From the start of regular U.S. passenger service in 1914, travelers have saved a wide variety of aviation and airline memorabilia, spanning everything from fine china and food-service items to maps and timetables. In general, older objects are the most desirable, though collectors frequently focus on specific carriers or aircraft models to narrow their field.

When the early airmail routes began offering seats for traveling passengers, they often included free meals or refreshments to tempt big-spenders away from traditional rail transport. Full meals were first served during the 1930s on china made by well-known companies like Wedgwood, Hall, Syracuse, Royal Doulton, and Homer Laughlin. These sets were designed to be lighter than household dinnerware, and often included the airline’s logo or name in their graphics.

Besides these china place-settings, airlines required a variety of glassware, flatware, napkins, menus, and other food service items. Passenger travel also necessitated the use of more disposable pieces, like safety-direction cards, amenities kits, swizzle sticks, blankets, headrest covers, and baggage labels, all of which are collected today. Whether used by major or minor airlines, paper goods like maps and timetables are particularly more valuable the older they are. Since the number of scheduled flights was very limited before 1930, aviation ephemera from this time period is quite rare.

Aviation collectibles also include any equipment used by airline personnel or ground staff, which is typically closely linked with certain carriers. Crew uniforms and badges or “wings” have been used since the earliest days of air travel, with specific designs to indicate employee positions from flight attendants to pilots. Early figural metal badges, like a Transcontinental Air Transport (TAT) pin with its Native American headdress logo, are sought for their rarity and their aesthetic appeal. Junior wings, the free pinbacks given to children on most flights during the 20th century, are another popular item among collectors.

In addition to exotic travel posters, commercial airlines created an array of promotional items to give their customers, like ashtrays, postcards, cigarette lighters, calendars, mugs, pinbacks, and more. Playing cards were one of the most common airline giveaways, as they were useful in-flight, simple to pack, and cheap to produce. Early decks dating to the 1920s are typically the most desirable, like the 1929 deck issued by TAT to celebrate its new bi-coastal service.

As passenger carriers debuted new aircraft designs, they frequently manufactured miniature models in metal or plastic to place in ticket offices and travel agencies. While many of these were produced as scale models of actual airplanes, others were created merely as decorative ashtrays or sculptures, especially during the heyday of glamorous air service in the '40s and '50s.


Best of the Web (“Hall of Fame”)

National Air and Space Museum

National Air and Space Museum

The National Air and Space Museum holds some 50,000 artifacts, a significant subset of which can be viewed on this … [read review or visit site]

Aviation Models

Aviation Models

Peter Jackson and friends have put together this great gallery of travel agent airline display models. The photo ga… [read review or visit site]

Airways News

Airways News

Chris Sloan's collection of airline photos and paper. Includes four main sections: timetables and maps, planespotti… [read review or visit site]

Uniformfreak.com

Uniformfreak.com

Cliff Muskiet's incredible collection of 600 vintage stewardess uniforms from over 250 airlines since the 1950's, i… [read review or visit site]

Lufthansa Model Collection

Lufthansa Model Collection

A private collection of desktop Lufthansa airplane models. Available in English and German, this compact but rich s… [read review or visit site]

AirTimes

AirTimes

This incredible collection of airline timetables by Perry Sloan includes hundreds of vintage and modern airline tim… [read review or visit site]

Airline Spoons

Airline Spoons

Dieter's Flickr photoset of over 1,000 airline spoons is stunning. Browsable alphabetically, the spoons go back as … [read review or visit site]

Airline Bag Lounge

Airline Bag Lounge

It would be hard to pick just one of these carry-ons for your next flight: Troy Litten's Airline Bag Lounge is a vi… [read review or visit site]

Travel Brochure Graphics

Travel Brochure Graphics

The staggering number of images on this site are, unbelievably, only a subset of David Levine's collection of 1920s… [read review or visit site]

Advertising Antiques

Advertising Antiques

This classy looking British site features hundreds of high resolution photos of antique porcelain pre-war (enamel) … [read review or visit site]

Ad Access

Ad Access

Duke University's library has pulled together an impressive collection of over 7,000 ads printed in U.S. and Canadi… [read review or visit site]

American Package Museum

American Package Museum

Ian House's gallery of early 20th Century American package designs. Browse the exhibits in slide show mode or view … [read review or visit site]

Found in Moms Basement

Found in Moms Basement

Paula Zargaj-Reynolds’ blog, an extensive collection of 20th century vintage advertising, is a visual feast. Scro… [read review or visit site]



Other Great Reference Sites

Most watched eBay auctions    

Late 1950's Fly Twa - New York Original Poster / David Klein Artist / Rare1960's Original Pan Am Hawaii Travel Poster / Nice Overall Condition / P121e1971 Continental Airlines Advertising Poster / Artist Signed / 25" By 40" Aeroclassics Green Box Easyjet Airbus A320 1-400Vintage Original Airlines Poster / Twa To Las Vegas / 1023 / 25" X 40" / NiceLimited Ec. Harry D Gobrecht Wwii Might In Flight Hells Angels B-17 Bomber Book1/400 Airport Accessories Herpa Wings Gemini Jets Scale Winter Service GseVintage Chrome Art Deco Lamp W/ Mounted Diecast Corgi Dc-3 Pan American Airplane1950's-60's Original British West Indian Airways Travel Poster / Jamaica / Nice1/400 Airport Accessories Gse Your Craftsman Gemini Jets Scale Vintage Topping Us Navy P3v-1 Orion Anti-submarine Warfare Aircraft Desk Model1950's-60's Original British West Indian Airways Poster / Grenada / ExcellentVnt United Air Lines Chrome Airtray 4 Propeller Engine Airplane Ashtray DouglaAllyn Vintage 1950's Douglas Xa2d-1 Skyshark Desk ModelVintage Aviator Goggles. Ww2(?)Vintage Egypt Travel Poster Fly Twa David KleinOriginal Slide, Air-to-air Usaf Naa F-86f Sabres Over Korea, Late 1950sVintage Near East Travel Poster Air FranceVtg 1970's 1980's Eastern Airlines Metal Sign Lettering, From Abe Airport GateVintage 1950's "braniff Airways" Coca Cola Stainless Steel Airline Coke CoolerVintage 1940's Pan American Pan Am Stewardess Solid 10k Nsf Gold PinC 1960s Original Tourist Travel Poster Delta Airlines West Coast Florida ArtVintage Kodak 35mm Aircraft Slide,raf/64 Sq.gloster Javelin Faw9,singapore,1966Antique Wwi America Expeditionary Forces Wooden Propeller Carving Very Good CondGemini Jets 1:400 Gjarptseta Airport Support VehiclesOriginal 1930's Schneider Trophy Supermarine Model Solid Brass Scratch Built Pacmin Boeing House 727 Rollout Very Rare, Mint Cond Airlines Airplane ModelVintage Europe Travel Poster Air FranceVintage India Travel Poster Fly Twa David KleinLimited Industrial Space Model - British Aerospace G-abba AircraftInflight 200 Air India Boeing 747-300 (vt-epw), 1:200 Scale, Rare, NewBritish Airways Concorde Souvenir Silver Plate Candle SnufferHawaiian Airlines Airbus A330-200 Diecast Model (gemini 1:200)American Airlines Voucher $500 Voucher - Expires 2/17/18Vintage 1940- 50's Paa Pan American Pan Am Propeller & Wing Pin Enamel One StarVintage Pan Am Logo Globe Wheel Pin BadgePhoenix Model Icelandair Boeing B767-300er 1-400Gemini Jets 1 400 Vietnam Airlines Boeing 777-200 Previous Scheme ModelOriginal Slide, Usaf Fairchild C-119g Flying Boxcar At Ashiya Air Base, 1950sC 1960s Original Small Tourist Travel Poster Northwest Orient Hawaii Surfer Surf1957 Norway Railway Ski Travel PosterVintage Pratt Whitney Aircraft Jet Engine Turbine Desk Model Art PaperweightGeneral Dynamics F-111 Aardvark- Precise Desktop Model And BrochureRare Wwii Galvin Rt 39/arg 5 An/apg 5 B 17 Bomber Radar Gun Turret Receiver NrQatar Airways His And Hers Brics Amenity KitsOriginal Kodak 35mm Aircraft Slide, Royal Navy/892 Sqn.phantom Fg.1, 9/1975 1/400 Aeroclassics (big Bus) Model Lan Chile A340-300Orig 1958 Slide, Usaf 56-0458 Convair F-106a Delta Dart At Holloman Afb AircraftCp Air Canadian Pacific Airlines Dc-10 1/100 Airplane Model By Fratelli Of ItalyVintage Pan Am Airline 1960's Paa Flight Engineer Pin Topping Model Promo Display Towmotor Fork Lift Rare Vintage Airplane Akron Ohio1950s American Airlines Flag Double-sidedOriginal Slide, Rok Air Force Naa F-51 Mustangs At Taegu Air Base Korea, 1956Vintage Spain Travel Poster Fly Twa David KleinC 1960s Original Tourist Travel Poster Twa Airlines Rome David Klein Art Color1/400 Phoenix Model Lan Chile Boeing 767-300Pacmin American Airlines 777-200 1/100 Airplane Model, 24" Long Mint Cond1955 Piper Tri-pacer 150 Project Aircraft"sold Out" Inflight 200 Twa Trans World Airlines Lockheed L-1011 Polished N81026Act Airlines My Cargo Boeing B747-400 Safety Card