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Lost in Space Lunch Box

Television themed lunch boxes had their hey-day in the mid-60's. The famed Munsters box came out in 1965 and the following year saw boxes made for classic shows like Batman, Get Smart, Hogan's Heroes and Man from U.N.C.L.E.. One year later your Mom could choose from Superman, Voyage to the Bottom of the Sea, The Green Hornet, Rat Patrol, and arguably the coolest box from that remarkable television era, Lost in Space.

If you were kid going to school in the 60's you learned the box you took to school was not just for carrying your lunch. In a world that seemed so generic it was one of the few things you could take to school which reflected your individuality. It was your chance to make a bold, colorful statement about yourself and your aspirations. Best of all you could get away with it.

Scott Bruce, in his book The Fifties and Sixties Lunch Box explains the psychology of lunch boxes in these terms: "Like the fascination with the finned cars of the fifties, the appeal of lunch boxes was emotional. Between birth and the brown bag, you weren't what you drove but what you carried. Your net worth in the blackboard jungle was broadcast by that box dangling from your fingers. It's not surprising then, that the shelf above the coat rack read like a parking lot."

OK, the box you chose to go to school with was very important. Any wonder so many of us nagged our Moms when they came home from the store with a sissy box or worse still one of those plain red generic boxes.

Space and science fiction related boxes were especially sought after by kids in the mid-60's and had already been popular from the early 1950's. In fact even before the space race truly began, kids were already eating their lunches from the popular Tom Corbett Space Cadet box as far back as 1952. But it wasn't until the 1960's that space related boxes really came into their own. Starting with King Seeley's Astronaut Dome in 1960 right through to Aladdin's Astronauts box from 1969, young galactic travellers could choose from a wide variety of colorful and spacey artwork. Naturally television Sci-Fi was also well represented including Star Trek, Land of the Giants, Voyage to the Bottom of the Sea and Lost in Space.

Now if you were fortunate enough to carry a Lost in Space box in 1967, this signalled your allegiance to one of the coolest shows to hit the small screen, a weekly feast of the nastiest monsters, weirdest aliens, and some of the best high tech gear imaginable. A kid with one of these boxes was certainly going to win the space race, get the girl or at the very least command a decent dose of respect from his peers.

The Lost in Space box is an example of a domed metal lunch box. A metal domed box is generally considered more desirable than other formats namely, plastic or metal square boxes. The dome actually serves a function and is not just for looks. A thick wire clasp inside the dome holds the metal thermos.

The Thermos
King Seeley did not issue a matching Lost in Space thermos with their Lost in Space lunch box. Instead a thermos displaying graphics from the early American space program previously used with a different lunch box was reissued with the box. The realistic style of the graphics and subject matter of the accompanying thermos is totally inconsistent with the TV series encouraging some collectors not to view it as a true Lost in Space collectible.

The Lost in Space box is a truly stunning piece of artwork and is considered by many collectors to be among the most beautiful boxes ever created. The artist responsible was an Italian guy named Nick LoBianco, who was also responsible for several other classic boxes from the era including The Munsters and The Adams Family. The artist signature appears no where on the box itself, a common practice in lunch boxes.

LoBianco succeeded in capturing the rich hues of the way-out Lost in Space stage sets, the eerie rock formations, backdrops and vegetation and the starry night skies. His use of purple, orange, green and blue reflects the intensity of the action depicted. It is hard to imagine the artist did not get his inspiration directly by actually visiting the sets themselves.

The Front
The front of the box, the side with the clasps and the one which is normally shown in photographs, features a travelling Chariot raising dust with 4 visible occupants against a barren alien landscape. A comet and star filled the night sky. The Chariot is drawn fairly accurately with the exception of the one additional wheel. The TV series Chariot had 5 wheels as opposed to the box Chariot which has six.
The Back
The back of the box, the hinged side which is the side that is rarely seen in photographs, shows a landed Jupiter 2 in a small crater. The ship shows its landing legs extended. Penny, Judy and Don are visible in the viewports of the ship. In the foreground, John is seen firing a first season laser rifle at tentacled vegetation which has captured Will and Maureen. Immediately behind John is the Robot who is seen raising dust suggestive that he may be just arriving to assist the Robinsons. The design of the leg area of the robot with its uneven look is clearly that of the first season (it was completely remodelled in season 2.)
The Sides
One side of the box shows Don and John firing at the giant Cyclops. One of them is shown firing a wide-barrelled pistol which doesn't look anything like one used on the show. The other is seen firing a pilot laser rifle (the one used briefly in the first season). The other side of the box depicts John escaping from a group of three large headed green aliens. The high collared, pendant wearing aliens appear to be the same aliens that are featured in a short scene in the Pilot episode. These aliens never appeared in the screened series itself. The copyright statement "(c) 1967 Space Productions" appears beneath the group of aliens on the left hand side.
The Bottom
The bottom of the box shows a crater spotted lunar-like surface. A number (possibly a serial number) in black text is located at the bottom right hand corner. In the reviewed copy the number was "010". Some kind of manufacturer embossed marking can be seen in the middle of the bottom section but the text could not be read clearly in the reviewed box.
The Top
The handle of the box is made of red plastic and has no particular distinguishing feature other than a series of 4 ribs at each end, and a single longitudinal rib. Immediately beneath the handle on the dome part of the box is the word "Thermos" enclosed in what appears to be a trade-mark logo used on all King Seeley thermos.
The Inside
The inside of the box is plain white. A wire thermos holder is built into the "dome" of the box.
Battle of the Boxes
Lunch boxes were not just for carrying peanut butter and ham sandwiches, pieces of fruit, and a thermos of milk. They were for fighting. In fact many a good box received serious collateral damage through school yard combat. Fighting is normally responsible for one of the most common faults found in metal lunch boxes: dents, loose hinges or missing handles.

Interestingly it was these school yard fights which eventually led to the demise of metal lunch boxes. In the early 1970's a small but well-organized vocal group of Florida mothers campaigned against metal lunch boxes claiming they were a potential "lethal" weapon. They argued kids were hitting each other with them and in some cases causing permanent brain damage. One by one, other states legislated against metal boxes. Ironically enough it was the very violent Rambo box that was the last metal box to made in 1985.

Now if fighting wasn't your game then you can probably blame your mother for scratching your name on your box and thermos. If you were lucky enough to avoid these calamities then your box probably fell prey to the wear & tear of simply carrying it around 9 months of the school year. Even boxes which were only used once or twice will show some kind of wear caused merely by the act of opening and closing the lid. This wear usually appears in the hinge area of the back side where the top section and the bottom section rub against each other causing paint removal. Similar damage is caused at the top of the front side where the bottom section rubs against the internal clasp joints of the top section.

But even the most well cared for box is prone to rust which is a very common problem found in nearly all metal boxes. Rust can occur anywhere on the box but usually happens around the hinge area, joints or where the box has been scratched or damaged. The bottom of the box is a very likely candidate for rust because it usually receives the most wear and scratches from being constantly in contact with a surface.

What to look for when buying a
Lost in Space Lunch Box
As you can imagine, finding a box in mint condition is no small feat. Incredibly it does happen and it's amazing how many boxes turn up with original store tags still tied to the handle. The chances of finding a mint box are slim. Look for a clean glossy box with no dents or minimal dents, and avoid rust if possible. Remember if you own a box with rust it can only get worse not better. It is possible to treat rust with a rust converter but the treatment invariably leads to unsightly dark staining. Because there are so few mint Lost in Space lunch boxes around, dealers tend to be very subjective in their interpretation of condition. Take their condition assessment with a grain of salt, they invariably exaggerate the condition of their boxes. Be especially wary of boxes judged to be in C9 conditions but priced cheaply in the range $250 to $350. A box in C9 condition or better should be worth in the vicinity of $650 to $850.
Caring for Your Lunch Box
In caring for your Lost in Space box you should observe some basic conservation principles. Handle your box as little as possible (don't even think of taking your lunch in it!). Avoid opening and shutting the box. If you must handle your box be sure to rub it down afterwards with a dry soft cloth to remove any perspiration.

If you wish to display your box make sure it is not in direct sunlight or in an environment where there are significant temperature and humidity fluctuations. Don't place the box in a room where there is a fireplace or a radiator. A dry, clean environment is preferable with a relative humidity of between 50-55%. If your box is rusted it is probably best kept at about 40% relative humidity. An ideal display temperature would be around 65F (18 C).

To store away your box, wrap it in acid-free tissue and store it in a cool dry place. Remember dampness will cause your box to rust.

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