The best place to look for vintage metal lunch boxes to begin a collection is eBay. Most collectors make purchases online. Secondary sources for finding rare vintage lunch boxes are yard sales, antique shows, flea markets and consignment shops. Beginner collectors should focus on obtaining low-end boxes that bolster a collection, as opposed to high-profile character boxes. For example, boxes featuring less popular characters or no characters are cheaper.
Vintage lunch box collectors should ask questions about the lunch box and not simply rely on photos. A photo posted online may obscure damage or evidence of rust. Natural light photography does a better job of exposing damage than does florescent lighting. Ask pointed questions about the condition of the box, such as if it has any dings, rust, burns, damaged hinges or missing parts.
The age of a lunch box is an important indicator of value. Collectors should never rely on the seller's word that a box is from a particular era. Research the different lunchbox designs produced during specific time periods to confirm sellers' age claims. For instance, a Brady Bunch lunch box touted as being from the 1970s may not be from that time period. Lunch boxes are graded on a quality scale that ranges from C10, which indicates mint condition, to C1, which indicates the poorest condition.