Vintage Lunch Boxes – Those Were The Days

Lunch pails and lunch boxes have been used to carry lunches to save your sandwich from being smashed since the nineteenth century. Nineteen hundred and two was the first year they were made and those first containers were shaped like picnic baskets. There were also scenes of children playing on them. Early tobacco advertising boxes or children’s lunch boxes made since the 1930’s are what collectors are focusing on today. These boxes were made of metal or plastic, and usually held a Thermos with the same artwork that was on the lunch box.

I remember these from my school days, way back in the Stone Age, and they did keep your sandwich from getting smashed, and your milk would stay nice and cool inside the Thermos, but I also recall that they were often used as weapons if any fights broke out while we were all waiting on the bus to pick us up or take us home, and occasionally in the cafeteria too, but the monitors then didn’t put up with any nonsense from mere kids, so that didn’t happen quite as often there.  I do know they were sturdy items.  At least until they stopped making the metal ones and started in with the plastic, which while still tough, was no match for the others.  The plastic ones were prone to cracking, and the metal ones only dents.

I haven’t had kids in school in a while so I don’t know if they’re still using lunch boxes or not, but I imagine so, and I think I remember seeing them in Wal-Mart near the start of the school year, but I know one thing, and that’s that they were nowhere near as cool as the ones I’m about to show you next. I’m a little uncertain of the dates from manufacture until the product line ended, but I’m sure of the pricing on these as I’ve checked on eBay and Kovel’s antique and collector’s guide.

The A-Team

This is from 1985 and George Peppard and Mr. T did make a good team along with Dirk Benedict and Dwight Schultz.  It took all four of them though to do what McGyver did all on his own with a single paper clip.

$25 to $300

The Flying Nun

Do any of you remember Sally Field before anyone really, really, liked her?  Before Burt, and the Bandit, before Places In The Heart, she was The Flying Nun.  These were all dated 1968 when I searched, and there were all different types, so that will also explain the extensive price range.

$25 to $500


If you’re of an age you may remember everyone’s favorite dog, Lassie, who always managed to get Timmy out of the bottom of the well before he dehydrated or died.  If not I believe you may be able to catch reruns on Nickolodeon, or YouTube for certain. This box is from 1978.

$45 to $100

The Archies

Kids today don’t know what they’re missing not having the comic books we had, or at least some of us read, when we were kids.  Archie and Veronica and Betty and Jughead and their troubles seem so simple now in retrospect, First World Problems.  They even had their own television show, although short lived. This box is from 1969 and the only one I came across in my search.

$25 to $200

Disney’s School Bus

This dome shaped lunch box has several of Disney’s favorite characters looking out of the windows and is dated 1972.  Be happy I didn’t post the Mickey Mouse Club song.

$45 to $75

The Dukes of Hazzard

This show was insanely popular when it first aired and for quite some time after it went off the air, and all you men can forever thank this show for bringing hot pants, or rather, “Daisy Dukes” back into fashion.  This particular box is dated 1980.

$22 to $110

Evel Knievel

This guy was quite the showman and everybody loved Evel dressed in his Elvis-like leathers as he attempted to go higher, and further and faster than anyone before him. Does The Snake River Canyon jump ring any bells?

$28 to $75

The Beverly Hillbillies

This had to be one of the craziest shows to come out of the 60’s.  Irene Ryan played “Granny” to perfection and Buddy Ebsen actually made hillbillies in Beverly Hills seem like a possibility.  This box is from 1963.

$38 to $500

A lot of the differences in prices can be attributed to condition, such as whether the Thermos is still with the box, and if the paint is faded or chipped and if there are any dents from anything. I wish I’d known how much they might be worth back then.  I would have taken better care.  It might be worth a trip up to your parent’s or grandparent’s attic to see what may be stashed there.

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