What is 'Pez Outlaw' that earned 470 million yen by smuggling candy containers?


Chris McSorley

The peppermint-flavored candy ' PEZ ' features a unique container in which the head of Mickey Mouse, Snoopy, etc. is placed in a cylindrical case, and the candy comes out when the head is pulled up. In the 1990s, it was a big hit in the United States, and there were even collectors who collected only pez containers, but a man who was troubled with daily life earned more than 400 million yen using pez. Also happened. Playboy summarizes how a man who involved the Petz headquarters and changed the movement of the times made a lot of money.

How a Michigan Farmer Made $ 4 Million Smuggling Rare Pez Containers into the US | Playboy

◆ What is 'Pez', a sweet with a popular container?
Launched in 1927 as a sweets to prevent bad breath for adults, 'Pez' was originally born in Austria. In 1952, Pez moved to the United States, hiring Curtis Ariana, who once infiltrated Auschwitz concentration camp as an Allied spy. Ariana reportedly smuggled items such as Cuban cigars with Pez. And when mint started in the United States, Pez succeeded in selling sweets for children with Mickey Mouse and Popeye's head attached to the container, and around 1990, former children who grew up with Pez became collectors. So I collected the pez containers for my hobby, not for eating.



Then, in 1992, Pez recorded sales of $ 18 million (2.2 billion yen) and became the cover of the magazine Forbes. Collectors even started collecting prototypes of Pez containers, sometimes priced at $ 3,000.

◆ Steve Gruw, also known as 'Pez Outlaw'
Although it is a Pez container that has become the predominant item in the world, there are many pirated versions of it because it is a popular item. Among them, Steve Grue made a name for himself. Mr. Grew claims to have tricked customs officials in more than 13 countries into bringing 750,000 pez containers to the United States and earning $ 4 million. 'People call me'Pez Outlaw', who has dominated the Pez black market for 10 years,' Gru said.

Mr. Grew suffered from drug addiction as a boy. After being rehabilitated and overcoming his addiction, he met and married a horse trainer, Kathy, at the age of 19, and after having three children he refused to drink, but he lost his child. It was the collection of toys that filled the holes in the heart of the times. Sometimes I sold my collection for a living, but to be obsessive, in 1991 at a recycling site called Grand Ledge in Michigan, I found empty boxes of serials and Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles . I started collecting plastic figures. I met 'Pez' while collecting toys.


Chris Devers

Immediately fascinated by the colorful and collection-worthy pez containers, Gru said to Canada when he heard that 'Pez in Canada seems to be different from the ones made in European factories.' I went out and bought a lot of pez in a box. His son, Joshua, has launched a service to sell and mail rare pez to American collectors for $ 50 each.

◆ The turning point for the birth of 'Pez Outlaw'
The turning point for Mr. Grew to become known as the 'Pez Outlaw' was in 1993 when a woman was shown a silver pez container. After hearing from a woman that there are many similar containers in Slovenia's factories, Mr. Gruw obtained a passport, pushed a fear of heights, and traveled to Slovenia in February 1994.

Gru, who entered Slovenia with Joshua, noticed that the message from the woman, 'Go to Colleen's Car,' refers to the name of the warehouse instead of the name of the town, and headed to the warehouse, but Colleen's Car did. It turns out that the manufacturing of the containers is in the town of Ormod , where the inventory for sale is stored. At that time, Slovenia was only two years independent of Yugoslavia, and Ormod was a town on the border with Croatia, so locals said, 'You should stop going,' Mr. Gru. Go straight to Ormod.


Bret Arnett

In the smog that somehow the building can be seen, the two arrived at the Pez container manufacturing factory. The two who were able to get in safely met a man who was touching the latest Pez container in the lab. Regarding this man, called 'Elvis,' Joshua said, 'Elvis was a genius, but he was very frustrated. All his experiments with Pez containers were rejected by the Austrian boss. I I told him, 'There are collectors in America who are crazy about your experiments.'

The shelves of the lab are lined with pez containers of rejected characters, and when he sees them, Mr. Gru is excited and sweats. Immediately, I had Joshua pick up the money I had in my car and bought a pez container that I could carry. At that time, Mr. Gru, who had Elvis show the container of black Santa Claus, said, 'I felt like kneeling.' After taking it back to the United States, Mr. Gruw, who sold each of these containers for more than $ 100, vowed that he would 'always go back to Europe with more money.'

◆ 'Pez Outlaw'
Two weeks later, Mr. Gru infiltrated the Pez headquarters in Hungary. I handed a bribe to the manager to make a connection and succeeded in purchasing a pez container at the factory. For example, a silver petz container made to celebrate the establishment of the factory was handed over to Mr. Gru for 28 cents (about 34 yen) and was sold in the United States for 200 dollars (about 24,000 yen). According to Mr. Grew, one trip made a profit of $ 20,000 (about 2.4 million yen), and with that money Joshua was able to go on to college. Over time, Mr. Gru established a method of smuggling pez containers, including repeated visits and increasing the amount of bribes.

David Welch, a Pez dealer who met Mr. Gru at the Pez event, said of Mr. Gru at the time, 'I really liked him, but some of what he was doing at that time was completely illegal. '. 'He was a really funny guy, he was dressed as a gorilla at the Pez event, and he was dancing to Bruce Springsteen 's Born to Run in Bingo,' said collector Chris Jordan. I told you. Sometimes he gave away pez containers for free, or went out to the balcony of the hotel to rain the pez containers in the lobby. On the other hand, his son, Joshua, runs an international business beside his college life to surprise his friends and take his girlfriend to a Pez mission to delight him with a travel-like dinner. It was said that.

The man in the photo is Mr. Joshua.

In 1996, Mr. Grew hired five full-time employees in Michigan's office, selling more than two million pets a year and spending $ 500,000 to buy pets containers. I did. But as the size of the business grows, he becomes arrogant and manipulates the market to keep out his rivals. When Kathy noticed something was wrong with her husband and took him to the hospital, he was diagnosed with bipolar disorder , but he said, 'No way! I finally found a way to use my passion.' He said he commented.

◆ 'Pez Outlaw' vs. 'Pezident'
Mr. Gru's rumor will reach the Pez headquarters, not just among collectors. Scott McWhinney, the American Pez representative called 'Pezident,' a combination of Pez and President, is known to have doubled the size of the factory and started operating 24 hours a day, but at the same time he He was on the lookout for alleging that employees were stealing goods and building fences around factory trash to eliminate collectors. For McWhinney, collectors were a nuisance that didn't add any benefit to sales.

In an interview in March 1996, McWhinney said, 'We don't make black Santa's pez, so this situation of black Santa's pez must be involved by someone outside the factory. I noticed that the Pez container was leaking from a factory in Europe. In addition, McWhinney decided to sell the bubble gum prototype container that Mr. Grew obtained from Elvis and sold for $ 1,000 (about 120,000 yen) in the United States nationwide, reducing the rarity value. I tried not to get a high price.



Finally, McWhinney came to a factory in Europe and got angry and instructed him to destroy the used molds so that he could only make genuine products. Until then, Mr. Gru was walking around the factory with his own face, but employees said, 'There is nothing to sell to you. Don't come here.' The Hungarian factory manager said, 'From here. You should go out and never come back. '

◆ Bankruptcy of 'Pez Outlaw'
In 1997, Mr. Gru and Mr. Joshua's business retreated and began to concentrate on their duties as middlemen. Then, while traveling to Spain, South Africa and Australia and collecting the pez containers that have been around, you will meet a broker who claims that you can make whatever you want.

'It's time to move on to legal means,' said Gru, who created a strange candy container he designed, which was very expensive considering the business he had done so far. To make a wide variety of containers, including orange snowman soldiers and strange Santa gangs, Mr. Gru borrowed money from a bank and spent $ 500,000 to build a large number of containers, one 25. I started selling for dollars (about 3000 yen). At this point, his son Joshua had completely withdrawn from the business.

The pirated Pez containers that started to hit the market didn't sell at all, partly because McWhinney had stated that 'that's a fake. We're not interested in putting garbage-like containers on the market.' , Mr. Grew will suffer from bad stock.

Finally, Pez will copy and sell the pirated Pez container designed by Mr. Grew under the title 'Container for people who cannot adapt to society'. Mr. Grew lowered the price from $ 25 (about 3000 yen) to $ 15 (about 1800 yen), but Petz sold for $ 4.95 (about 600 yen), so sales did not increase and he withdrew from the business Mr. Joshua who was there came out and dismissed all the employees, and finally he himself dismissed. After disposing of everything and having his house seized by a bank, Mr. Gru is still in debt of $ 250,000.

◆ Now of 'Pez Outlaw'
Joshua, who earns a living as a beekeeper, described his current life as 'returning to his original place.' Gru's wife, Kathy, said, 'I should have known more about Pez destroying my life,' but recognized the past days as 'an adventure for my husband and son.' It looks like it is.

'Pezident' McWhinney retires from Pez. Today, Pez pays homage to collectors and opened a visitor center in 2011, attracting a large number of customers every year. Meanwhile, 63-year-old Grew spends his days blogging threats to Pez. And in the secret basement, he collected Kellogg's boxes and said, 'I'll do anything to get this.'

by sokole oko

in Note, Posted by darkhorse_log