June 15, 2021

Antiques & Collecting: Vintage lunchbox

Vintage collectibles, especially those related to sports, sell quickly at auction, perhaps because not all are expensive. Sometimes they are not noticed by the dedicated sports collectors and sell at bargain prices.

This metal lunchbox was made in 1976. It is decorated with the helmets of the National Football Conference on one side, and American Conference helmets on the other side.

Lunchbox collecting began in 1950, with the first example picturing the cowboy movie star Hopalong Cassidy. The metal boxes and matching thermos bottles remained popular until 1960, when soft plastic boxes were the style. And it is a myth that metal boxes were replaced because students were hitting each other in the head and causing injuries.

This football collectible included a matching thermos and was an auction bargain at $35. The King-Seely Thermos Company made many metal lunchboxes, including the one with the football helmets.

The most expensive metal lunchbox ever sold pictured “Toppie the Elephant,” a Kroger grocery store figure that promoted plaid Top Value stamps. A 1957 Toppie lunchbox with thermos sold for $2,784.

On the TV show “Better Call Saul,” the plot included a Hummel figurine that was so rare that it would sell for thousands of dollars. Your comments on Hummels say they are bought for very low prices today, most under $50. Did the show make up the story? Or is there a type of Hummel that sells for over $1,000?

The “Better Call Saul” show was talking about the rarest Hummels, a group called International Figures. The characters talked about the Bulgarian figure, but the real one depicted a Bavarian figure.

In 1976, eight were in a sale by Robert Miller, the author of the first Hummel price book and an expert in all things Hummel. He realized they were different from any he owned.

Later research claims that 24 or 26 different designs were made in the 1940s. The figures are marked with the M.I. Hummel signature used from 1935 to 1955 and mold numbers that run consecutively from 806 to 813 and others with numbers up to 968. Each figurine is depicted in its country’s national dress.

The thieves in the TV show wanted to steal an ordinary Hummel figurine and redecorate it to look like the famous one that has sold for thousands of dollars. The first sales were at $20,000, but by 2013, the price for the International figure was as low as $5,000.

Current Prices

Kitchen kettle, copper, straight sides, dovetailed joints, gooseneck spout, hinged shaped handle, stepped lid, 1800s, 9 inches, $75.

Brass lamp, 3 graduated ball knops on stem, round base, electric, Tommi Parzinger for Stiffel, 27 inches, pair, $315.

Advertising playing cards, Schlitz Brewing, Milwaukee, globe logo on back, c. 1900, full deck, box with logo, $520.

Wristwatch, Rolex, Oyster Perpetual, diamond bezel & hour markers, date window, 1974, 34 millimeter case, $2,125.

Tip: Never put old photos or papers in a “cling” album page.

Terry and Kim Kovel

For more collecting news, tips and resources, visit www.Kovels.com. © 2021 King Features Synd., Inc.