Why I Collect Newer .22 Boxes
by Dean Grua
It all started back in 1985. There I was, at a local handgun metallic silhouette practice, shooting my Contender, with spent rimfire cases all around. Opening up another box of Federal Lightning, which I was using at the time, I reflected on the neat, purplish box with yellow and white lightning bolt across the top. Thinking this was kind of cool, I decided to add a box to my collection. Collecting cartridges had been a favorite pastime for the previous 23 years, but I never thought to include boxes of any type.
At subsequent shooting events, I picked up some empty .22LR boxes and added them to my collection. There always seemed to be some new box to add, as I competed at several ranges in a 3-state area, and they were free. Soon I started buying full boxes from the local Sporting Goods stores to replace the empty ones I had found left over. I was fascinated by the variety of colors and designs on the boxes. I also pestered my friends and other shooters into selling me a new box I didn't have yet.
Most of these boxes were cardboard 50-rounders, though some were the plastic 100- round types. At first, they were the current Winchester, Remington and Federal boxes. Each one was interesting and different. I began to search gun shops and gun shows, and found many other ones I hadn't heard of before, mostly the English and German ones. These were quickly added to my collection. Everywhere I looked, you could find .22 boxes, and they were cheap. The collection grew quickly.
A few cartridge dealers listed some Rimfire boxes, and I began to add these. Many I had never seen before, and each find was a new, exciting treasure. The Robert T. Buttweiler auction catalogs showed some amazing older boxes, but the prices were far more than I realized some of those old boxes were worth, but a few of them were added from time to time, as I started running out of $3.00 boxes to find.
Then, about 8 years ago, I discovered the online auctions, Gunbroker, Auctionarms and Sold USA. Wow, what a variety of boxes I had never seen before, and many of them were relatively inexpensive. I began to haunt the auction sites on an almost daily basis. Whenever I found a neat box within reason, I bid on it. Occasionally, I found a few treasures that the seller didn’t know the real worth of and no one else was interested in.
Although I started collecting only .22 Long Rifle boxes, there were just too many neat ones in the other rimfire types that I couldn’t pass up. Shorts, Longs, Magnums, CB Caps…if it was something I didn’t have, I bought it. I expanded my collection into the various bullet types also. Even though I might have a Remington Long Rifle box, I would have to add the same box in Hollow Point or even a shot loading if they were available.
Now the collection had close to 300 boxes, and I thought it was a pretty good one. I noticed a few advance collectors had over 1000 boxes…man, I will never have a collection that big, but they also had all those nifty older, rare boxes. Then I acquired a copy of Tony Dunn’s “A Catalog of the .22 Boxes of the U.S.A.” What a fantastic reference source! After perusing it for several hours the first night, I got depressed…I had no idea the subject of .22 boxes was so involved. I mean, here I had a fairly common Winchester box, for example, but in Tony’s book, there were half a dozen or more variations in end flaps, side panels, company addresses, Child Warning labels, overstamps, etc. I felt so inadequate. There was no way I could ever find all those boxes.
As with any collection, eventually you’ll want to specialize. I’m still a general collector of all types of ammunition, but I have several sub-specialties. Even those can get out of hand, unless you really specialize…like only Winchester center fire cartridges produced between 1930 and 1940, for example. I realize one will never have a collection with one of everything made, but that shouldn’t stop you from trying. My spirits lifted, as I realized this book merely gave me more incentive to further my searches.
To keep it easier and less expensive, pick some aspect of the field to concentrate on, say one manufacturer. Start a Peters collection, for example…many of them are still available at good prices, and you don’t have to worry about being swamped with all the new boxes that come out each year. You could start with the newer ones, and eventually add the older ones as your finances allow. Perhaps even further specialize in only Short boxes, if you wanted, or the one-piece boxes only. This would give you a finite number of boxes to find. Others like to collect the brick sleeves. Unfolded, they take up little space. Another option is to collect the special tins or commemoratives. These are periodically offered and can be quite colorful with special graphics and artwork. If I were starting a new .22 box collection, I think I would make mine the plastic 100-round boxes only…there are some very nice ones, and they don’t tend to get as damaged over time as the flimsy cardboard boxes do.
So, how did I specialize my .22 collection? I didn’t…they are just too neat to ignore certain boxes. I came to realize, the joy was in the finding of items to add, as in all collections. Sure, those very rare boxes are very desirable, but that depends on the disposable income at the time. Eventually, one can add these a little at a time. I still look for more common boxes I don’t have, so I really have to carefully peruse the auction sites, as a previously passed-by example of a box I already own, may just be a variation I don’t have. I’m also looking for all the new box upgrades that come out every few years or so, like the latest CCI plastic boxes, and the new Winchester 100-round plastic boxes that are back in production. You can still add boxes for very little money, as it seems there are more new ones coming out every year. And with a source like Tony Dunn’s book, a wealth of knowledge will be gained about company histories and the competition between them for attracting rimfire shooters to their products.
Well, excuse me, I have to go searching again. I just found out today, that ELEY has revamped ALL their boxes for 2008. Some of their types are discontinued, making them now collectibles, and the new ones have spiffy colors…got to have them!