A Timeless Tradition: A Man’s Treasure Box

by Brett on August 6, 2012 · 133 comments

in A Man's Life

“We used to wait in the library in the evening until we could hear his key rattling in the latch of the front hall, and then rush out to greet him; and we would troop into his room while he was dressing, to stay there as long as we were permitted, eagerly examining anything which came out of his pockets which could be regarded as an attractive novelty. Every child has fixed in his memory various details which strike it as of grave importance. The trinkets he used to keep in a little box on his dressing-table we children always used to speak of as “treasures.” The word, and some of the trinkets themselves, passed on to the next generation. My own children, when small, used to troop into my room while I was dressing, and the gradually accumulating trinkets in the “ditty-box”—the gift of an enlisted man in the navy—always excited rapturous joy.”  – Theodore Roosevelt

Growing up, one item that loomed large in my boyish imagination was a small wooden box my dad kept on top of his dresser. There was nothing really special about the box itself. What made the box an object of fascination was what my dad kept inside it.

The box was the place my dad stored all his little trinkets that he had gathered through the years: pocket knives, cufflinks, class rings, and tie bars are just some of the items he kept in the box. But to me and my brother, my dad’s knickknacks were more than mere trinkets. They were treasures.

It was always a treat when dad would bring his treasure box down from the dresser and let me and my brother explore the items. I was amazed how much stuff he was able to cram into such a small space. Even as a boy, I recognized that my dad’s treasures were pretty darn manly. The box even had the faint manly smell of metal and musk.

I’ve talked to other men who share a similar memory as mine. Just like Theodore Roosevelt, they can remember specific items from their father’s or grandfather’s “treasure box.”

My dad’s treasure box is still in the same place it’s always been for nearly 30 years. Last weekend I visited my folks and brought my camera along so I could take some pictures of my dad’s treasure box and share them on the site. Below I take you all on a photo tour of my dad’s treasure box. I also snapped some photos of my own burgeoning treasure collection.

Top of my dad’s dresser.

Close-up on various pocket knives and my dad’s New Mexico game warden name tag.

Shotgun tie bar.

I was obsessed with this tie chain as a kid. It’s a working replica of a foothold trap. You can set it and put your finger on the trigger and it will snap shut. I’ve seen something like this sold in truck stops marketed as “mosquito traps.” I thought it was the coolest thing in the world as a kid. Twenty years later, I still think it’s pretty darn awesome.

One of many pocket knives in my dad’s treasure box.

My dad has recently added another box where he says he keeps “the real treasures.” These are all his badges he’s collected over the years in his service to the U.S Fish & Wildlife Service.

Fish & Wildlife badge when my dad did some work up in Alaska.

“Your readers who are hunters will know what this is,” my dad said. It’s an elk tooth, also known as elk ivory.

The Guardian of My Dad’s Treasure Box Since 1978: The Ceramic Mallard Soap-On-A-Rope Holder

Containing a manly scented soap-on-a-rope, this ceramic mallard has sat atop my dad’s dresser, standing guard over his treasure box since 1978. Avon sold these back in the 70s. I know there’s got to be some older readers who got this awesomely manly soap dish as a Christmas present along with cologne in pheasant-shaped bottles. I always thought it was cool, manly, and distinguished as a kid. I will be fighting my brother over it when we settle my parents’ estate.

I don’t think my dad ever used the soap. It still smells great. Avon needs to re-issue these bad boys. I think they could sell a boatload of them for Christmas. I’m pretty sure Old Spice got their idea for the  grizzly bear deodorant holder from this duck soap dish.

My Treasure Box

I’ve continued the tradition of keeping some “treasures” above my dresser. My dad gave me some of his treasures, to which I’ve added my own mementos. I’ve had several treasure boxes over the years, including old cigar boxes. Those are great man treasure boxes. Today I keep my trinkets in a wooden valet that I got for Christmas a few years ago. My collection is pretty paltry compared to my dad’s, but to be fair, he’s had a few more decades than me to build up his collection.

My memento mori cufflinks I wear to my monthly Freemason meetings.

This tie bar belonged to Kate’s grandfather. He passed away a couple of years ago, and Kate’s Nana gave it to me. It’s in the shape of the USS Indiana, the battleship he served on during WWII.

Several of the items in my box are things AoM readers have sent me over the years. Those are some of my favorites. One AoM reader sent me this handsome meerschaum pipe that’s in the shape of a pirate’s head. I don’t smoke, but it will forever hold a place in my box of manly treasures.

Front of the pirate’s head.

Some of you have probably noticed the  Mormon missionary name tag nestled among my treasures.  I served a Mormon mission when I was 19 in Tijuana, Mexico. My mission was a defining moment in my life and definitely a rite of passage into manliness for me, so the name tag definitely deserves a place in the box.

This is a pocket watch that two of my friends from high school gave me before I left for Tijuana. They engraved a quote from Seneca on one side: “Time discovers truth.” On the other side are their initials.

You’ve got to have pocket knives in your box of manly treasures. This one used to be in my dad’s, but now it’s in mine.

Douk Douk pocket knife the kind folks at Bench & Loom recently sent me.

My almost two-year-old Gus is already interested in my treasure box. He likes to sit on top of my dresser and rummage though things. His favorite thing is the harmonica. He still doesn’t have it quite figured out yet. I’m looking forward to when he gets a bit older and I can share the stories behind the items, just like my dad did with me.

Showing Gus his Pop Pop’s old pocket knife. Just as my dad gave me some of his treasures to start my collection, one day I’ll give Gus some of mine so he can start his.

What’s in Your Treasure Box?

Who else out there has a box on their dresser that contains their manly “treasures?” What do you have in your box? Share with us in the comments.

Better yet, share a picture of your treasures with us. Take a picture of them and upload it to the AoM Community, or you can use Instagram and tag them with with @artofmanliness and #manlytreasures. I’m looking forward to learning about your man treasures!

If you don’t have a ditty-box for your manly treasures, start one today. It’s a great way to store your memories as well as those small assortments you use on a regular basis like tie bars and watches. It doesn’t have to be very fancy. Old cigar boxes are great for holding man treasures. (If you’re looking for a cigar box, pick up The Art of Manliness Collection. It’s both our books encased in a vintage inspired cigar box.) Or just pick up an inexpensive box from a craft store, like Hobby Lobby. Someday your kids will enjoy rummaging through your manly treasures and hearing the stories behind the interesting things you’ve picked up along life’s way!

{ 133 comments… read them below or add one }

1 Todd - Fearless Men August 6, 2012 at 5:48 pm

Wow love the photos. This is an old, genius idea I’ve got to get on myself immediately.

I have some valuable trinkets in paper bags or hidden with documents or other valuables. Hard to get to and not all in one location. I must consolidate immediately…

My dad is an incredible craftsman, I think I’ll ask him to make me one for Christmas.

2 Todd - Fearless Men August 6, 2012 at 5:51 pm

This is an old, genius idea I’ve got to get on myself immediately.

I have some valuable trinkets in paper bags or hidden with documents or other valuables. Hard to get to and not all in one location. I must consolidate immediately…

My dad is an incredible craftsman, I think I’ll ask him to make me one for Christmas.

Great pictures BTW!

3 Fred August 6, 2012 at 5:58 pm

I have the shifter knob from my ’66 VW.

4 Matt August 6, 2012 at 6:03 pm

I’m not quite out of my teenaged years, but I started a “treasure shelf” so to speak a couple years ago. It’s a shelf opposite my bed, and serves to hold my most valued possessions.

– A set of Black Diamond banjo strings and a bluegrass gospel songbook that belonged to my great-granddad. Unfortunately, he passed away before I began playing, but I think of him every time I perform.
– a dried out rosebud that I wore to the last orchestra concert I played with one of my dearest female friends.
– A photo from the same concert.
– assorted antique pocketknives, match boxes, cufflinks, and trinkets. Photos of family members and friends.
–my journal from the spring that my dad fought (successfully) Stage IV cancer.
– A great big carpentry plane that belonged to my granddad.
–A stack of notes, scraps of paper, etc. which have little things scribbled on them.
– a little cross to remind me of my two twin brothers who were miscarried.
–and finally, a piece of tape from my football helmet with the numbers of two teammates and good friends who died in accidents in one year. #41 & #36.

5 Bull Benn August 6, 2012 at 6:04 pm

Your son’s name is Gus? Can you call my wife and convince her to let me name our son the same thing? Great article BTW.

6 Max August 6, 2012 at 6:06 pm

At what freemansons grade are you? Hello from Germany Max

7 Nick August 6, 2012 at 6:13 pm

One great thing about being in the Navy is the tradition of passing command or personal coins. My treasure box is filled with all different coins, from that of an admiral to the U.S.S Constitutions ship coin. My box also includes an old brass zippo i found and my old Boy Scout pocket knife, among other things. My sons going to have a field day with my treasure box when he is old enough.

8 Adam August 6, 2012 at 6:14 pm

This is an awesome article! I vividly remember looking through my dad’s treasure box as a kid and being amazed at all of the cool “old” stuff he had (including his own missionary name tag), era un misionero en Mexico tambien pero en Veracruz, gracias por este articulo fuen bien interesante!

9 Gianni Dalerta August 6, 2012 at 6:19 pm

What a great article. This site has become my favorite read. Loved this and loving the 31 series. Would love those 31 items with your illustrations as a small hard cover book to give my son and to my cub scouts as a gift.

10 Ryan August 6, 2012 at 6:20 pm

Wow, i have a small treasure box. Now that i think about it, so did my father (although i think his was a treasure drawer).

Never realized they were so common.

11 Iain August 6, 2012 at 6:22 pm

I recently starting putting things in the box that the AOM books came in! Not much in there so far, a few pocket knives and a couple of zippo lighters.

12 Reader August 6, 2012 at 6:26 pm

My dad always goes camping with military field desks organized with all he needs – one is the cooking desk, with everything from spices to hot chocolate packets to utensils stored away in the wooden drawers and the other is for everything else. When he’s not camping, they rest in the garage, ready to go, easy to restock. A few years ago, he made a miniature field desk, drawers and all, and filled it with some of his treasures, all the things that meant something to him throughout his life, things that belonged to his dad and his grandfather, and he painted it to match his camping desks and inscribed it on the bottom to me. It is one of my prized possessions. I’ve added my own treasures to it, and will enjoy sharing them with my own children when they are older. It’s a special place.

13 Jim Collins August 6, 2012 at 6:35 pm

Esteemed Readers, Brett, and Kate,

I spent most of the years of my childhood and early youth on the Yakima reservation where my uncle Fred, I don’t know his actual blood relationship to me, taught me to fish, hunt, and track. He was a man of few words who was drinking himself to death and showed me that manly love was possible. Hunting was the only think he could sober up for. “It’s just not right to kill that way boy,” is all he ever said on that subject. He used a 1903 Springfield he got from his elder (that’s a complicated relationship) when he was a young. “It’s best to keep all that killin’ in one gun boy,” he told me with a ponderous gravity. The same elder gave him his medicine pouch, a buck skin pouch sewn shut and containing the artifacts that his elder had associated with him during his first sweat house cleansing and mescaline ceremony. One wears the medicine pouch in times of trial for guidance and it is not to be opened until one is “dressed” before funeral. I was at Fred’s dressing and while I am typically erudite I have no words for the strength of the feelings I have for the objects in that pouch. It would be disrespectful for me to name them. There is nothing special about them except that they are VERY special.

Fred sat with me through the night of my first sweat lodge cleansing and mescaline ceremony and after the elder hung my medicine pouch around my neck, Fred kissed me on the forehead and walked me down the mountain, Rattle Snake Ridge on the Columbia, and drove me back to his dilapidated trailer where I slept for a long time. I keep Fred’s pouch with mine in a wood cigar box on my night stand and my wife knows that box is a kind of temple for me.

I am not a mystic and I don’t associate those objects literally with the powers that Fred did. For me, they are symbols of love and the interconnectedness of nature. When I’m having a rough time, especially with my work, I spend some time alone with the contents of that box and I like to think that I’m still hunting, except now I’m hunting understanding in my role as a biologist/biochemist instead of hunting elk. I will never know what’s in my pouch, but I’d bet my right eye that there’s a crow feather in there as I’ve always had an affinity to the savvy black bird, the rhetorician in many Native American stories, and my loved ones know I want my body to be given to crows when my time comes. You can still do that on the reservation, and they’ll have a Hell of a party with it.

14 Victor P. August 6, 2012 at 6:40 pm

I started to own a Valet about 2 years back and I tend to keep all of my day to day things there. I have: Old Business card from when I was just starting out my career, money clips, tie clips, notable scraps of paper that hold memories, My grandfather’s Pocket Watch, and several other knick-knacks. I still have much to add, as I’m in my mid-twenties, but I can definitely look forward to it.

15 Stephen August 6, 2012 at 6:57 pm

Neat. My father has one right on top of his dresser too. A few religious trinkets, badges, and a bunch of black and white photographs in his box.

16 Craig Lyons August 6, 2012 at 6:57 pm

I always enjoyed looking through my dad’s box of shiny metal objects as well; notable contents included his father’s pins and memorials from his time working for Convair in San Diego while they developed the Atlas booster rockets, and an awesome pin from the “American Bowling Congress” in Chicago, 1929. Also a good number of pins from my dad’s work as a golf course and stable manager, and related memorabilia from the 1984 Los Angeles Olympics. Plenty of Knights of Columbus pins as well. My own collection is slowly forming around my Eagle Scout loot.

17 dannyb278 August 6, 2012 at 7:10 pm

always loved this kind of stuff. my Grandfather kept most of his treasures in a old can in his workshop. ww2 zippo, pins, knives etc. Mine has much of the same things, mementos from military service, knives, tie pins, coins etc.

18 Chris August 6, 2012 at 7:12 pm

Loved this post. My dad had a treasure box too, and I had the same fascination with it as you do. I have carried on the tradition as well, and it is fun to see my kids looking for treasures in it as well.

19 Jordan August 6, 2012 at 7:21 pm

Just instagrammed my treasure box. It’s got some old coins, a couple pocket knives, a broken pocket watch, some monkey fist cuff links, a signet ring a stranger sent me from Germany, and some gold that my dad and I mined from our gold claim. Top notch stuff Brett (as usual).

20 Matt August 6, 2012 at 7:36 pm

My treasure box is a leather box handmade by my great-grandfather. So it’s a treasure in itself, I guess! I mostly have random coins I found, a couple of 1890′s pennies, coins from my birth year, etc. my granddad’s pocket knife, and money from my travels around the world.
I have another box with all my Freemason pins and books, some inherited from my dad and grandfathers.

21 Tim August 6, 2012 at 7:50 pm

This is great. My dad had a box like this and as a kid I loved to go through the articles of manliness contained within it. It all had a familiar funky musk and Old Spice smell to it. I hated it, really, but at the same time was strangely comforting. I now have that box on my dresser. He passed away about 12 years ago. Now my son enjoys seeing my dad’s treasures as well as mine when I let him go through it.

22 KC August 6, 2012 at 7:59 pm

this post definitely hits close to home, my grandfather, along with my father have always had boxes like this, although I never got an invite to look inside and hear the stories behind the treasures, being the nosy kid that I was I would always look in them when I could gain access, and the box my grandfather had looked very similar to your fathers, my dads got some nice cool old trinkets, old bullet shells, old compass and knives and watches. I never thought twice about it, or even realized I was doing it, it’s just been natural, my box contains knives, cigar cutters, pins, old ticket stubs etc, same as my old man and my grandfather.

23 Mike August 6, 2012 at 8:43 pm

I have an old cashier’s box from the 1920′s that I picked up at a thrift store. Inside I keep a small 40′s English snuff box that serves to organize my silver items such as cuff links, money clip, etc. I also have my passport and 1985 US Mint proof set (my birth year) that I picked up in Hawaii. There is a removable tray inside with compartments that I keep filled with old coins from many, many different countries and old photos of 40′s pinup girls. My son is too young to appreciate it at the moment but he will, and it will be his one day.

24 Will August 6, 2012 at 9:49 pm

I don’t have a treasure chest of my own yet. I’m a young man and other than knives, which I collect, I don’t have much else to put in a treasure box yet. However, I can remember looking through my dad’s box when I was kid. His wooden nickle was always my favorite treasure to examine.

25 Jacob Butitta August 6, 2012 at 9:57 pm

Wow, this article Really tugs at my heart strings. I have always had a box in my nightstand that I have made a habit of storing some of the more intriguing articles I find. Including a pocket knife that my grandfather gave me before he passed away. A lot of military challenge coins that I have collected over my career as an Air Force Firefighter. Name tags, badges, medals, old rank tabs. I really hope my son takes a yearning to them as I have always cherished the memories and stories commemorated by everything I keep.

26 Clay August 6, 2012 at 9:57 pm

My dad has his box in the only dresser/chest I’ve ever known him to have. His is filled with pocketknifes and old coins and watches. I hope to add his collection to mine, but not for many decades to come.
I have my a couple of my own. One is an old cigar box, I keep movie/concert ticket stubs, photos of people I care for, and other sundry pieces of paper in it. In the second box I have my grandfathers pocket knives, old Spanish coins, a shark tooth necklace given to me by my sister, a Toledo (Spain) gold cross that I will give my future wife, it matches the one I gave my sister on her wedding day, pins from my high school lettermans jacket, a few small boxes of .22 boxes that were on my grandfathers dresser when he died (he was an incredible marksmen, shooting squirrels from his back porch), his duck call. Both boxes contain an impressive amount of things I have little practical use for, however I don’t really measure their worth in practicality, but in memories.

I truly enjoyed this article as well as the comments, especially Mr. Jim Collins’. I found his story truly moving. Some men find it hard to discuss such an intamite relationship, and I find it refreshing to see it done so publicly. Kudos to you, sir.

27 DP August 6, 2012 at 10:09 pm

i more have one with bad memories. i preffer to display stuff on counter tops. but in one box i have momentoes i dont show. their is a old valintimes card from an ex along with a rossery another gave me hopeing it whould magicly convert me. did not work

28 Andrew August 6, 2012 at 10:10 pm

My dad had a box of manly treasures that included some fossils, several arrow heads, a stone tomahawk head, and an old machine gun cartridge he somehow came across in addition to several other odds and ends. This was in addition to his odds and end drawer. I used to keep my own box when I was a kid, that mostly consisted of cool rocks I found, marbles, and baseball cards (even though I didn’t like baseball).

Reading this kind of makes me want to get back into collecting odds and ends, although right now I don’t have too much to put in there. The closest thing I have to a manly addition to such a box is a fairly detailed trilobite fossil I picked up at a mineral store on a trip to the Serpent Mound, and a cool looking rock that has an impression that I can’t ascertain as biological or not for certain.

I’m no geologist (biology was my major) but evidently my fixation is on rocks, haha. But hey, few things are closer to permanent, right? Just toss in some more man made stuff and I’ll have me a proud collection of man treasures to pass on to the young’uns some day.

29 Clay August 6, 2012 at 10:12 pm

That should be intimate. And I also keep a cigar diary with cigar bands and notations, in that cigar box, completely slipped my mind.

30 Larry Bratton August 6, 2012 at 10:41 pm

I too have pocket knives, small special gifts from close friends and relatives, a 35 year old treasured Cross pen and pencil set, and several watches. On the top of the box is the greatest treasure, a picture of my two sons. It is truly a “treasure” box.

31 Brandon August 6, 2012 at 11:04 pm

Jim Collins, that was an awesome read… Thank you.

That being said, the treasure box in surprisingly timeless and universal. My own is a polished metal box. I wanted a box to put some of my watches in, and small keepsake items that were always on my dresser, and my search landed me at a very interesting metal box. They were fairly expensive, but I stumbled across one that was in poor shape for a fraction of the cost. The owner had been unable to restore the finish and had it up for sale. I like working on old cars and knew what it needed. I polished it out and paint detailed the cast design and cleaned the black felt lining and reinstalled it. My kids watched the process over a few days, and really dug how it was restored into something special…

32 Ryan Wilson August 6, 2012 at 11:28 pm

Stumbled across this. I’ve been calling it a “man box.” I even got my son one.

33 Kyle Ballard August 6, 2012 at 11:29 pm

I suspected you were a fellow Mo. I also have an almost two year old son named Gus and he loves my treasure box. I occasionally let him hold my Case pocket knife and he walks around with it in his pocket like he is king. I tell my wife I can’t wait to by him his first pocket knife. It started at 8, progressed to 5, who knows how long I can hold out on getting him his first knife. He also knows that when he can smell Aqua Velva after shave that I shaved(safety razor of course) and he rubs my face with both hands and smiles. I look forward to the articles and appreciate the work on the site. From one man to another man thank you.

34 josh August 6, 2012 at 11:40 pm

When I was younger, my brother and I would always go into my parents’ room and go through my dad’s cedar chest he kept at the foot of his bed. It was filled with the most interesting things. He too was a missionary and all of his mission treasures from Korea were in there. I’ve started my own over the past few years. I hope my sons will enjoy my treasures as much as we had fun ging through our father’s.

35 Helen August 7, 2012 at 12:01 am

Loved this article. Glad to know you liked the duck. I gave that to your dad when I sold Avon..didn’t know it had the soap still inside. I want to get rid of it!!!

36 Dave August 7, 2012 at 12:46 am

My box is a humidor that my sister gave me before she died in a car crash 10 years ago this november. I quit smoking long ago so I began keeping a few things special to me inside of it including a picture of me and both my sisters the day I graduated from basic training. Thank you for another great article.

37 Erick R August 7, 2012 at 2:24 am

The missionary name tag is an awesome addition to your box of manly stuff. I can only wish I had one as well.

38 Juanting August 7, 2012 at 2:44 am

Jim Collins, wow! keep hunting! indeed there seem to be nothing “special” about the nicknacks in my box but, hopefully, someday when my son reads my journal, he’ll understand that dad’s junk were special in their own way and recall the stories i told him! Thanks Brett!

39 Bob August 7, 2012 at 3:30 am

This is a great article. I actually have serveral boxes one for challange coins collected over the last 20 years, a foot locker and a tacle box. There are all sorts of items in those boxes and probably some that needs to be cleaned out. But there are a few very special things like the zippo my Dad carried during his time in Vietnam which he took from his box and passed onto me several years back. My grandfathers wrist watch is in there as well as a few of his old pocket knives. I have also keep a chveron from each rank I have held . I also have a special box in the foot locker that holds little notes and letters my kids have given me over the years. Recently my son and I built a box for him I figured I would get him started everyone needs somepalce to keep their treasure.

40 Chris C August 7, 2012 at 7:19 am

My dad has a glass jar, about the size of a two quart jar, but with fluted sides and a beveled glass top. I’m not sure what it is or where he picked it up; I’ll have to ask him about it. Maybe it’s a cigar jar or something, it would be about the right size.

This article really brought back some memories. I had no idea other fathers did the same thing. I remember as a kid rummaging through his jar – his army patches and insignia, the ubiquitous pocket knife, several German coins from his time in the army, old American coins, service pins from work. True “treasures” for a child.

I have a wooden seed box on my dresser. it contains about a dozen $1 tokens from various Las Vegas hotels, unique stones from my travels, three pocket knives, two pocket watches, a harmonica and a boatload of Masonic, Boy Scout and work-related pins. My daughter likes going through my “treasures” as much as I did my Dad’s.

Thanks for the article, Brett!

41 Robbo August 7, 2012 at 8:06 am

Lovely article. I have such a treasure trove myself, known as the Box of Many Things.

42 Nate C August 7, 2012 at 8:34 am


I’ve followed your blog for some time and did not know until now that you are a fellow traveling man.

If you are ever in the Baltimore, MD area look us up. Millington #166

I wish you well in all your endeavors.



43 Tom August 7, 2012 at 9:00 am

I know where the real treasure box is.

44 Paul August 7, 2012 at 9:02 am

Both my mom and my fiancée call this a ‘junk drawer’, and both my dad and I have one that we guard jealously :) There’s pocket knives, scribblings, foreign spare change and old rings in both of them.

Speaking of rings, I recently inherited my paternal grandfather’s wedding ring, into which I can almost fit two fingers… he was a lumberjack with enormous hands. I consider melting it down to use it as my own wedding band, but the sheer size of it (think Lord of the Rings) is just so damn impressive that I am really hard pressed to do so!

45 Richard Williams August 7, 2012 at 9:11 am

And I thought I was the only one! I have a large, trunk size “treasure box” that I keep a bunch of stuff from my childhood – old coins, pocket knives, etc, etc. I remember my daughters LOVED to rummage through it when they were young and still at home. Thanks – great post!

46 Bryan August 7, 2012 at 9:21 am

Great article. I had to smile when when i started reading, because I too had the same fascination with my father’s treasure box. My inadvertant treasure box is my US Air Force Academy wooden class ring box engraved with our class crest. It contains (of course) my ring, various forgeign currency from my travels to Indonesia, France, Mongolia, Tunisia, etc., pocket knives, a couple pairs of cufflinks, some tie bars, and a picture of my father and I.
Great article!

47 Jack S. August 7, 2012 at 9:24 am

When I moved out for college a couple years ago, I reserved a few cardboard boxes to fill with items from my childhood that I would want to one day show my family. One box has all of my old trophies, I have a couple portfolios filled with all the art work I had created in high school, and another box contains my diploma (which I designed for the high school), boards I broke in Karate back in first grade plus all my Karate belts, and many other beloved trinkets. The cut t-shirt from my first solo flight is mounted to a VFR sectional inside a shadowbox. I have since acquired many other “treasures”, and I can’t wait to show my own family one day.

48 Scott Sideleau August 7, 2012 at 9:30 am

This post brought back great memories for me. My dad had a similar box, complete with a mallard on top, filled with all sorts of great things. I think it’s time I started my own box; and, I think I’ll start by re-purposing the AoM Collection cigar box. Thanks for the great idea!

49 Mrs. Rich August 7, 2012 at 9:59 am
50 Mrs. Rich August 7, 2012 at 10:02 am
51 Ryan Woodrow August 7, 2012 at 10:11 am

I too have a box like this however I didn’t realize it’s significance until I read this article. Up until now it was nothing more than an old jewelry box to store small odds and ends without a home but after I read this article I realized that the history of my life was stored within.

The container itself is an old cloth lined wooden box with a lock and key mechanism. The glue is dried out and it feels like it could fall apart just by looking at it too long but I think it gives it character. I ended up with the box after my uncle committed suicide two years ago so the box itself has special meaning as I recall seeing it sitting on his dresser as long as I can remember. I’m not 100% sure but I think it originally belonged to my great grandfather who died the summer before I was born.

Here are some of the more meaningful contents in no particular order.

-My high school and college class rings.

-The badge of my college fraternity.

-A leather bracelet with plastic beads that I made at a summer camp I attended as a child. The camp is tucked away in the middle of a forest preserve in Upper Michigan and is still my very favorite place on Earth.

-My championship ring from the professional hockey team I work for. How many people can say have a championship ring with their name on it?

-A garnet ring given to me by my parents when I was confirmed.

-A set of gold cufflinks given to me by my uncle on my wedding day. These cufflinks were originally my great grandfathers and then my uncle ended up with them. They prominently feature the letter R which is coincidentally the first initial of all three of our names!

-My Boy Scout rank patches. I keep these as a reminder to set goals and finish what I start. I was so close to becoming an Eagle Scout when I stopped and it remains one of the great regrets of my life.

Looking back I realized that my dad has a similar box on his dresser that I like looking through when I was younger. There are items in there that I know I want to hold on to but hopefully I will not receive them for many years to come!

Thanks for the great article and for helping me realize the significance of my “treasure box.”

52 Shannon August 7, 2012 at 10:50 am

Great article Brett! You and Larry will definitely be the only ones fighting for the ceramic duck ;-)

53 Bob Pearce August 7, 2012 at 10:52 am

Thanks for another wonderful article! I was instantly transported to both my grandfather’s and my father’s work benches. Best moments of my day!

54 Bro. Kevin August 7, 2012 at 11:07 am

I shouldn’t be so surprised to see a quick thing on freemasonry on here haha, what lodge do you attend?

55 Aaron August 7, 2012 at 11:18 am

Mad respect, I also have a missionary tag in my treasure box. i need to compile my ” treasures a little bit better awesome article man!

56 Robb August 7, 2012 at 11:56 am

My dad had one of those exact same ducks on his dresser when I was a boy. He used to dump his spare change into it (along with a few small trinkets).

Since those days, my parents have moved a LOT and downsized their possessions, so I was surprised, when I visited them this summer, that he still has the duck; it was sitting in the window sill of their bedroom.

I mentioned how I had always liked it, and if he ever planned to get rid of it, would he save it for me? Done deal. Now I won’t have to worry about any of my brothers or nephews getting THE DUCK.

It’s silly, cause it;s just a ceramic duck. But it’s my dad’s treasure chest.

57 Tara August 7, 2012 at 12:21 pm

My dad has always had a treasure box… a carved wooden box he brought back from Okinawa when he was in the Marine Corps. My brother and I loved going through his treasures when we had the chance. He and I each have our own treasure boxes now, and so does my partner – he has lots of pins, pocket knives, watches, photos and other little memorabilia.

58 R.J. August 7, 2012 at 12:29 pm

You know Brett, you’ve inpsired me to make my own Treasure Box myself. If I ever have kids, I’ll tell them all sorts of cool stories about each little trinket. And maybe, I’ll look back and smile at all the eventful history I actually have, and say that it’s been a wonderful life. Thank you Brett, this was a good article.

But I never took you for a Latter Day Saint Brett. I suspected it a little bit in your Manvotionals book with the David O. McKay quote, but, it religion doesn’t matter anyway to how I enjoy your blog. You’re still one of the best around.

59 Andrey August 7, 2012 at 1:47 pm

I store my treasures in small cardboard boxes I found. I think it is time I got myself a weekend project of building a Treasure Box.
One of my favorite things is my grandfather’s badge that he wore when he worked part time as a traffic control officer.

60 Andrew K August 7, 2012 at 1:54 pm

I think it’s better when some of your trophies are frame instead of left in a box. For my father and his father, they were mostly 4-H badges and high school awards. My father also had all of his military ribbons he accumulated through Vietnam and then his service as a Air Force National Guard.

Mine are three-fold: there’s the USAD state medals, three honor letters, and some 4-H ribbons. Then there’s the diplomas. I’m not proud of my high school or bachelor’s diplomas, but I am proud of my master’s diploma.

And then there’s my books. I sort of include them as treasures, like some of the books I’ve purchased and collected, and then there’s the textbooks I had in college for computers, meteorology and the like. I need to get a proper library for those books one day.

61 Bret August 7, 2012 at 2:03 pm

Only two items: a black and white picture of my dad in his Marine Corps dress blues, and an engraved Zippo sent from my uncle – then an Army Lieutenant – to my dad while he was deployed to Vietnam.

62 adam August 7, 2012 at 3:03 pm

Alright, you got me. I bought the boxed set from Amazon so I could have a temporary treasure box. I realized I have too many things floating around the house that belong in there.

63 Steve August 7, 2012 at 3:09 pm

I’ve taken a custom to collecting Masonic pins from the many lodges and jurisdictions that I have visited in my travels.

I also have pocket knives, coins, cufflinks and watches….

64 Zeno August 7, 2012 at 3:44 pm

I really enjoyed this post.
It made me reminisce of my fathers and grandfathers boxes. Thanks.

65 Aaron August 7, 2012 at 3:51 pm

As a Navy man, this is absolutely essential to us. Most don’t hold ditty-boxes as Teddy Roosevelt once did, but we have our own collections of trinkets from around the world, as well as our different commands. My version of a treasure box is a coffee mug with a picture of a kitten on it that says “Lovely Cat” in rainbow letters…not the manliness thing in my possession, but I got it overseas and Norway and it will always remind me of that. Treasures include command coins, cigar tubes from Cuba, USSR medals from a visit to Lithuania, coins from around the world, (including a prized denari from ancient Rome) and of course my own collection of earned ribbons, medals, and rank insignia, among many other things.

As the years go on, my collection has expanded and is now overflowing from my Lovely Cat mug into the drawer I keep it in: not a proper treasure box, in short. I think a guide on making your own treasure box would make an EXCELLENT D.I.Y article.

Great article, I think this one might be my favorite.

66 Matt B August 7, 2012 at 6:28 pm

This is something of a sentimental type article for me. I have my grandfather’s treasure box, or valet, and I’ve had it for many years. It’s a ceramic box with a mallard duck on top. Inside, it holds some tie-tacs, my zippo, lip balm, my grandfather’s Imperial Scout Knife, my Sheffield utility knife, my Opinel No. 8, my Leatherman Fuse, my Timex, and my paracord bracelet. I’ve had it since I was 14, and take extra special care of it. I have no idea how old it is, but my grandfather had it back in the 50′s, and it still looks like it came off the shelf.

67 sworddude August 7, 2012 at 7:51 pm

I have movie ticket stubs from when my wife and I were dating before we got married. Her garter from our wedding day. The rest is pocket knives, coins, tie tacks/clips, cuff links, my sci fi discount card from a bookstore I worked at, a silver dollar from my dad’s man box that was also in his dad’s and school rings.

68 RyanB August 7, 2012 at 10:00 pm

My small treasure box is actually a small flip-top box my mother received with a furniture purchase at one of the bigger department stores in the 1980s. Somewhere in the dim past, I took a marker to the inside of the lid and drew a rabbit, and from that time on it was considered “my” box.

Aside from my Eagle Scout patch, I’ve got my deceased grandfather’s pocket knife (given to me in memory of all the times I needed to borrow it to cut the tape off of presents wrapped by my grandmother), some fiddly-bits given to me by my first real girlfriend, ticket stubs from major trips (including my wedding in Seattle), and probably the absolutely most important thing of all – a tiny dollar window crystal from a truck stop that was hung in front of the kitchen window from the first days I can remember to when I moved out and got married.

69 Lee August 7, 2012 at 10:00 pm

Thanks for an awesome article. I actually got chills reading it. I had no idea that this was a ‘manly’ thing that others did too. My dad always had a ‘treasure box’. He gave one to me when I was in college and I’ve kept lots of treasures in it for the last 20+ years. Fraternity pin, casino chip, nuts from the hinge bolts from my jeep. And other stuff.

My son made a new one for me in high school wood shop class. So now I can keep newer treasures. maybe i’ll give it back to him some day.

70 Tristan August 8, 2012 at 3:51 am

Reminds me of the “man drawer” of Michael McIntyre

71 Adithya August 8, 2012 at 7:11 am

i got to get started on this right away….

72 Alex August 8, 2012 at 10:40 am

Wow, I have a vintage box sitting on my dresser already containing many of the things mentioned here. I feel that bit more manly for it!

73 Jim Collins August 8, 2012 at 1:36 pm

Esteemed Kate, Readers, and Brett,

I propose that we use the responses to this article as a model for what dialog on this site can be: sharing our experiences in the mutual interest of being better. There has been no rancor, no attempts to invalidate the experience others are describing, and no challenges to whether or not others are doing it right. Rather, we have shared experiences that signify our lives as the human sibling we can surely be. I am aware that some credit for this belongs with the authors who moderate AoM.

I am also aware that language I have used carries connotations that lie within other people’s religious beliefs. So, in the interest of full disclosure I would like to point out that I am without religious belief, espouse no political stance, and am not interested in changing anyone’s mind in any sense other than offering tools to others when I can. I am asking all readers to consider the fact that those differences have not kept us from embracing our various and shared experiences with respect to boxes full of trinkets.

This stands in contrast with responses to previous articles that in spite of efforts by the moderators and many readers have veered toward mutual devaluations.

I summarize thus — I don’t know what it’s like to be you, but I’m interested. Thank you all for sharing your treasures



74 Adam August 8, 2012 at 4:13 pm

Fantastic article. My Dad has several treasure troves in the house. A couple of well worn Crown Royal bags in the bottom of the gun cabinet has old coins and old marbles that he has found and collected over the years. There is an old crock bowl on top of his dresser that collected the rest of the treasures. He also had that same damn duck. Its head is glued on after an accident that I may or may not have been a part of. I haven’t seen that thing for a while though and I may see if I can resurrect it next time I’m home. I’ve got a couple of simple walnut boxes my grandpa made with my “treasures” in them on my dresser that my boys love to go through.
Wow, lots of great memories and insight came from this article. Well Done!

75 Maureen August 8, 2012 at 4:27 pm

I have a decidedly unmanly version of this–my mother gave me her late sister’s miniature Lane cedar chest that she and all the other female students got when she graduated high school (Ma kept hers for herself!). It’s not full of trinkets, though; my small fountain pen, ink, and ink sample collection have moved in. That can’t last, though, since I have a bottle of ink and a pen coming to outgrow it.

76 Mike August 8, 2012 at 4:31 pm

I’ve been visiting the site for over a year but THIS article is why I joined.

I haven’t thought of it in years but this reminded me of my father’s ‘treasure box,’ mostly trinkets from his time in the army, plus some tie clasps, pins etc.

After reading, I started to look at all of my trinkets the same way(and how unorganized they are!) chevrons and eagle/globe/anchor pins, us marshall pins, foreign coins, religious medallions, you might even count my grandfather’s dogtag on my keychain The best ‘trinket’ is a STRAIGHT RAZOR I bought for $20 made between 1824 and 1853(I started shaving with straights after stumbling upon this site(THANKS!!))

So I guess what I’m saying is thanks for writing this article! Now the hunt begins for that old cigar box…

77 Tecumseh August 9, 2012 at 9:08 am

My treasure box is a cedar lock box that was actually my grandfather’s own treasure box.  When I was a teenager, he would occasionally pull out his box and show me all of the treasures that he collected over his lifetime.  It mostly consisted of old coins, silver certificates,  confedertate money, family recipies, tresured photographs, and his favorite watches and knives that he retired through the years.  Every object had a story which my grandfather would recount to me; some of which would be tales of his own first-hand account of my great-great-grandfather.  The most impressive part of his treasure box was the straight razor and shaving brushes of my great-grandfather and my great-great-grandfather; all kept in surprisingly pristine condition for their age and use over the years. When my grandfather passed in the mid-1980s, my father saw how hard I was taking his death, and so he gave me the box and all of its contents so I can better remember the times I spent with my grandfather.  That was an extremely gracious gesture by my father that I will always be grateful for.

Over the last 25 years I have added  to that box with treasures of my own such as my own cherished photos, retired pocketknives and watches, award pins and medals, favorite concert and movie tickets, and coins and paper money from all of the different foreign countries I have visited, worked and lived in.  

I consider my treasure box not just a collection of family artifacts, but more of  a symbol of how incredibly important and powerful love, experience and memory can be during a persons’ lifetime.  I have learned a great deal from it.

78 Bordello August 9, 2012 at 12:57 pm

My father has one of these, and I remember both of my grandfathers’ boxes with fondness. I keep my treasures in a humidor one of my customers gave me- the seal is faulty, and he didn’t have space in his library for a humidor that wouldn’t hold a good RH.
If anyone wants cigar boxes, seek out a local humidor/cigar shop. Many times they will give them for free, but in a number of instances they will sell the boxes for a few dollars and donate the proceeds to local charities. I give mine away for free as it is now, but in the future I am looking to charge $2/box, which would be donated to a local battered women and children charity.

79 Sander August 9, 2012 at 3:48 pm

It reminds me of dad’s army green ammo box. Filled to the rim with memorabilia from his past. The nostalgia and his life story can bring me to tears. When I was kid I would crawl into our storage space, open this box and experience the wonders of of his life. I must visit the old man soon.

Pardon my English, I’m from Holland.

80 LynnStephens August 9, 2012 at 10:31 pm

I have one of these boxes that my grandfather made for my grandmother that has her first initial inlaid into the top. I had the same fascination with it as a child. I now have it with many of the things that were in it, including pocket knives, old coins, and other memorabilia. It is small, and is cushioned and lined inside, and I truly treasure it.

81 Jared August 9, 2012 at 11:07 pm

Brett, I had been wondering if you were LDS. The values discussed in many of your articles always seemed so familiar. Now I know why. ;) Love AoM. Keep up the good work.

82 Alex August 10, 2012 at 4:46 pm

Long-time suspicions of LDS relations confirmed. (it was kind of obvious). Glad to have confirmation. Love AoM!! Carry on brother.

83 Mike August 11, 2012 at 10:00 pm

I would agree with Aaron…a good article on how to make one yourself would be appreciated.

This is my favorite since the one about the barber shop.

84 Dave August 11, 2012 at 11:09 pm

I have a drawer rather than a box.It has various pins (some my grandparents collected in the 50′s-60′s, others I’ve collected myself), a pocket telescope I bought at a market, a yo-yo and a couple of knives from when I was in the Scouts (I also have a blanket with all my Scout badges). Nothing from my father, though I do have my eye on a gold-plated kazzoo he has…

85 Brian Newlin August 12, 2012 at 12:17 pm

Just posted a few pictures of the box I’ve been hauling around since I was a kid. Now that I have a 2 year old son of my own, I’m laughing about what he’s going to think as he gets older and sees the stuff I collected and kept.

86 Brian Cromeens August 12, 2012 at 7:53 pm

My Dad is an amateur carpenter and makes furniture, clocks and other random items. He made me a ditty box and gave me some of his little treasures to get it started. I have the classics, knives, Boy Scout Awards and even my Grandpfatther’s salt water dime from the navy. It is a great tradition and this is one of my favorite articles that AOM has posted. Keep it up.

87 JRWinkler August 13, 2012 at 8:32 am

My treasure box is a small chest (4 x 8) acquired on a family vacation to Virginia when I was in junior high. Now that I’m nearly three times the age I was then, I fill that box with special things for my sons. Two very special things in there are promotional ball point pens from the two shoe and shoe repair stores that my grandfather and then father owned. The businesses are gone, the buildings themselves are gone, and we no longer live near those towns, but these two objects remind me of a world of small town America that I glimpsed for a time and remember fondly.

88 JB August 14, 2012 at 4:27 am

A lil late to the party here but it’s awesome to see that the man behind this site is a fellow mason. I had no idea.

If you are ever thru DC, please don’t hesitate to contact me.

89 A6 August 14, 2012 at 7:48 am

@ Mr. Jim Collins,
Thank you for sharing your story and for your incredible discourse, one of the true marks of manliness. I truly enjoyed reading your posts.

As for my collection, it lies in a Fonseca cigar box and consists of:
-My late uncle’s gold Parker pen
-My own Waterman red marble ballpoint pen
-Small collection of beaded bracelets
-College graduation tickets (and 3 music concert tickets on campus I never got to sell)
- Picture of my first girlfriend
-Two of my finest watches
-Cigar cutter and an engraved lighter with my initials I had done when I visited my sister in Florida. I had the engraving done inside a mall at a kiosk and until this day, I have yet to find the level of craftsmanship on that lighter.

90 Aaron G August 14, 2012 at 11:53 am

I’ve done this for years just as my dad did and had no clue this was common. I use an old cigar box right now.

-Four different knives
-My old dog tags and my grandfather’s WWII dog tags
-Multiple challenge coins
-Prayer beads my Iraqi counterpart gave me
-My other grandfather’s pocket watch.
-A miniature Marine figurine
-A USMC ring and watch my father bought me
-My father’s tie clasp
-HS graduation tassle
-Signed Ken Griffey Jr rookie card

91 RR August 14, 2012 at 5:42 pm

Hi, occasional reader here. This article was interesting in that it really surprised me in a few ways.

When I saw it come through my news feed, I thought, “man’s treasure box? what is the world is he talking about exactly?” and then I look at the first paragraph or two of the article and looked at the pictures and was suddenly brought back to my own father’s dresser where, both on top of it and within the top drawer where all kinds of these things. Pocket knives, watches, a silver dollar coin collection, old paper money and other such things.

And then I further realized, “hey wait a minute, I have just such a drawer myself!”

So the fun thing for me about your article was that it brought up some good memories, was a fun opportunity to see one of these little “man collections” again (those in your post and from other readers), and finally, you made me aware of something which really is very real and yet is never something I had consciously thought about before (and from many of these comments, I gather they would say the same.)

One thing is for certain, it has made me more aware of my own collection as not just being a one-off collection of neat little trinkets and things, but also that this is somehow a part of some kind of informal tradition amongst men. It has also reminded me of how children find this sort of thing interesting to explore, and through it, I think they learn things about their father (or at least guess things ;).

Maybe I’ll take it out of the drawer and put it somewhere more purposeful for the sake of my own children.

92 Clint August 15, 2012 at 10:30 am

I have a few old lighters people have given me in mine. I had a friend/coworker that I used to go outside and talk with on his smoke breaks. Those were some of our best times together. When I moved away for college he gave me his awesome lighter and I think of those times every time I pick it up. It is shaped like a car on one side and has a skull on the other and has leds that light up when you light it.

93 Jarrett August 15, 2012 at 2:01 pm

Great article. I am nearly 40 and have my own trinket box in my dresser. My boys love looking through it and I, to this day have fond memories of looking at all of the wondrous pins, buttons, coins and various knives my father had in his.


Jarrett E.
Amity #731 F&AM
Watkinsville, GA

94 William August 23, 2012 at 6:19 pm

Great article! I’m only 19, but I’ve already been collecting the beginnings of my treasure box for several years at this point; various pins from school, church, and sports, important medals, etc. I’ve got a few things that my grandmother bequeathed to me when my maternal grandfather died, including some old pins of his and small trinkets from his trips to China and Korea in bygone days. Right now it’s being kept in a bright red cigar box that I found kicking around the house, but I’m hoping to upgrade at some point to a snazzier dark wood box (perhaps in the shape of a treasure chest!) My father has a treasure box of his own, and my brother has a similar collection growing in a small glass vase he got at his Senior prom. I never knew how common the practice apparently is, though…

95 Poppy August 30, 2012 at 12:13 pm

This post brought back great memories. My dad passed away this March and we had to distribute his ‘treasures’. The box was much as I remember it from when I was a little girl (yes, girls think this this stuff is cool too): tie bars, fraternity pins, Moose lodge pins, tokens and old coins, watches and ticket stubs were all in the box.

96 Kevin October 7, 2012 at 1:03 pm

Wow. I liked your post. I think I could tell you were an eagle scout. I might of saw the medal, but I could be mistaken.

97 Nathaniel Breedlove October 16, 2012 at 12:30 am

Hey I love you stuff, bought your book and often refer to your web site. I cant get enough, I have even started reading about Roosevelt and growing my mustache. I couldn’t help, but to write you as soon as I saw your mission badge I served A mission as well and consider that my right of passage into manhood as well. Keep it up we love your stuff.


98 Nate October 17, 2012 at 11:56 am

Thanks for the inspiration to organize my trinkets and whatnots. I’ve had a couple of locales for my stuff, but I collected them together and now they’re perched on my bureau in a box that was given to me by a dear friend. While I was collected all of my doodads, I actually found my long-lost wedding ring!
Here’s some of the items in my collection:
a brass Mickey Mouse bottle opener
an AC/DC dollar from the Money Talks video
Superman cufflinks
a poem that my dad wrote for my mom on their 40th wedding anniversary
Thanks again for being rad.

99 Luke October 24, 2012 at 9:14 pm

As soon as read the title of this article i had to read it. My father’s treasure box has, without exaggeration, has become four cigar boxes and an old CD case holder sitting atop his dresser. Within these boxes are moneys from, mexico, Iraq, Qatar, Bahamas, Canada and many more. Also he has about five or six zippos, five of six pocket knives (confiscated from numerous criminals during police work) and bullets from the civil war from the house we used to live in that was a hospital during the war. But what would have to be the most interesting piece in the entire box is a GOLD TOOTH. Right? for the last 19 years of my life i had no idea whose it was until he admitted to it being his just a few days ago.

100 Torin McKay October 30, 2012 at 7:51 am

My Grandfather started me on this tradition when I was a young boy. I’m twenty five now, and I have a few “treasure” boxes stashed around the house. The main one on my dresser has some old pocket knives, old zippo, old Fire Dept. Badges, etc. I’d really like to know where the Author (beautiful job by the way) got his memento mori cufflinks. I too am a Freemason and would love to have some.

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