How a Michigan Farmer Made $4 Million Smuggling Rare Pez Containers into the U.S.

By Jeff Maysh

How a Michigan Farmer Made $4 Million Smuggling Rare Pez Containers into the U.S. : Photography by Dan Saelinger

Photography by Dan Saelinger

It was the first week of January 1994 and snow drifted across the Hungarian border into Austria. The mechanical sputter of a small car approaching the rural checkpoint broke the afternoon silence. Peering through binoculars, an armed guard noticed the carโ€™s driver, his face obscured by dark glasses and a long beard. The guard gestured with his leather-gloved hand for the vehicle to stop. Steve Glew, 42, stepped out of the car wearing a long trench coat, a blue velour tracksuit and Nike sneakers. His son Joshua, a college freshman, emerged bleary-eyed from the passenger side. A bulging military sack occupied the backseat.

The smudged stamps inside their passports told the guard of the Americansโ€™ haphazard route across the freshly divided Yugoslavia. Just days earlier the men had arrived in Slovenia by plane from the U.S. with no luggage and thousands of dollars strapped to their bodies. Now they were trying to cross the border into Austria from Hungary, one of Europeโ€™s most beleaguered countries, with a bag full of mysterious cargo. The guard pointed at the sack with the barrel of his semiautomatic rifle.

โ€œOpen,โ€ he said in an iron voice. โ€œSchnell.โ€ Quickly.

The Americans refused.