Back To School with Vintage Star Wars Lunch Boxes

Revisit cases that infused peanut butter and jelly sandwiches with the power of the Force.

As a kid growing up in the ’70s and ’80s, one of the silver linings of summer’s end was looking forward to the onslaught of new Star Wars notebooks, binders, and various stationery supplies for the return to school. But the holy grail of must-haves were most definitely the lunch boxes!

These hold a special place in the hearts of those who actually carried them to school. While remembering the lunch boxes that I personally owned, I would swear that I could smell a Skippy peanut butter-and-jelly sandwich that I ate Monday to Friday.

Here now is a look back at the vintage Star Wars lunch boxes that were available in the US from 1978-1985. Feel free to yell out, “I had that one!” if you come across a lunch box that transported your sandwich, drink, snack, and if you were like me, your Topps cards, action figures, and a Marvel comic.

Star Wars

Three lunch boxes were released with Star Wars designs. Two metal and one plastic. Although an honorable mention goes to the extremely rare “Design Your Own Star Wars Lunch Kit” released in 1977. It came with a light blue plastic lunchbox and a sheet of character and logo stickers that you apply. Take a deeper look below!

Metal Lunch Box #1

Description: This first metal lunchbox with red handle was very minimalistic. A black starfield wraps around the sides, top, and bottom. The door panel features artwork of the famous publicity shot of a TIE fighter firing at an X-wing. On the opposite side is a graphic of the “These aren’t the droids you’re looking for” scene. 

Year released: 1977

Thermos: Blue with yellow or red cap that features C-3PO and R2-D2

Manufacturer: King-Seeley Thermos Co.

Fun Fact: The TIE fighter is firing red lasers instead of green!

 

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Plastic Lunch box

Description: This is a rare red plastic version with a blue handle that features an image of Darth Vader, R2-D2, and C-3PO against a Tatooine backdrop.

Year released: 1977

Thermos: Blue with yellow or red cap that features C-3PO and R2-D2.

Manufacturer: King-Seeley Thermos Co.

 

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Metal Lunch Box #2 (With Red Handle)

Description: This metal version with red handle is very similar to the first release. However, images were added to the sides, top, and bottom. The door panel still has the artwork of the X-wing and TIE fighter dogfight and the opposite side still has the Mos Eisley entry scene. Now, one end has artwork of R2-D2 and C-3PO floating in space with a red glow outline. The other end has an image, also with a red glow, of a towering Darth Vader standing behind Leia and Luke, who is holding a laser pistol. The bottom sees a Stormtrooper on a dewback while the top displays a fleet of X-wings attacking the Death Star and two TIE fighters.

Year released: 1978

Thermos: Blue with yellow or red cap that features C-3PO and R2-D2.

Manufacturer: King-Seeley Thermos Co.

Fun Fact: Is that a Skywalker family portrait…?

 

The Empire Strikes Back

With the release of The Empire Strikes Back in 1980 came four lunch boxes, two metal and two plastic.

Metal Lunch Box #1

Description: This metal lunchbox has a baby-blue border version with a yellow handle and features photos from the film. The door panel depicts Luke holding his blaster up to a creature he would soon learn is Jedi Master Yoda, while R2-D2 looks on. The other side sees an image of the snowtroopers getting ready to fire at the Falcon. The top image has C-3PO and R2-D2 walking down a corridor at Echo base. The bottom displays the artwork of Ralph McQuarrie’s Cloud City with a Twin-Pod Cloud Car hovering nearby. One end has an image of Yoda while the opposite end has the publicity still of Darth Vader and two stormtroopers in front of a red backdrop.

Year released: 1980

Thermos: Red or blue thermos with white or yellow cap that has a Yoda graphic.

Manufacturer: King-Seeley Thermos Co.

 

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Plastic Lunch Box #1

Description: This red plastic lunch box has a yellow handle. The only image came on the door panel that displays a pics of Luke’s X-wing flying to Dagobah with the Empire Strikes Back logo placed over the bog planet’s surface. In the upper right corner are 5 linked hexagons, each containing an image. The first is Luke and Vader clashing lightsabers. The second is Vader with his hand reaching out to his son, while the third image is a continuation of the preceding image with Luke at the end of the Bespin gantry. The next image sees a lumbering AT-AT, and the final image is Ralph McQuarrie’s bounty hunters artwork.

Year released: 1980

Thermos: Red or blue thermos with a white cap and a Yoda graphic

Manufacturer: King-Seeley Thermos Co.

 

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Plastic Lunch Box #2

Description: The second red plastic lunch box has a white handle. The door panel features a great pic of the heroes — Chewbacca, Han Solo, Princess Leia, and Luke Skywalker all aiming their blasters right at us from Echo Base. The pic looks like a warning to anyone thinking about stealing the contained sandwich.

Year released: 1980

Thermos: Red or blue thermos with white or red cap and a Yoda graphic.   

Manufacturer: King-Seeley Thermos Co.

Fun Fact: Family Guy’s “Something Something Something Dark Side” replicated this lunch box using the Griffin family in place of the Star Wars heroes.  

Metal Lunch Box #2

Description: This metal lunch box has a dark blue handle and dark blue borders. Unlike the prior metal version with photos, this one features artwork. The door panel shows Han, Leia, Chewie, and C-3P0 in the cockpit of the Millennium Falcon as they escape from the space slug. The opposite side has Yoda training Luke in the ways of the Force with R2-D2 right behind him on Dagobah. One end has a collage of Luke on his tauntaun while snowspeeders hover above, and a Hoth battle turret is ready for action in the lower right corner. The other end has another collage of Vader with his ignited lightsaber. Behind him are Boba Fett, Bossk, IG-88, three stormtroopers, and Lando Calrissian. The top shows AT-ATs and snowspeeders engaging in battle. The bottom sees four Star Destroyers around Darth Vader’s Executor.

Year released: 1981

Thermos: Red or blue thermos with a white or blue cap and a Yoda graphic

Manufacturer: King-Seeley Thermos Co.

Artist: Gene Lemery

Fun Fact: The AT-ATs are taken from the film while the snowspeeders are the original concepts by Ralph McQuarrie, which were redesigned before making it to the screen. Also, Lando Calrissian is relegated to the villain’s side — you make one bad choice and suddenly you’re pigeon-holed as a bad guy on lunchboxes.

 

Return Of The Jedi

In 1983, the final vintage metal lunchbox was released from the Thermos Co. (Dropping the King- Seeley product line name after several company mergers.) A red plastic version was also released in the Return of the Jedi line.

Metal Lunch Box

Description: This one has a light blue border and a white handle. The door panel shows artwork of Luke Skywalker as he threatens Jabba the Hutt with a Force-grabbed blaster. The opposite side has Darth Vader’s head floating in space as he watches several Star Destroyers and TIE fighters approach the Death Star. One end sees Lando fighting off a Klaatu skiff guard while the other end has Wicket the Ewok standing in a mushroom garden on Endor. The bottom has an image of Jabba on his thrown with Bib Fortuna, while a Jawa fans the vile gangster. The top features Max Rebo and Droopy McCool playing while a Jawa and Salacious Crumb look on.

Year released: 1983

Thermos: Red thermos with a white cap and a Wicket graphic.  

Manufacturer: Thermos Co.

Artist: Gene Lemery

 

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Plastic Lunch Box

Description: This red plastic lunch box with white handle was aimed at the younger target audience. The graphic on the door panel features a cartoon-styled Wicket standing on his tippy-toes as he looks excitedly at R2-D2.

Year released: 1983

Thermos: Red thermos and white or red cap with the same graphic of Wicket as the metal version. A variant also came with this lunch box, which was a light blue thermos and white cap with artwork of Wicket swinging from a vine.

Manufacturer: Thermos Co.

 

Ewoks and Droids

Rounding out the vintage Star Wars lunch boxes is the line based on Ewoks and Droids Adventure Hour.

 

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Plastic Lunch Box #1

Description: This red plastic version with white handle focuses on the Ewok series and displays an image on the door panel of Wicket hang-gliding while several of his Ewok friends gather fruit and logs in the background.

Year released: 1985

Thermos: Red thermos with white cap. A Star Wars: Ewoks logo hangs above an adorable Wicket graphic, who has his hands resting on his cheeks.

Manufacturer: King-Seeley Thermos Co. (bringing back the product line name)

 

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Plastic Lunch Box #2

Description: This light blue plastic lunch box with a white handle depicts a scene from the Droids series, where C-3PO waves off a band of alien onlookers as arms and rods pop out of a spastic R2-D2!

Year released: 1985

Thermos: Light blue thermos and dark blue cap. The Star Wars: Droids logo is behind the two droids.

Manufacturer: King-Seeley Thermos Co. (bringing back the product line name)

 

How many of these lunch boxes did you have? What memories do you associate with the one you had? Tell us in the comments below!

I want to thank everyone who helped with this article, including Duncan Jenkins for taking photos of each of the lunch boxes and Gus Lopez of the Star Wars Collector Archive, my wife Sarah for her Photoshop skills, Mark Newbold and Steve Sansweet for providing info or pointing me in the right direction of these vintage treasures.

You can catch Richard Woloski and his wife Sarah on the Star Wars/Disney podcast, Skywalking Through Neverland. Want to hear about the classic Marvel comic series? Then check out Classic Marvel Star Wars Comics with Richard, Sarah, and artist Randy Martinez!

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