Click on any of the links below to learn more about lunchboxes, domes and thermoses.

Vintage Metal Lunch Box Glossary


Art slick. B/W camera-ready art for newspaper advertising of lunch kits.
Designed by lunch box manufacturers and sent out to retailers.


The side of the lunchbox that is on the opposite side of where the latch is;
Also called the "bottom" in the industry, of a rectangular lunch box.

The part of the lunch box that goes all the way around the thin part of
the box between the front and back.


The steel/glass or plastic drinking container for liquids included with
some lunchboxes.

Bottle retaining wire
The metal wire shaped like a "U" inside the lunch box that keeps
the bottle in place.

A collector of lunch boxes.

Lunch box collecting.

An artist, salesman, or engineer employed by a lunch box manufacturer.

A list of manufactured lunch boxes.


The history of lunch boxes.


Cap or Stopper
The cork or plastic thermos bottle stopper. The cap prevents the contents
of the bottle from spilling out.

An oval or rectangular lunch box with one or two movable metal strap-like handles.
The lid comes completely off. Also known as "Carry-all tins."

Catalog page
A full-color, 8.5x11 page, that lunch box makers mailed to prospective retailers to offer
the latest line of available lunch kits.

Collar or Neck
The plastic or metal piece that fits onto the top (open end) of the thermos sleeve and
conceals the glass filler. The stopper then fits onto the top of the collar. The cup then fits
onto the collar, covering the stopper.

Color separation
The photographic process whereby original lunch box art is broken down by primary colors
(CMYK - cyan, magenta, yellow, and Black) in order to be lithographed onto steel sheets.

The rough design for lunch boxes as sketched by an artist. The final art is called "finished"
and often done by another artist.

The front, face, or main side of a rectangular lunch box; usually features the most
eye-catching art to promote sales. Condition wise this is the most important.

The plastic drinking cup which fits on top of the thermos bottle. The cup is securely
held in place by fastening to the collar.


Decal. The adhesive illustration attached to a lunch box or bottle. Found mostly on
50's metal boxes and plastic lunchboxes

Designer. The individual artist or artists responsible for the look of an object.

Dome/Humpback. The rounded top type lunch box. Also known as "dome top."


Embossed steel
Refers to lunch boxes made by Aladdin from 1962-1986. Although 99%
of lunch boxes produced in this time-frame were embossed, there were some boxes that were
released as "embossed" and "flat steel like E.T."


The process whereby the metal stamping dies are contoured to produce a raised "3-D" surface
on the front and back of lunch boxes. Used exclusively by Aladdin since 1962 for dramatic action
figures. The first 3D embossed box was Huckleberry Hound and Friends.


Finished art
The final, or completed art for a decorated lunch kit. Based on the "comprehensive" or "rough design".

Flat Steel
Metal lunch boxes by KST, Aladdin, and others. The lunch box front and back were flat.
Artwork or actual photos were lithographed onto the surface of the box.

Flip 'n' Sip
TM Top
KST's thermos stopper that featured a pour spout for liquids; capable of allowing a straw to be inserted.


A lunch box design or model created by a manufacturer to avoid paying royalties for the use of
a licensed character or series. Examples of generic kits included Plaids and Corsage.

Glass filler/Glass liner/ Replacement filler
The breakable glass insert of a traditional
vacuum bottle. Injection molded plastic bottles put an end to glass fillers.

Golden age
Refers to lunch kit production from 1950 to 1987.


Metal or plastic device used to carry a lunch box.

Hang tag
The store tag Aladdin and other manufacturers placed on every lunch box produced.
Often, the tag describes some new "feature" of the lunch box or thermos.

The metal or plastic pieces of the lunch box; consisting of the bottle retaining wire, handle,
latch, and the fasteners that connect the handle to the box.

Heavyweight boxer
An advanced lunch box collector with over 500 individual boxes.

High spot wear
Scratching or chipping of paint on the elevated surfaces of embossed lunch boxes.

Holtemp/Icy hot
Series of generic steel/glass vacuum bottles sold by American Thermos in the 1950s.


Injection molded
The process whereby plastic lunch boxes and bottles are manufactured.


Latch or Clasp
The metal or plastic part near the handle which keeps a lunch box closed.

The rights purchased by a lunch box manufacturer to make and sell a lunch box featuring
a registered TV, movie character, or series. Under the agreement, in addition to an advance,
the manufacturer usually pays royalty to the licensor for each kit sold.

The lunch box maker who buys a license to manufacture a kit featuring a registered
character or series.

The TV or movie production company that owns the registered character or series featured
on a licensed lunch box.

The process whereby colorful graphic images are printed on paper and ultimately metal
sheets that get made into lunchboxes.

The emblem or design representing a company. KST featured their "THERMOS" logo on
the face of many of their lunch boxes.

TM Stopper
Aladdin bottle stopper. Positive seal, superior insulation.

Lunch box or Lunchbox
The generic or common term used when describing lunch kits.

Lunch kit/Lunch pail (1940s)
The proper term used when describing a lunch box and bottle; as used by the
original lunch box manufacturers.


Placement of famous television shows or cartoon characters onto consumer goods
in the hopes of increasing sales.


Original art
The tempera or acrylic paintings that are the basis for lunch kit lithography. Typically designed
at 200% and reduced when ready to place on boxes. A separate image is created for the face,
back, band, and bottle of each kit.

Original papers

The original manufacturers documentation that accompanied the lunch box when first purchased
at a retail outlet. The documentation usually has instructions on proper use of the lunch kit and
thermos bottle, and may also contain advertisement flyers.


Term coined by boxer Lee Garner to describe the collecting and study of lunch pails
(adapted from paleontology-- the study of ancient life).

Panoramic band
lunch box band with art featuring a continuous view that wraps around the band of the box.

Polly Red Top®
Type of stopper used by American Thermos in the 1950s for their 10 oz. bottles.
The stopper produced a pressure seal when inserted into the neck and secured by the cup.

TM Stopper
Type of stopper used by Aladdin. A pour spout would pop up and allow for pouring or the
ability to insert a straw into the bottle.

Press plate
The engraved metal device used to apply the color image to a sheet of paper or metal
in lithography. Usually there is one press plate for each of the four colors
(CMYK – cyan, magenta, yellow, and black).

Production sheet
The flat, usually 3' x 3' lithographed sheet of metal that was cut and stamped into a
lunch box and/or bottle sleeve. Initially painted white, the sheet is inked and baked at
350 degrees for ten minutes, for each of the four colors. It is then varnished, stacked,
and sent to the kit manufacturers.

Proof sheet
Cut from a trial production sheet, a proof sheet is the individual side of the steel lunch kit
(such as the front or band) sent to the manufacturer for approval before mass production
lithography begins. Examples were saved by the lithographer for reference.


Quik-LokTM Cup
Used by Aladdin for their insulated bottles; the cup locks on or releases off the
collar with a quarter turn. No threads.


Each lunch box and thermos is rated on a scale of 1 to 10-- with 1 being the most common
and 10 being the most rare. Many factors contribute to an item's rarity. These factors include:
number produced, age, popularity, demand, and collectability.

Rim or Border
The edge of a lunch box running around the front and back sides. Usually the rim is
lithographed a solid color; but boxes such as Clash of the Titans or Star Wars are exceptions.

KST's line of thermos bottles.


Shelf wear or Rim wear
This is wear to the lunch box, usually, but not limited to the edges (edge wear). This wear
occurs while the lunch box is sitting on the store shelves and the box is being moved because
kids don’t want Popples when there’s Care Bears behind it for $3.99. Shelf wear is also caused
by boxes contacting other boxes.

Universal's line of vacuum bottles for their lunch kits.

The steel tube into which the glass filler was inserted to form the traditional vacuum
bottle (thermos). For character kits, the sleeve is usually lithographed with a theme that
matched the lunch box it went with.

Abbreviation for "steel litho". After 1945, all lunch boxes were made of steel, not tin.

Steel/glass (bottle)
The traditional vacuum bottle with a lithographed metal sleeve and glass filler.

Sweet Seal®
A variety of vacuum bottle stoppers used by Aladdin in the mid-1950s. The stopper was
made of rubber, and replaced the older cork version.


The main subject or content a lunch box and thermos displays—like Smurfs or Hopalong Cassidy, etc.

Landers, Frary and Clark's name for their generic vacuum bottle.

Thermos Company
Formerly known as American Thermos and KST Co. Thermos Co. still produces lunch boxes today.

Thermos bottle
A generic term for the container used for carrying liquids; often included in lunch kits.
Originally registered to the American Thermos Company, the name, like Kleenex, became
a household word for any vacuum bottle.

Tin litho
Term applied to decorated metal before 1945. After 1945, lunch boxes were steel litho or "S-litho."


Testing process used by Aladdin for their seamless vacuum insulated fillers.
Performance tested for maximum efficiency.

Vacuum bottle
The metal/glass container for liquids; known also as a thermos bottle.


Showcased collection of lunchboxes on a vertical surface-- as in "wall of boxes".
This is the most common way to display lunchboxes. Thermos bottles may or may not
be presented in the display.