Friday, March 5, 2010

Vintage Lunchboxes - Part I, the boxes I had as a kid

I got back into collecting baseball and football cards in the late 1980s but eventually lost interest in those when I started collecting old lunchboxes.  For several years I was a dyed-in-the-wool boxaholic.  I still have many of the ones I picked up on display in our basement, but I don't buy them very often any more ([after all, you can only stretch hobby dollars so far ;-).

I have managed to re-acquire the boxes I had as a kid: Tarzan, Rat Patrol, and Laugh-In.

Many of the boxes I picked up came in a single trade I made with a guy who gladly took many of my boyhood baseball cards that I had never let my Mom toss out.  When we made the trade around 1992, I drove about 80 miles to meet the guy half way.  I barely got all 110 boxes shoved into our Honda Accord for the return trip!  Shifting the manual tranny was a challenge, and visibility was too with cardboard boxes stacked everywhere, but I managed. The rest of my boxes came via ebay, flea markets, antique stores and other auctions.  I found over the years that a lot of collectors strive to find mint, untouched boxes -- for me, I prefer the boxes that got used and loved but are still in presentable shape.

The market for these old boxes has gone up and down a lot.  About six years ago, I sold off most of my dome-top boxes and used the money for my old car hobby.  The remainder of my collection is based mostly around 1950s and 60s boxes, with most relating to old TV shows.  I'll showcase some of my other lunchboxes in future posts.

How about you?  Boxaholic?  Carry one as a purse?  Do you still have the box you carried to school?  Were you one of those poor, uncared-for plaid box carriers?  Any stories of great finds?  I have some others I'll tell one of these days.


  1. These are great! When I was growing up, the cool kids carried plastic boxes, I carried a brown bag, which was THE WORST!

  2. There was something about the smell of your lunchbox when you opened it come lunchtime, wasn't there? I still remember the smell. Not bad! Just a distinct smell of a sandwich and whatever having been stored in a metal box for a few hours.

    I cannot recall what lunch boxes I had as a kid, but metal were the only one's available back then.

    I do remember it was a big deal what kind you had. If you have an unpopular lunchbox, the other kids made sure you knew about it lol.

  3. <I carried a brown bag, which was THE WORST!

    Leah, you poor thing.

    <I remember the smell of sour milk from the thermos, but that smell only lingered until you dropped the thermos and broke the glass vacuum liner.

    When I was in grade school in the 1960s and early 70s, besides metal there were also cardboard-covered vinyl boxes. You should look at photos of old boxes, I'll bet eventually you'll see one and remember carrying it. That's how I remembered the Tarzan and Rat Patrol boxes I carried. Before I saw a book of photos I could only recall the Laugh-In box. It's a funny feeling when a photo will trigger a memory buried deep in your brain.

  4. We were lunch money brown bags even! There were 5 of us and we would eat all the "lunch fixin's" before the week even began. Like locusts! My mom finally gave up on the home made lunch idea. As an adult I have a couple plain "working man's" lunch boxes to pinstripe but never got into the kids stuff. I love your collection makes me miss what I never had!

  5. It's a shame Amber that so many were born too late to experience the classic lunchbox era first hand :-) Heck, get yourself an old lunchbox now and fill it with a PB and J, some celery, an apple and some oreos. Don't forget the napkin. Mmm Mmmm!