Steve Glew is a former machine operator from Michigan, United States, who is best known for making a fortune by smuggling rare PEZ dispensers from Eastern Europe to the United States. He earned $4.5 million in eleven years by selling candy dispensers on the black market. Steve’s story is presented to the public in the Netflix documentary “The Pez Outlaw”.
What is Steve Glew’s Net Worth?
Steve Glew has a net worth of approximately $1.5 million at the time this article is written. However, he has a debt of $250,000 because of the losses with this PEZ dispenser business. According to reports, Steve spends a lot of his profits trying to repay the expenses with the company. He had problems with money for several years due to the stocks of unsold products and had to get back to his life at the farm with his wife.
Steve said that he received a nominal fee for the Netflix documentary, and he should receive parts of the royalties because it is receiving a lot of accolades and acclaim. Plus, in 2022 he raised the cost of his new dispenser, after the documentary’s hype. So, most probably there could be an increase in sales and Steve would gradually stabilize his finances.
Another way through which Steve may pay his debts is by writing a book. Also, his assets include his 20-acre farmhouse in DeWitt and The Pez Outlaw trademark.
How Did Steve Glew Make His Money?
With a poor family and a difficult childhood, Steve Glew had a hard start in life. As a teenager, he struggled with drug abuse and alcohol abuse for several years. So, he was able to find a stable job much later in life. There isn’t a lot of information available about Steve’s initial career, but we know that in the 90s he worked as a machine operator and earned some additional money with a catchy side business.
Steve searched in the trash cans of a recycling company and collected the cereal boxes with the coupons printed on them. With these coupons, he gathered the toys offered by the cereal companies. Over time, Steve amassed thousands of toys, which he then sold at local fairs and collectors.
In 1992, Steve found a man who was making good money from selling PEZ dispensers. He made his research and discovered that he could source the same dispensers from a Slovenian warehouse.
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So, in 1994, with $4,000 of his savings, Glew traveled to Ljubljana, Slovenia for the PEZ dispensers. There, he bribed border control and security guards to get access to the warehouse. After that, he smuggled back the dispensers in bulk to the United States and sold them at PEZ conventions and collectors.
Over the following eleven years, this little investment brought great profits. Steve traveled to Eastern Europe with $10,000 in his pocket almost every month and returned to the US with ten thousand PEZ dispensers.
Steve sold these products at great prices because these included yet-to-be-launched prototypes and some that were rare or discontinued in America. He was able to bring the dispensers into the country legally because PEZ Candy Inc. had not registered its trademark with US customs.
However, Steve Glew was still not authorized to sell them. But the company didn’t sue him, so he continued working on his business. He said that he was paying $0.27 for a dispenser that he sold for $5.
Moreover, factory rejects, new prototypes, and discontinued models would help Steve to make a profit of $25 to $1,000. He said that he earned around $4.5 million in eleven years by smuggling two million PEZ dispensers into the United States.
For instance, only in 1998, Steve earned almost $750,000 and hired six people. A few years later, Glew made a deal with a European PEZ Candy Inc. executive, who helped him to start sourcing dispensers from Hungary.
With such impressive earnings, Steve Glew improved his lifestyle and afforded to purchase a larger farmhouse for his family and pay for his children’s higher education. Though, when PEZ Candy Inc. started to crack down on the US black market, Glew’s collaborator backed off.
But Steve came up with a new plan in order to continue his operations. He designed eighteen new PEZ dispenser prototypes and collected $250,000 by taking out a loan and remortgaging his house. With this money, he started a collaboration with a toy broker and convinced PEZ Candy Inc. to produce his prototypes.
This third party would place bulk orders for the prototypes to PEZ Candy Inc. on behalf of a German candy maker that wanted to sell them in Taiwan. The dispensers were to be diverted to Michigan, where Steve sold them for $25 each.
The sales grew immediately and Steve registered sales of $2.5 million. But these good days didn’t last long as PEZ Candy Inc. replicated Steve’s prototypes and sold them at a much lower price.
Even though Steve tried to lower his prices, his sales were eventually outsold by PEZ Candy Inc. company, leaving him with a debt of $250,000. Moreover, he had a lot of stocks of brand-new dispensers and no buyer.
In 2010, using the name “The Pez Outlaw”, Steve Glew started to write a blog about his life. The next year, he put it on sale on eBay, offering book and movie rights for $750,000. Playboy Magazine wrote an article about Steve’s life in 2015 but didn’t pay him anything.
After a failed deal with Warner Bros., Steve was contacted by Netflix for a documentary. When there was an official deal, Steve made a new candy dispenser that featured character heads based on his alter-ego, “The Pez Outlaw”.
These are produced by a 3D printing company that is based in Texas and come in different funky avatars that resembles Steve. At the price of $30 per piece, Steve Glew hopes that he will have success again in business.