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.
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