What does the word "vintage" conjure up for you? For us, it's homemade chocolate chip cookies, red and white checkered tablecloths, home-cooked Sunday dinners, and that whole Donna Reed fantasy life. Lots of memories are tied in with food, whether it’s Grandma’s cookies, or Mom’s Sunday roasted chicken. Some of the more vivid memories for millions of kids everywhere center on their home-packed lunches, lovingly stowed in their favorite lunch box. The ultimate status symbol for a grade school kiddo, lunch boxes carried your Wonder Bread sandwich, provided a conversation starter with your buddy in the cafeteria about whether Superman or Batman was superior (it’s Superman, clearly), and sometimes contained embarrassing notes from your mom. For lovers of vintage pop culture memorabilia, collecting everyday items is comforting, and some of the biggest collectibles these days are vintage metal lunch boxes.
In 1950, a company called Aladdin produced the first true lunchboxes of the era, decorating plain metal boxes with stamped pictures of Hopalong Cassidy. Then, in 1953, riding the cowboy and Indian craze of the time, Roy Rogers and Dale Evans parlayed their popular Western-themed TV show into a lunch box, which sold 2.5 million units in its first year of production.
For the next 30 years or so, metal lunch boxes entered a golden age; pop icons from The Beatles to Barbie were featured on their own box. And let’s be honest, having a cool lunch box was what really got you into the "in" crowd in elementary school (along with how good your dessert was and whether or not you were willing to share and/or trade).
In 1985, after a group of concerned mothers in Florida protested against lunch boxes for fear that they could be used as weapons, the last metal lunchbox (which ironically featured the rather violent Rambo) rolled off the production line.
Back in the day, just having a cool lunch box was enough to be proud of. But these days, if you happened to keep your lunch box from way back when in mint condition, then you might have something to be really proud of on your hands: a potential gold mine.
We’ve found the 10 most insanely valuable lunch boxes out there, and ranked them for you — the prices some of these fetch could buy you a new car! Would you pay thousands of dollars for a dented Dudley Do-right box? How about 240-Robert? Read on to find out more about the coolest and most expensive vintage lunchboxes on the market today.
1. Star Trek (1968) — $1,450
This highly collectible lunch box is one of the few officially licensed Star Trek products that were sold during the show’s initial run. It was a huge success, reportedly selling over 250,000 units, and features the Enterprise on the front, and Kirk and Spock in dramatic action poses throughout. A mint-condition lunch box and Thermos set usually sells for upwards of $500, but has sold in the past for nearly $1,500.
2. Rocky and Bullwinkle (1962) — $1,600
Maybe one reason that The Rocky and Bullwinkle Show endured is that the humor presented in the show was designed to appeal to both adults and children. The flying squirrel Rocky and the moose Bullwinkle from Minnesota were ubiquitous features on 1960s TV. Although Rocky and Bullwinkle first appeared on TV in the late 1950s, they didn’t have their very own lunchbox until 1962. This rare find can fetch up to $1,600 at auction and features Rocky, Bullwinkle, and villains Boris and Natasha.
3. The Beatles (1966) — $1,600
Are you a John, Paul, George or Ringo fan? Beatlemania swept the nation with the arrival of the lads from Liverpool in the 1960s, so it’s no surprise that they received the honor of having several lunch boxes made using their likenesses. Beatles fans can (and do) spend crazy amounts of money on memorabilia for the band, but a $1,000 lunchbox/thermos combo? Groovy, baby! This set (actually a steal considering the lunch box has reportedly sold for $1,600 in the past) is currently listed on eBay, so you can make it yours if you need a fancy carrier for your PB&J on Wonder Bread and juice box.
4. The Jetsons (1963) — $1,650
The Jetsons became popular during the space race of the 1960s, so what better way to tote your Tang and freeze-dried ice cream than a Jetsons lunch box? This popular collector’s item is valued anywhere from $1,100 to $1,650, with the thermos valued at about $350 or more. This lunch box remains one of the most popular and sought-after collector's items of the 1960s.
5. Dudley Do-Right (1962) — $2,200
Originally from a segment on The Bullwinkle Show, Dudley Do-Right is a goofy cartoon Canadian Mountie who is always foiling his arch nemesis, Snidely Whiplash. Dudley might be dim, but anyone who invested in this lunch box is a genius, since they’re sold in mint condition for more than $2,200!
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