How did you get started collecting lunch boxes? Does your husband share
your collecting hobbies?
My husband Duane and I starting collecting lunchboxes together. We started in 1985. I think it is the secret of our fantastic marriage. We have traveled all over the country looking for them. I even found one in Mexico.
How long have you been collecting, any special types?
We have been collecting for 20 years. Our last count was 550. We have metal, vinyl, and plastic boxes in lunch bag, dome and box styles.
Where do you find the majority of the lunch boxes?
I found a lot of them at charity thrift stores like Hospice, Goodwill, Salvation Army and St. Vincent De Pauls. A lot of people were cleaning out their garages during late 1980s and dropped them off. I also get a lot of them at flea markets and antique malls.
What do you consider your most valuable? Where did you buy it?
I think that my Jetson's and my Beatles are the most valuable at this point. I got the Jetson's box for helping my friend broker a deal on a house he bought. After he got the house for $37,000, he brought it over to me as a surprise. I was thrilled!
The Beatles lunchbox came from a funky, and I mean funky, junk store for just a quarter. I had gone for a walk while visiting my sister and stopped in the dusty store. I had only twenty-five cents in my pocket to make an emergency phone call. I spotted the blue box in a heap and asked how much? The old woman behind the counter said two bits. I asked her if that was a quarter and she said yes. I ran all the way home to call my husband. It was just too exciting.
Do you have a Holy Grail?
I cannot seem to get my hands on a Beatles thermos bottle or a Barbie dome. I know that I will get them because I used to say the same thing about my vinyl Twiggy and Monkees boxes.
What piece of advice would you give new lunch box collectors?
Try looking in indoor or outdoor flea markets and upscale antique stores that could care less about lunchboxes. Tell people you collect. People will give them to you or trade for other items. When searching eBay, use lunch box or lunchbox. Watch out for the reproductions that are coming on the market. If you buy a vinyl lunchbox don't get it wet or store it next to a window.
Any expert words on how condition affects the value?
If you want a certain box, look for the best condition. Sometimes you have to buy a box with a few dings while you wait for the nicer one. It is better to buy it now in case you never see it again. I am still kicking myself for not buying a KISS box 15 years ago for $20 because it had a small ding in it. You can't even touch it now for less that $150.
How do you clean lunch boxes and take care of them? Do they fade
in the sunlight?
Definitely keep them out of the sun and dry. I use warm soapy water sparingly on dirty spots only and dry imediately. I use vinyl cleaner for my plastic ones. Q-Tips are my special friends when cleaning.
Tell me more about your dream of starting a museum, what came first -- the fire station or the idea?
We have always had the lunchboxes displayed like a museum in our house. People always told me, you should open a museum. Let me tell you the boxes were great conversation starters. The idea for the actual museum came after we bought the firehouse. We bought it to open up a vintage collectibles store but then I >started thinking, hmmm, lunchbox museum! We were driving down the road one day, >saw the building and my husband said "I would love to own a place like that." Then we saw the For Sale sign. The rest is history. We plan on selling our doubles in the store.
And last, but not least, is it lunch box or lunchbox?
It can be either lunchbox or lunch box. On eBay it is lunchbox as a category. I have seen it as lunch box too. I go with lunchbox.