My Pizza Box Collection Has a New Home

pizza box collection in a storage unit

My pizza box collection has come a long way since I started it back in 2009. I recently moved it into a storage facility, making this the first time the boxes and I haven’t lived in the same apartment. I decided it was time to dedicate some time to reorganizing the collection and preparing it for a new life. More on that later. First, some background about the collection.

I’ll never forget the first box I saved. It was adorned with an image of the Ponte Vecchio and the words “Tour of Italy” on the side. I saved it for a couple reasons. First of all, the image on top was unlike any I had ever seen on a pizza box. It was printed in multiple colors and seemed more intentional than most pizza box art. It also said “Limited Edition” on the side. I’d never seen this phrase on a pizza box. It almost seemed like a joke. Aren’t all pizza boxed limited edition? They’re temporary food packaging; they’re ephemeral. On the other hand, maybe there’s a network of collectors who find value in limited edition items like this! Maybe I could become one of them! And so my collection began with this box.

Roma tour of italy florence box limited edition

It wasn’t long before I figured out that, no, there isn’t a network of collectors who meet up and trade rare pizza boxes. My collection was unique. A friend of mine worked at a Brooklyn-based publishing house and called me in for a meeting about pizza book ideas. We brainstormed a bit but nothing felt right. Then they blurted out something along the lined of “We’ve always wanted to do a pizza box art book. Any interest in that?” They had no idea that my closet was crammed with hundreds of beautiful pizza boxes at the time. When the book based on my pizza box collection came out in November 2013, I hoped it would inspire collectors to reveal themselves as my brethren. Besides the occasional email about a dozen or two saved pizza boxes, no such revelation has happened.

Showing The Collection

The book was my first attempt to make the collection available to the public, but pictures on a page are no match for the real thing. We did a small exhibition of pizza boxes in Brooklyn to celebrate the book’s launch. It included about a dozen boxes compressed between matching squares of plexiglass. When I say “we,” I’m referring to myself and Steph Mantis, an incredibly talented designer, maker, and child of the pizza business. (I’m not kidding. Her family has operated a pizzeria for over 35 years in Biddeford, Maine.) Ever since the launch gallery, Steph has helped me share the collection with the public. The first set of boxes we displayed were some of my favorites at the time. Steph created a brilliant mounting system that floated the boxes without damaging them. Here’s a photo of that first display.

Scott Wiener and Steph Mantis at Melville House pizza box art display

Steph and I were given the opportunity to bring a selection of the pizza box collection to galleries in London, Manchester, and Berlin. The exhibitions were sponsored by Delivery Hero, a company that managed online ordering and home delivery for restaurants across Europe. The exhibitions were incredible, showcasing over 100 boxes in carefully curated displays along with interactive elements and art pieces inspired by pizza.

Sadly, the pizza boxes never made it back from Europe due to some major mismanagement on the part of a pizza restaurant in Manchester (UK). We let them showcase the boxes as long as they covered all the expenses. They just decided not to send the boxes back at the end of the show. We communicated back and forth for years to no avail. We had one last burst of positive news right before March 2020, but the pandemic led to a change of ownership and the destruction of my beloved pizza boxes. Major bummer.

Delivery Hero pizza box museum in Berlin, Germany

But I didn’t let that slow down my collection. In fact, it inspired me to work even harder to find replacements for some of my treasured pizza boxes. Now the collection totals nearly 1,900 unique pizza boxes from over 120 different countries. I’m working on cataloguing every single box and improving my photo archive so I can make them available to the public through a website and social media channel. In the meantime, the collection has finally moved from my home closet to a spacious storage unit. I installed some shelves, battery-powered lighting, and even some sweet checkered flooring!

Next Steps

The plan right now is to figure out a way to store the boxes in a safe, efficient way that will protect them for future eyes. Cardboard degrades pretty easily so I’ll have to get some acid-free archival storage boxes. Then I’ll get to work on cataloguing and categorizing the collection, photographing the boxes, and establishing a database that will upload all the information and images to a website. It’s going to take a lot of work and I’ll have to figure out how to pay for it all, but I truly believe that this collection will only get more interesting with every passing year.

Stay tuned for more information and please reach out if you’re an archivist or library sciences student and want to get involved with the project.


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