Brian Rody is a collector, not a hoarderand, yes, there is a difference. He's a serious, serial, perhaps perpetual collector, a trait that runs in his family, he said.
As a kid, Rody collected shells and Wacky Packagesthe popular trading cards and stickers that were parodies of U.S. consumer products. Wacky Packages were produced by The Topps Company beginning in 1967 and are commonly called Wacky Packs.
Rody has kept all of his Playbill magazines and also picks up a rock from almost everywhere he travel to.
He was also hooked during the Beanie Baby craze … until it crashed.
"Even though the fall of Beanie Babies was a disappointment, I still enjoyed collecting so much that I wanted to pick something that I really loved; I needed to find something that didn't take up too much room and had some collecting longevity," he said.
So 17 years ago, Rody ventured into Pez collectingand he's still running strong with the candy and the varying containers for those candies.
"I [have] looked at [Pez] like little piece of art, [so] it was a perfect fit for me," he said. "What excites me about collecting is the hunt and I'm sure that's what any collector would tell you. It's trying to find that one thing that is different, the special rare one, the one variation that may not be like the original release. Once I started I couldn't stop and don't see that happening anytime soon."
Rody's Pez collection, which dates back to a Mickey Mouse Pez from the 1970s that was one of the first he ever had, is now at more than 2,100many meticulously stored and displayed in an extra bedroom/office inside his Lake View apartment.
"I've always loved Pez, since I was a kid," he said. "I can remember my cousin Paul having boxes of Pez candy and a couple really cool dispensers in the 1970s. If he had them now they would be quite pricey. I had a few as a kid and remember taking them apart to see how they worked and never being able to put them back together. If I only knew how much my curiosity would cost."
Rody grew up in Waukesha, Wisconsin, and moved to Chicago right out of college to work at The Drake Hotel. He's lived in Chicago for 25 years and, for the past 13 years, has been a commercial model/actor for print and TV commercials. Now 48, he also recently started working at Sidetrack in Boystown.
He adds new Pez every few months, though he is always on the lookout.
"Pez Corporation releases at least a couple dozen new Pez every year. Some of those can be exclusive releases to Europe, Germany, Japan, Australia or the United States, and there are also specially made Pez varieties for each convention and sometimes special sporting events," Rody said. "This past winter I added a few very rare Pez from the 1950s that I found on the Internet."
Rody is a doing regular Pez transactions on eBay.
"People often look inquisitively at me when I tell them I collect Pez and [they] often wonder why. But once they see my collection they understand and are always excited," Rody said. "They want to take pictures and then they are usually posted on their Facebook or Instagram accounts. I often get calls from my family while they are out shopping asking, 'Do you have this one?' They look out for me and often get in on the fun when I need them to stop what they are doing and go check a store in, [say], Wisconsin or California for a special edition Pez. I also have a few friends who travel for work or pleasure that have brought me back Pez from other States and countries.
"My brother-in-law, Jim, is an excellent craftsman at needlepoint, and he has made me a couple of beautiful pieces that I have framed in my Pez room. One is of a vintage Pez candy pack and the other one says 'Pezhead' which is what they call a Pez collector."
Rody said one of the most common questions he gets about his collection is also one of the toughest to answer: What is your favorite?
"I love all of them equally," he said. "I often say the [Pez of the] Joker from Batman, because I love the colors and the detail. I do have to say my new Scooby Doo characters are exciting, [too]. I have been waiting for many years for them to come out with Scooby Doo and last year they did.
"I also have some old ones that I purchased recently, including one of Bullwinkle, and also of the original Spacetroopers from the 1950s They are full body Pez that came out prior to just having the head on the stem. Santa [Claus also] was the first full body Pez and I have one of those as well.
"I think once the new Harry Potter collection comes out this September, those might be my new favorites."
Rody said traveling away from Chicago is ideal for expanding his collection. For instance, he recently was in Cleveland, so he spent hours driving around looking for rare and/or regional releases.
At home, Rody is a regular at Windy City Treatsfor the treats, not just the sweets.
"When I'm out of town, I hit all of the Walmart, Walgreens, and Toys r Us locations," he said. "Luckily I have a great sense of direction and love to explore new cities. I do learn a lot about a city and get to see some interesting sites and neighborhoods from collecting Pez.
"On this trip to Cleveland, I was on the hunt for a special Ace Hardware edition and some local sports Pez. After searching for a few months I finally found the one I needed at a Cleveland Ace Hardware."
He then went into a nearby candy store, where he scooped up at least 15 Pez that he needed. "It was the jackpot," Rody said. "Luckily I drove to Cleveland because I wouldn't have been able to fit the box of [newly purchased] Pez in my carry-on [luggage] on a plane."
Rody said the most he's spent for a Pez is $250.
"I'm happy with what I have amassed; I have almost one of every example of every Pez that has been made and I have an almost complete collection of the Mini Pez from Japan," he said. "I am still missing a few of the vintage Pez from the 1960s and '70s, [such as] Mary Poppins, the Pilgrim, Cow A, Cow B and the Indian Chief from the 1970s, to name a few.
"But I have a good collection of vintage and some rare convention exclusives in my collection."
When asked about the candy, Rody said he still loves it, but doesn't eat too much; he usually gives it away to friends or brings it to work.
"My favorite [candy] has always been the orange, but I do love the raspberry," he said. "I collect samples of the candy packs as well. They are packaged differently in Europe and other countries, and Europe also has exclusive flavors, such as licorice.
"It may just be a plastic candy dispenser, but to me they are pieces of colorful sculptures that bring back reminiscent memories of my childhood, even the smell of the candy will be just enough to do that. It's hard to believe that something so simple can bring so much happiness and joy to your life."