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Big Money for Little Kids Lunch Boxes – Have no Fear if You Can Say “I Got Your Underdog Right Here!”

Posted by mandyf on August 20, 2011

When you were carrying around a PB&J with a few cookies an apple you planned on trading away and a few carrot sticks in a baggie that no one ever really ate in that old metal lunch box, the thought that one day it may not only be a valuable collectible likely never crossed your mind. The fact is that many of those old lunch pails are in seriously high demand now – and big demand can mean big money. Collecting lunch boxes is one of those fringe hobbies that is just starting to take off as people not only yearn for memories of their youth, but look to recreate those memories in different ways. While actually finding a true and current guide of the up to date values of lunch boxes can be tricky, some of the favorites are always easy to identify.

Photo by nickd

When considering this compilation it is important to note that there are variations in the values cited versus what you may actually see if you try to purchase one of the these. That fluctuation may trend to the high or low side depending on a variety of factors such as where the purchase is being made geographically, the condition of the lunch box, accessories (In some cases a thermos is included), and these days the economy is a major factor. While some private sales have been made and surely gone unreported which may exceed that of the lunch boxes listed, what is presented is as up to date as current public records from auctions and price guides allow. As lunch box collecting is said to truly begin with the items of the 1950’s that will serve as a starting point.

The following survey will be broken down by decade rather than in the order of known/listed values.

The 1959 lunch box produced by Universal simply known as “Boating” carries a value of $458 with the thermos an additional $133. It is considered a 7/10 on the scales used to determine scarcity and the price reflected is for an example in used but very good condition.

The 1959 “Carnival” lunch box produced by Universal carries a value of $617 with the thermos being worth an additional $267. It is rated as an 8/10 on the scarcity scale and was made of flat steel.

The 1958 Roy Rogers and Dale Evans “Chow Wagon” produced by American Thermos is a steel dome model with a value of $425 dollars on its own, with the original thermos add an extra $145. This is rated as a 7/10 on the scarcity scale.

The American Thermos 1958 “Dutch Cottage” was yet another steel dome model. On the scarcity scale it rates an 8/10 and carries a gently used value ranging around $510 with the thermos adding another $140. An example of this lunch box in near new condition did manage to fetch over $900 at auction.

Photo by Greg Mote

The 1959 “Gunsmoke LL” produced by Aladdin Industries was an extraordinarily popular model with few new or like new examples known to remain. It rates an 8/10 on the scarcity scale and carries a book value of about $520, add an extra $100 for the thermos. This like the Dutch Cottage lunch box has fetched over $1000 for the pair in near new condition at auction.

The 1954 Adco Howdy Dowdy remains one of the most in demand lunch boxes on the market. While it is only rated a 7/10 on the scarcity scale, in reasonably good condition it regularly commands a price tag around $500. There was no matching thermos which came with this lunch box. While unconfirmed, collectors forums have made reports that near new examples of this lunch box have exceeded $1200 at trade shows.

The 1959 Universal flat steel “Knight in Armor” is rated as a 9/10 on the scarcity scale carrying a value in excess of $850 dollars with the matching thermos an additional $250 dollars. A near pristine example has sold (As a pair) for over $1,700 at auction.

The 1954 Universal Superman carries a list price around $800 with the thermos ranging from $175-$200. A pristine never used example of this lunch box sold for $11,999 on eBay just to prove condition does matter. Later another lesser example of this lunch box brought in $13,225 at auction.

1966 offers the Aladdin Industries “The Beattles” steel embossed lunch box. This carries an 8/10 scarcity rating with a list value of $650 and the matching thermos an additional $300 or so. As one can imagine, Beattlemaniacs will and have paid some incredible prices for anything related to the Beattles and this is no exception. Unconfirmed reports have alluded to sales of this lunch box/thermos combo exceeding $3,000, and I can personally attest to having seen it sell for over $2,300 in nearly unused condition.

The 1962 Universal “Rocky and Bullwinkle” is a flat steel box with a matching steel thermos carrying a list value which hovers around $800 and $300 respectively. Auction prices for this pair rated an 8/10 on the scarcity scale have been seen to exceed $1800, with unconfirmed forum posts claiming sales exceeding $2500 for an unused set.

The 1960 King Seely Thermos steel dome “Home Town Airport” is listed as a 9/10 on the scarcity scale which is currently being listed at around $1500 with the matching steel thermos another $350. Auction values of this set in pristine condition can easily fetch more than twice these quotes.

One of the most popular and sought after lunch boxes not just of the 1960’s, but ever is the 1963 Aladdin Industries “The Jetsons” steel dome lunch box valued anywhere from $1,100- $1,400 with the thermos holding a steady value of $350 and up. Due to the great enduring popularity of the Jetsons along with a scarcity rating of 8/10, this lunch box can bring in some ridiculous prices when found in near new to pristine condition with a personally witnessed sale which exceeded $3,000 for a mint set in 2006 at a silent charity auction. This may have been an inflated price in the spirit of giving, but there were very close bids in that same neighborhood.

The 1968 Aladdin Industries steel dome “Star Trek” lunch box is rated as an 8/10 on the scarcity scale carrying a list value of anywhere from $900 to $1,200 with the thermos holding steady at about $350. With the never ending and still increasing popularity of Star Trek. dedicated Trekkies have been known to pay prices exceeding $3,000 for this set in pristine to nearly unused condition.

The 1978 “240-Robert” Aladdin Industries steel dome lunch box is rated as a 10/10 on the scarcity scale. While its list value is generally placed at anywhere from $2,000 to $2,500 with the thermos being listed anywhere from $450 to $550, when this appears on the market it can easily demand a price of double this quote simply because it is almost never seen, especially in excellent condition or better. This is a lunch box which may one day enter the “$10,000+ Club” under the proper economic circumstances.

“Underdog” based on the popular cartoon series, is a flat steel lunch box produced by Okay Industries in 1974 with a scarcity rating of 9/10 generally listed as having a value ranging from $825 to $1,000 with the thermos hovering around $300. A pristine set has sold for over $2,000 at auction (Unverified but reported on forum boards) and is believed to have the ability to bring in slightly more, perhaps $2,500 within the next couple of years.

A Special note of one of the most expensive collectible lunch boxes goes to the 1935 oval Mickey Mouse lunch pail in pristine condition which is believed could reach a sale price of over $7,000 if ever offered on the open market.

The most important thing to consider with this compilation which must be stressed is that to this point much of what is known as to the values is drawn from personally witnessed sales that have been reported on the internet to various discussion forums for lunch box collectors and the tireless collection of data on sales from the people at Lunchbox Pad.


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