What Is Penny Candy?

Brendan McGuigan

Penny candy is a broad term for any sort of candy that is sold as an individual piece, rather than exclusively as part of a larger pack. Historically, the candy was very common in stores throughout the United States and Europe, and would be sold for a single penny per piece. Due to inflation, of course, modern penny candy is more expensive, with most costing either a nickel or a dime. Although candy sales declined through the 1960s and into the 1990s, in recent years it has made a resurgence and is again seen in many supermarkets.

A mix of hard candies.
A mix of hard candies.

Many stores use the term to describe historic candies that have been around for at least fifty years, especially candies that have resisted modernization and are still produced in their traditional formats. Examples of this type of candy include jawbreakers, many types of bubblegum, and root beer barrels. A number of stores specialize in penny candy, often separating it by the decade in which it was originally created or popularized.

Classic horehound candy.
Classic horehound candy.

Popular 1950s candy that is still produced and sold by specialty stores includes the candy stick Tutti Frutti, chocolate cigarettes, and Mary Janes. Among popular 1960s candies are Brach’s candy corn, Razzles, and Pixy Stix. Popular 1970s candy includes C. Howard lemon mints, jelly Chuckles, and Boston Beans.

Peppermints and other individually wrapped hard candies are forms of traditional hard candy.
Peppermints and other individually wrapped hard candies are forms of traditional hard candy.

The more traditional type of penny candy, in which a single unit would be sold for a penny or nickel, includes things like individually-wrapped hard candies, sour candies such as Warheads, and individual bubblegum such as Bazooka Joe. Beginning in the 1960s the way in which candy was sold began to shift, and most candy manufacturers began producing their candies in larger packages that were sold for significantly more than a penny. Although a number of small shops held on to the tradition of penny candy, most stores stopped selling candy piecemeal, opting instead for packaged candy which could last longer and often had higher profit margins.

Penny candy today is most often sold by weight from large bins, allowing customers to mix and match flavors and styles.
Penny candy today is most often sold by weight from large bins, allowing customers to mix and match flavors and styles.

Starting in the 1990s, many supermarkets began to stock their own candy in large bins which people could purchase by weight, rather than by single unit. The most iconic of these modern penny candies is the Jelly Belly, which occupy entire kiosks in some stores. Generally candy sold in this way is all of an equal weight price, so that customers can mix and match freely in a single bag, and pay for a single weight. Many old penny candies have been adapted to fit into this new model, and are again available outside of packaged boxes.

Penny candy might be used to fill a pinata.
Penny candy might be used to fill a pinata.
Pixy Stix were are popular penny candy in the 1960s.
Pixy Stix were are popular penny candy in the 1960s.
Bubblegum was a popular type of penny candy.
Bubblegum was a popular type of penny candy.

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Discussion Comments

Rundocuri

Those were great times Talentryto! I remember meeting my friends on Saturday mornings to buy as much old fashioned penny candy as we could afford. Then we would all share the different varieties with each other.

Talentryto

This article brings back memories of when I was a kid and my grandfather would let me get a bag of bulk penny candy every time he took me to the local variety store. The experience of picking out a variety of different colorful candies was as fun as eating them.

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