Back To School with Vintage Star Wars Lunch Boxes (1977-1985)

Photo credit: Brian Sims

Star Wars Lunch Boxes – The Memories

As a kid growing up in the 70’s and 80’s nothing struck fear like the ‘Back to School’ signs that began sprouting up mid-summer.  The only way to work through this impending fate of going back to the state-mandated system of organized learning was looking forward to the onslaught of new Star Wars notebooks, binders and various stationery supplies. 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 Mon-Fri.

Here now is a look back at the vintage Star Wars lunch boxes that were available in the U.S. from 1978-1985. Feel free to yell out, ‘I had that one!” if you come across one 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.

Metal Lunch Box #1

Description: This first lunchbox with red handle was released by King-Seeley Thermos Co. in 1977 and was very minimalistic. A black starfield wrapped around the sides, top and bottom. The door panel featured artwork of the famous publicity shot of a TIE-Fighter firing at an X-Wing. On the opposite side was 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 featured C-3PO and R2-D2 with a contraption behind them (looks like the artist was going for a Lars homestead landscape).   

Company: King-Seeley Thermos Co.

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

Photo credit: starwars.com and Duncan Jenkins

Plastic Lunchbox

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

Year released: 1977

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

Company: King-Seeley Thermos Co.

Photo credit: Brian Sims

Design Your Own Star Wars Lunch Kit

Description: This is extremely rare light blue plastic lunch box with white handle, comes with a with a sheet of character and logo stickers that you apply.

Year released: 1977

Thermos: Blue with white cap

Company: Thermos Co

Photo credit: starwars.com and Duncan Jenkins

Metal Lunch Box #2

Description: This second metal version with red handle is very similar to the first release but images were added to the sides, top and bottom. The door panel still had the X-Wing and TIE Fighter and the opposite side still had the Mos Eisley entry image. 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 was 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.

Company: King-Seeley Thermos Co.

Fun Fact: You have to love the Skywalker family portrait!

The Empire Strikes Back

With the release of The Empire Strikes Back came four more lunchboxes, two metal and two plastic.

Metal Lunch Box #1

Description: This lunchbox has a baby-blue border with a yellow handle. The door panel features the scene of 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 on the Falcon. The top image has C-3PO and R2-D2 walking down a corridor of Echo base. The bottom showcases the artwork of Ralph McQuarrie’s rendition of Cloud City with a Twin-Pod Cloud Car floating nearby. One end has the image of Yoda, while the other end shows 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 had a Yoda graphic.

Company: King-Seeley Thermos Co.

Photo credit: Duncan Jenkins

Plastic Lunch Box #1

Description: This red plastic lunchbox has a yellow plastic handle.  The only image came on the door panel. The main graphic shows 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 sees the lumbering AT-ATs, and the final image is the Ralph MCQuarrie bounty hunters artwork.

Year released: 1980

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

Company: King-Seeley Thermos Co.

Photo credit: Duncan Jenkins

Plastic Lunch Box #2

Description: This red plastic lunchbox includes a white handle. The door panel features a hero pic of 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 peanut butter and jelly sandwich or pack of Hostess Twinkies.

Year released: 1980

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

Company: 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 hovers above and a Hoth battle turret 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-AT’s 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-AT’s 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.

Return Of The Jedi

With the last film in the Skywalker saga comes the final vintage metal lunchbox and one plastic lunchbox.

Description: This one has a light blue border and a white handle. The door panel features artwork of Luke Skywalker as he just used The Force to grab a blaster to threaten Jabba the Hutt. Several Gamorrean Guards, Klaatu, Squid Head and Beedo flank the young Jedi (remember this was when we just had the Kenner action figures and Topps trading cards to get our character names). The opposite side has Darth Vader’s head floating in space as he watches several Star Destroyers and TIE-Fighters approach the second 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 throne with Bib Fortuna while a Jawa fans the vile gangster. The top has Max Rebo and Droopy McCool playing their instruments while a Jawa and Salacious Crumb look on.

Year released: 1983

Artist: Gene Lemery

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

Company: Thermos Co. (Dropping the King- Seeley product line name after several company mergers).

Design Note: There are noticeable absences of female characters such as Princess Leia and Sy Snootles. Why was she not included in the Max Rebo band graphic, was she on break?

Photo credit: Duncan Jenkins

Plastic Lunch Box

Description: This red plastic lunchbox with white handle was aimed at the younger Ewok-loving kids. The graphic on the door panel features a cartoon styled Wicket standing on his tippy-toes to look inside of R2-D2’s eye.

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.

Company: Thermos Co.

Ewoks and Droids

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

Photo credit: Duncan Jenkins

Ewoks Plastic Lunchbox

Description: This red plastic lunchbox with white handle, depicts on 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 with white cap. A Star Wars: Ewoks logo hangs above an adorable Wicket graphic who has his hands on his cheeks like he’s just watching you enjoy that Wonder Bread sandwich.  

Company: King-Seeley (bringing back the product line name and dropping Thermos Co.).

Photo Credit: Duncan Jenkins

Droids Plastic Lunch Box

Description: This light blue plastic lunch box with a white handle depict 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 placed behind the two droids.

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

Lunch box trivia: Lunch boxes were primarily made of metal, but because kids were hitting each other with them, a ban in Florida became widespread forcing companies to go from metal to “safer” plastic iterations. The last metal lunchbox ever produced was for Rambo in 1985.


How many did you have? What memories do you associate with the lunchbox you had? I want to thank Duncan Jenkins, Steve Sansweet, Mark Newbold and Gus Lopez for providing info or pointing me in the right direction.

Thanks for reading and May Your Lunch Be With You!

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