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The Cult of Keeping Your iPhone Box Until You Die

For Apple fans, finding unique ways to recycle that thick cardboard is part of the fun. But why can't anyone throw the damn box away?

Every time he’s upgraded his iPhone over the last eight years, Frank, a 43-year-old artist in Texas, can’t quite bring himself to throw out the box in which it came. Instead, he places each in a drawer where it sits with the previous phone’s box in a sort of limbo, neither being used for storage nor ticketed for the trash. “They’re high quality boxes!” he exclaims.

But besides giving one to his daughter to keep her trinkets and jewelry in, Frank’s best reasoning for keeping the boxes is that “I just love the feel of opening and closing them.”

Whether pint glasses or old T-shirts, guys stash many things that feel important despite having no real use. But an old iPhone box doesn’t necessarily register on the nostalgia scale, so why do so many men like Frank hold on to what’s essentially aesthetically-pleasing garbage?

“I’ve purchased every iPhone without skipping a beat since the very first one was released back in 2007,” explains Jeremy in Oregon. In that time, he’s “easily owned 20-plus iPhones and iPads,” and he’s held onto the box for every single one. Unlike Frank, however, there is some method to Jeremy’s madness. “When I’d upgrade every year and put my used iPhone on the classifieds, I began to notice that the most serious buyers wanted the box, and many wouldn’t complete the sale without it.”

Jeremy says some people place a higher premium on the box than many iPhone accessories, like headphones or a charger. “The price difference could easily be $100 or more just for having the box,” he explains. Eventually, Jeremy dug into why the box can be such a dealbreaker, and found that the “buyers who were adamant about having the original are re-sellers who rehab the phones and sell them overseas for a profit.” (This may explain why empty iPhone boxes go for $5 to $10 on eBay.)

With that in mind, Jeremy keeps his iPhone boxes in as mint condition as he does the phone itself. “It’s a bit bizarre that some people proudly showcase their boxes,” he adds, “but I digress.”

Speaking of which, Fariq, a 31-year-old in Canada, tells me, “I’ve never used the boxes for anything but being put on display.” Being “something of a tech enthusiast,” he shows off his iPhone boxes not to communicate his wealth or status, but as an expression of his journey with tech.

Fariq’s proud collection

“On one hand, they certainly stand as a reminder of how much money I’ve wasted on my tech,” he says. “But on the other, I enjoy looking at them, because each box helps me think back to where I was in life when I got them.” For that reason, Fariq says he’s “most likely never” throwing them away.

Who keeps their iphone box? from memes

Frank, however, can’t say the same. “I’m sure I’ll probably eventually throw them out, like if I move to another house,” he tells me. “But only if my wife makes me!”