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Baby boomers who wax nostalgic over carrying piping hot Campbell's tomato soup to school in your very own Jetsons lunch box, take note: Kids' character lunch boxes are still going strong, and helping your school-age child select his first lunch box is a real rite of passage. For both of you.

You'll have plenty of choices -- from Thomas the Tank Engine to Tarzan. But don't expect to find many metal ones. Due to fears that kids would use metal lunch boxes as weapons, most manufacturers had switched to plastic or vinyl by 1985. (Those were the halcyon days, indeed, when the most dreaded school injury was a whack with a Scooby-Doo lunch box).

Old metal lunch boxes are highly collectible; one online seller expects to get $1,300 for a "mint condition" Partridge Family model.

Seem a bit steep for transporting little Ashley or Tyler's peanut-butter sandwich? Then consider these under-$20 lunch box gems we found just in time for back-to-school. And don't forget to check out the thermoses, which often are even cuter than the boxes themselves.

Stylish lunch boxes are everywhere. But thanks (and a nice, hot cup of soup) to the Great Train Store, Warner Brothers Studio Store and the Disney Store, all at Galleria Mall, for helping us give brown-baggers a big serving of lunch-time style.

Libby Maeder is a Buffalo-area free-lancer and frequent contributor to FIRST SUNDAY.

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