Colorado lunchbox collector showing his mettle |

Colorado lunchbox collector showing his mettle

Colleen O'Connor
The Denver Post
Vail, CO Colorado
Andy Cross, The Denver PostA 1970's era Boston Bruins metal lunchbox, just one 343 lunch boxes in Brandon Hamilton's collection that will be on display at the Mile High Marketplace through the end of September

Brandon Hamilton began collecting vintage metal lunchboxes at age 12 to bond with his mother, who haunted flea markets for great deals.

Now 28, he owns 343 of the classic containers, bearing images of everyone from the Fonz to the Flintstones. And they’re on display at Mile High Marketplace.

“Some of the designs are really cool,” said Hamilton, who owns an IT consulting firm in Boulder. “Things like the Muppets and Road Runner remind me of my childhood.”

The era of children’s lunchboxes began in 1949, when the Aladdin Co. put Hopalong Cassidy decals on traditional lunchboxes.

Plastic replaced metal in 1987, and soon the metal lunchboxes began to take on museum-collection qualities. Indeed, the Smithsonian has a collection of vintage pails.

Hamilton’s lunchboxes span a variety of genres: space exploration and sci-fi, Westerns, superheroes, sports, TV shows, music, cartoons and all things Disney.

His personal favorites include Dr. Seuss, “Welcome Back, Kotter” and Scooby-Doo.

He also has a Howdy Doody lunchbox, worth about $490, and one emblazoned with images of the Beatles, worth about $475.

As a kid in Wisconsin, he first displayed his collection on a shelf around the top of the kitchen walls. But soon, his prized lunchboxes had taken over the basement.

He has a system for searching flea markets, including hiding a well-thumbed price guide in a cargo-pants pocket for surreptitious consulting.

“I’d go off to the side, look at it, then negotiate like crazy,” he said.

He loves the memories his collection evokes in fans.

“People will tell stories of the lunchboxes they had as a kid,” he said. “It’s a great form of storytelling.”

Colleen O’Connor: 303-954-1083 or

A place for lunch

Brandon Hamilton’s lunchbox collection is on display through the end of September at Mile High Marketplace, located northeast of the interchange at Interstate 76 and East 88th Avenue.

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