creative to find each other. Potts found a book by Shawn Peterson that guided her as she built her collection. Years later, Peterson would put his formidable collection -- and his unrivaled knowledge -- to use as the PEZ visitors center's director.
"He puts me completely to shame," says Potts. "His stuff is completely unbelievable." Peterson's collection, including everything from Peanuts to Batman, served as the basis for the center's collection.
Potts and Peterson both learned the trade reading The Optimistic PEZimist, a magazine for PEZ collectors, featuring black-and-white photos of rare and unusual dispensers. Now one of her copies is on display alongside her collection.
"That was the only place you could find out who had other dispensers to collect," she says. "That's where you'd find out about the secret, midnight, Saturday-night phone auctions." Not just that, but the zine would offer news about the conventions for PEZ collectors across the country.
From secret Saturday night phone auctions to conventions, Potts is living proof that collectors have finally hit the mainstream. Her PEZzes are on view at the visitor's center through the month of August, along with the center's usual eclectic collection. And she'll be there too.
"I kinda feel like this is another one of my homes," says Potts. "Every time I come in, I feel at ease -- because it's my place. It's PEZzes. It's what makes me happy."