100+ Vintage Lunchboxes

65

They just don’t make lunchboxes like they used to — and it’s a shame because the vintage ones (and their accompanying thermoses, too) are brilliant reminders of popular culture during the era from which they came. Look into the vault (read: Google) and find a lunchbox, presumably from the 1950s, showing James Arness, gun drawn and atop a horse, from Gunsmoke. The 1960s are represented by The Munsters, The Beatles and Planet of the Apes; the 70s have The Dukes of Hazard and Welcome Back, Kotter; the 80s Pac-Man and Return of the Jedi; the 90s Dumb and Dumber; and the 2000s Wall-E and Kill Bill. And those were just some of the ones I was able to find cataloged in various places online.

Nowadays people of a certain age (mostly those who pack a lunch and watch Disney Channel) revere ogle over famous faces like Justin Bieber, The Jonas Brothers and either Edward or Jacob, but certainly not both. While those lads have vaguely earned having lunchboxes plastered with their smiling mugs (and have they do, except Bieber, who will imminently), they just don’t stack up against, say, one showing an intricate fight scene from the original Transformers.

There’s also something about the tin or metal most of the old-school ones were constructed from, which has been fazed out in many current iterations, in favor of the possibly cheaper (and absolutely cheaper-looking) lunchboxes that feel like canvas. What with their puffy plastic decals, insulation (you know, to keep the juice-boxes cold) and zippers. Zippers!

To be fair, they still render some members of contemporary popular culture in these tin trophies, but they just don’t feel the same. The new ones lack the imagery, detail and imagination of their predecessors. Maybe the antiques seem better because a little rust goes a long way; these containers meant to carry food have endured time and use to become charming mementos more suited now for museums than cafeterias.

Thanks to everyone that has written in, the list is now over 100! Check them out below and get in touch if we missed one of your favorites. Do you remember your best old lunchboxes?


**New images added on 5/22** Keep sending us links to lunchbox photos and we’ll keep building this gallery!  Thanks to everyone who has been getting in touch.


Above: Via Retro Hound

Above six0 via Dee Adams | Thanks, Mark!

Big thanks to the io9 commenters who offered up a bunch more vintage lunchboxes, all seen below.

Left/Right: @SlayBelle, @jonconnington

@tawoody

Left/Right: @Franklin Harris, @ Elery Branch

Left/Right: @NerD: Blattella, @spideyrex

@cerasus

@fallorn

@fhbals

@bigredgambler

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  • Mark
  • peter samson

    is walle from the 1970s?

  • Billy

    Because a lunchbox is metal doesn’t make it vintage. Wall E? Kill Bill?

  • http://thejailbreak.com Quincy Moore

    I was attempting to provide a frame of reference for these lunchboxes throughout the years. My inclusion of Wall-E and Kill Bill were simply to show that the 2000s also had ones that someday might be considered vintage. Obviously they’re not yet.

  • http://shellybloggs.wordpress.com/2010/05/22/pack-a-lunch-like-its-your-birthday/ Pack a Lunch, Like it’s Your Birthday « SHELLY BLOGGS

    [...] tour of years gone by — back when we were judged by the theme of our lunch box. Check out this collection of vintage lunch boxes and see how many you recognize from grade [...]

  • http://www.thegraphical.com TheGraphical

    You have to appreciate the embossing on some of these, that’s where the real attraction lies for me. Thundercats, and Transformers in particular; wow. Having said that, the Knightrider one is looking pretty damn slick too :D Great post!

  • http://primerinc.com Lawrence

    Hello! Great post!

    When we first opened our design studio / gallery, one of the early showings we had was a collection of lunchboxes, from the stash of Angela Foell. We hung most of them on the wall, and it was quite a display.

    See here:
    http://primerinc.com/gallery_images/microstudio_space/studio_2.jpg

    More photos of the show are sprinkled throughout the gallery here: http://primerinc.com/space_ms.php

  • http://thejailbreak.com Quincy Moore

    Hey Lawrence,

    Thanks for the kind words! We officially have studio envy after looking at your photos. What an inspiring way to display the lunchboxes…

    Thanks so much for sharing.

    -Quincy

  • samba

    There are several cool things here , my personal tatse doesn;t run to 70s TV shows but on differnt aesthetic tac. the 50s and 60s stuff is mostly cooler,because of the embossing ,and better quality materials.

  • http://sandboxworld.com/vintage-lunchboxes-you-are-what-you-eat/ Vintage Lunchboxes: You Are What You Eat

    [...] Lunchboxes at one time were a status thing of what you believed in and liked as a kid. Not too many kids have lunchboxes today. They are seen more as a thing of ridicule to the carrier. They have become collector items at best and grace many shelves as a time capsule to lunches long gone. [...]

  • http://www.nerdcore.de/wp/2010/05/25/links-for-2010-05-24/ links for 2010-05-24 – Nerdcore

    [...] 100+ Vintage Lunchboxes « The Jailbreak (tags: Food) [...]

  • http://beta.steelborn-force.de/2010/05/25/lunchboxen-mit-metal-motiven/ Lunchboxen mit Metal-Motiven | Steelborn Force

    [...] Tupperdosen verwendet werden. Dass uns dabei eine ganze Menge entgeht zeigt sich, wenn man sich diese Gallerie von über 100 Lunchboxen anschaut. Ein großer Teil der Motive würde sich zumindest vom Zeichenstil und Farbwahl gut auf [...]

  • http://www.jessicarulestheuniverse.com/2010/05/27/great-asevening-bags/ Great as evening bags | JessicarulestheUniverse

    [...] 100+ Vintage Lunchboxes [...]

  • mjw

    Some source attributions under each picture would be helpful.

    Among other things.

  • http://links.gunaxin.com/index.php?page=2105 Gunaxin Links

    100+ Vintage Lunchboxes…

    This article has been featured on Gunaxin Links…

  • Howie13

    Wish I still had my Lancelot Link lunchbox!

  • AntiMyth

    Where’s the Hong Kong Phooey?

  • Howie13

    Just noticed, I had the Rough Rider dirt bike lunch box when I was about 2nd grade.

  • http://www.248am.com/mark/80s-90s/100-vintage-lunchboxes/ 100+ Vintage Lunchboxes – 2:48AM

    [...] I used to have a few when I was a kid but couldn’t find any of them in this collection. [Link] var button = document.getElementById('facebook_share_link_11161') || [...]

  • Juice

    I had the Dukes of Hazzard lunch box and the Pigs in Space one.

  • RaulJones

    I had the James Bond box…what memories.

  • salemthegoddess

    I have the Rambo lunch box with the thermos and the original send away card for a personalized license plate! They’ve never been used, and I found them at a thrift store for $4!

  • http://www.nurdle.net JChase

    **Sigh** These are “boy” lunchboxes – wouldn’t have been caught dead with these in public. My all time favorite was the Yogi Bear one with the writable chalkboard on the side (and a purple handle) My sister had the cartoon Robin Hood one – all c.1976

  • http://larryfire.wordpress.com/2010/05/27/vintage-lunchboxes/ Vintage Lunchboxes « THE FIRE WIRE

    [...] Check out this collection of lunchboxes and see one from the 1950s, showing James Arness, gun drawn and atop a horse, from Gunsmoke. The 1960s are represented by The Munsters, The Beatles and Planet of the Apes; the 70s have The Dukes of Hazard and Welcome Back, Kotter; the 80s Pac-Man and Return of the Jedi; the 90s Dumb and Dumber; and the 2000s Wall-E and Kill Bill. [...]

  • http://www.sweet-station.com/blog/?p=12093 100+ Vintage Lunchboxes

    [...] collection of over 100 vintage tin lunchboxes from the 50s, 60s, 70s and so on. Cool stuff. Click here for the [...]

  • http://blazinbecky.blogspot.com/2010/05/100-vintage-lunchboxes.html Becky The Minx’s Blog!: 100 Vintage Lunchboxes

    [...] find a lunchbox, presumably from the 1950s, showing James Arness, gun drawn and atop a …"Source:http://thejailbreak.com/2010/05/21/50-vintage-lunchboxes/ Publicado por Becky en 03:09 Etiquetas: 1950s, google, james arness, [...]

  • http://www.welikethat.de/2010/05/28/alte-pausenbrotdosen/ We like that » Blog Archiv » Alte Pausenbrotdosen

    [...] oder weniger alten Pausenbrotdosen bzw. Brotboxen aus den 1950ger bis irgendwann Jahren gibt es hier. Ein paar meiner Favoriten gibt es oben zu sehen. Wer auf so Kram steht, der wird sich jetzt kurz [...]

  • http://www.kraftfuttermischwerk.de/blogg/?p=14254 Das Kraftfuttermischwerk » Vintage Lunchboxes

    [...] Jailbreak hat Bilder von über 100 Vintage Lunchboxes des damaligen imperialistischen Großfeindes und einige davon sehen schon ziemlich kelle [...]

  • http://www.retrohound.com/ Retro Hound

    I see you have my photo of a Night Rider box, but you missed the Captain Astro. http://www.retrohound.com/captain-astro-lunch-box/

  • http://homegoddess.publr.com Home Goddess

    [...] lunchbox, presumably from the 1950s, showing James Arness, gun drawn and atop a …"Source:http://thejailbreak.com/2010/05/21/50-vintage-lunchboxes/ May [...]

  • http://neonlite.ca/funny-stuff/got-rank “Got Rank?”

    [...] 100+ vintage lunchboxes. [...]

  • http://lilo8stitch.wordpress.com/2010/05/30/vintage-lunchboxes/ Vintage Lunchboxes « Lilo & Stitch

    [...] are vintage and I really liked seeing a lot of the older designs. You can view the whole collection here. Or just peep my favorites after the [...]

  • http://marcodahms.wordpress.com/2010/05/26/coole-brotbuchse/ Coole Brotbüchse « Der fette Vogel bricht den Ast…

    [...] ALLE Brotdosen zusammen gibt’s hier.   [...]

  • http://www.zancada.com/loncheras-vintage/ Loncheras Vintage | Zancada: Cosas de minas

    [...] a un link de Maldita Lela, llegué a este maravilloso blog que en un post reúne más de 100 loncheras vintage. Una maravilla. Me acordé de mis años de colegio, cuando lo único que quería era tener una [...]

  • http://www.zancada.com/loncheras-vintage/ Loncheras Vintage | Zancada: Cosas de minas

    [...] a un link de Maldita Lela, llegué a este maravilloso blog que en un post reúne más de 100 loncheras vintage. Una maravilla. Me acordé de mis años de colegio, cuando lo único que quería era tener una [...]

  • http://omgunmen.wordpress.com/2010/05/31/sammlung-alter-lunchboxen/ Sammlung alter Lunchboxen « omgunmen

    [...] wirklich nett anzusehen. Hier klicken um detaillierte Fotos der coolen Sammlung [...]

  • http://www.kotzendes-einhorn.de/blog/2010-06/meine-lunchbox-ist-besser-als-deine-sing-es/ Meine Lunchbox ist besser als Deine, sing es! | Kotzendes Einhorn

    [...] Wie kann ich meinen Eltern jemals verzeihen keine so geile Lunchbox zu haben wie eine von denen hier oder denen hier? Ich hatte ja nichtmal ein Knight Rider Federmäppchen, aber dafür bin ich sehr [...]

  • Christina

    Wow. I’m 17 and I carry The Archies one to school. Vintage lunchboxes are the next big trend at high school. My aunt found mine in her cupboard when she was cleaning and asked me if I wanted it. I have the thermos too! I get soooo many compliments on my lunchbox and all the teachers think it’s hilarious.

  • Kristen

    I love this! i have been collecting old metal lunch boxes for few years now, i have about 22 I think. I have a few that are on here, my favorites that i have is Hanna Barbera and Dyno mutt.

  • http://ariohlala.wordpress.com/2010/06/03/vintage-lunchboxes-a-leffigie-de-films-et-series-cultes/ Vintage lunchboxes à l’éffigie de films et séries cultes « God save my blog

    [...] Pour en voir plus, c’est ici [...]

  • http://monstropolis.wordpress.com/2010/06/06/sunday-linkdump-7/ sunday.linkdump « monstropolis

    [...] [ Art ~ Bilder ~ Design ] Vintage Lunchboxes Braun hat Apple angeregt – ein Kompliment Cat-Content: American McGees Alice: Cheshire Cat [...]

  • Izzy

    I had one of these metal lunchboxes (about 1966), but, as I was walking to school (back in the days when one walked 7 blocks to school), I tripped and fell. The lunchbox fell in front of me, and the latch sprang up into the open position. My neck landed on the open latch, and it tore my throat open.

    Much bleeding ensued. I put a tissue up to the bloody neck, and continued walking to school. The nurse at the elementary school called my mom and told my mom that I had cut my throat. She came and got me, took me to the doctor (who gave me seven stiches), and I never took a metal lunch box to school again. My parents bought a plastic, soft lunchbox with a zipper.

  • Stephen Russell

    Dont forget:
    The Wild Wild West
    Bonanaza
    Seaquest DSV
    Johnny Quest
    Wonder Woman
    Charlies Angels
    Capt America
    Iron Man
    Green Hornet
    Kung Fu
    Space 1999
    UFO
    Thunderbirds
    Stingray
    Space Ghost
    Disney theme boxes
    Daniel Boone

  • Shyama

    These were great to see. Thank you to all who shared.

    I’ve always had an interest in lunchboxes, old and new, and have a couple so far. I was wondering if anyone knows of any good resources on care of them. The one I got today at a farmer’s market is pretty neat, but there are stickers on it. I was just wondering if there was any safe way to take them off.

  • http://none steve urevith

    I have 74 vintage lunchboxes forsale If interested please contact Steve at 201-934-0839 or urevith@gmail.com

  • http://oimoda.com.br/rapidinhas/colecao-surpreendente-de-lancheiras-vintage/ Coleção surpreendente de lancheiras vintage « rapidinhas

    [...] Aqui você encontra uma coleção linda com mais de cem lancheiras das décadas de 50, 60 e 70 para matar a saudade. [...]

  • http://www.molly-meg.co.uk/development/wordpress/2010/08/vintage-lunch-boxes/ molly-meg | welcome to molly-meg

    [...] Great inspiration as seen at Thejailbreak.com [...]

  • Diane

    OMG! I never expected to see it, but there it was: my Bee Gees/ Robin Gibb lunchbox, circa 1977-8. <3

  • http://www.eporiaecommerce.com EPORIA eCommerce

    Wow… I remember half of these and even had a few of them including the Six Million Dollar Man. Very cool.

  • http://tinlunchboxeshq.com Tin Lunch Boxes

    Awesome, I’m really into metal lunch boxes and I don’t think I’ve ever seen so many photos in a single post – certainly beats my record!

  • Kathy

    Hi! Have you ever seen a metal lunch box that had a dating game or prom game on it, originally with little magnets you used as playing pieces? I know I had one in 6th grade (approx. 1969) but I can’t find an example online at all!

  • Vernon

    Kathy the lunch box is Campus Queen. If you have the playing pieces, it adds value to the box!!

  • Vernon

    Don’t forget the very first rectangular children’s lunch box with a character on a red or blue box — Hopalong Cassidy!!

  • http://www.metallunchboxesnow.net tom@ metal lunch boxes

    This has to be the coolest collection of vintage boxes around… wow.

    Is that shelf with them located in a house or a store…. looks like something that I could find in LIC, Williamsburg or Manhattan.

    Awesome!

    Tom

  • http://www.jackandfriends.com Leena

    Vintage and retro decor

  • Carichards

    I have a few lunch boxes and want to know how much they are worth. They are regular size Candyland, Thomas and Friends, Monopoly, and small sandwich size for Curious George. I might want to sell them and not sure where to start. Thanks in advance for the help!

  • Pam

    I have a couple of old luch boxes , mail post office, evil Knievel . Pam  

  • Franklin

    i remember those days.sweet days

  • Alexrosmateos

    Impressionant

  • Fran Powers

    I have a metal lunch box that seems to be from the 50′s.  It has teen figures with poodle skirts and saddle shoes.  I’d like to know how much it’s worth.

  • Janll2010

    I have a Nancy Drew Mysteries, fox and hound and the berverly Hillbillies Lunch boxes to sell please get hold of me at Janll2010@hotmail.com thank you

  • Frank

    I have a Porky’s  Lunch Waggon lunch bucket that was introduced in 1959- They have one at the Smithtonian Museum in Washington. DC – How much is it worthwith someone that like to have it in their collection – I sell it for $189.00

  • EloKitti

    how can i do if i want one !? o: i searched on Ebay and there was no one…. :(  

  • Phe57

    Oh, the good old days. Before…..

  • Richard Hustwit

    I have a couple from my childhood. Born in ’78 I have a He-Man and a Thomas the Tank Engine lunch box … oh, the good ol days.