Like most of us who grew up in the 1950s, I often carried my lunch to school with me. It usually consisted of a sandwich, either peanut butter or bologna, a piece of fruit, and a cookie or two. The sandwich and the cookie were always wrapped in wax paper. I usually bought a half pint of milk at school for two cents, if memory serves, so I seldom carried a thermos.
During all my years of grade school I carried one of two lunch boxes. One was an Alladin dome topped box finished in black crackle paint. The other was a square box, also made my Alladin, painted in a plaid pattern of predominately red and green.
A lot of my classmates carried boxes that I envied more than my dull but utilitarian models. Some of the kids over the years had lunch boxes with pictures of Roy Rogers or Superman on them. Some with sports teams logos, and others with cartoon characters like The Jetsons or Rocky and Bullwinkle.
Like much else from the ’50s, there is currently a lot of interest in these lunch boxes, with collectors driving up the prices to figures I would never have imagined.
An unused Superman lunchbox and thermos from 1954 recently sold for $13,500 at a London auction. The same lunchbox that has been used but is still in very good condition routinely sells for $4000 to $5000. Even in fair condition they will bring $375 to $450.
Lunchboxes from most of the TV western series from the ’50s, like Wild Bill Hickok, Gunsmoke, Wagon Train, or Bonanza fetch from $150 to well over $1000. Either one of my ordinary, generic lunch boxes I used then would bring between $25 to $100 to a collector.
A Toppie the Elephant lunchbox and thermos set, which you could get in the ’50s by redeeming Top Value Stamps, will easily set you back $3200.
Any of these, Underdog, Dudley Do-Right, Jetson’s Dome, Beatles from 1966 or earlier, and Rocky and Bullwinkle are bringing in the range of $2500 to $3500 in excellent shape and with the appropriate thermos.
Like all other collectibles, rarity, desirability, and condition drive the market place. The better shape one is in, the more you will typically pay. The better characters and more iconic TV shows or other logos on the box, the higher the prices.
It’s an interesting area of collecting that most of us aren’t aware of, but which holds lots of nostalgia to we baby boomers who remember those days represented by these lunch boxes.