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
Lufthansa Model Collection
Airline Bag Lounge
Travel Brochure Graphics
American Package Museum
Found in Moms Basement
Clubs & Associations
Other Great Reference Sites
Most watched eBay auctions
Recent News: Aviation Memorabilia
Source: Google News
Vintage airliner to visit Santa TeresaLas Cruces Sun-News, January 21st
Besides access to the plane, pilot and flight, the event will also have vintage cars and aviation memorabilia, as well as other classic items at the airport. The vintage plane was designed and built by the automobile icon Henry Ford. Ford saw the...Read more
Local archive sends major gift to SmithsonianWicked Local Sharon, January 20th
The Trust announces its donation of an extensive and unique collection to the National Air and Space Museum, a part of the Smithsonian Institution in Washington, DC. The Evelyn Way Kendall Ballooning and Early Aviation Collection consists of thousands...Read more
Food writer Richard Foss brings 'Food in the Air and Space' down to earthEasy Reader, January 19th
The Manhattan Beach resident and Easy Reader food writer spent nearly two years crisscrossing the country researching his recent book. He visited aviation museums and airline memorabilia collectors, interviewed retired pilots and flight attendants and...Read more
Take flight to museums that specialize in aviation historyBuffalo News, January 17th
The Wings of Eagles Discovery Center (formerly the National Warplane Museum) houses a collection of military aircraft and aviation memorabilia including an extensive collection of military aircraft from World War II until today. The museum also has...Read more
Flight memories for enthusiasts at Croydon Airport aviation collectors fairSutton Guardian, January 7th
Last Sunday, 447 people came through the doors of the Croydon Airport aviation collectors fair to get their hands on anything and everything to do with planes. Sutton Guardian: Stalls were selling toys and models, clothing, books and airline bags at...Read more
Meet the Man With 40k Pieces of Airline Memorabilia in His NYC ApartmentABC News, September 15th
Marvin G. Goldman has accomplished much in his life so far. In addition to a 43-year career as an international attorney, he'll be married 50 years this month and is the father of three kids. He's perhaps best known for holding the world's largest...Read more
Airline memorabilia show at Hopkins has everything but a window seat (slideshow)The Plain Dealer - cleveland.com, August 16th
CLEVELAND, Ohio -- Think of any object that could carry the name of an airline and it was probably at the Cleveland Airline Collectibles Show Saturday at the Sheraton Hopkins hotel. Napkins, bars of soap, silverware, postcards, enameled lapel pins...Read more
Former chief pilot of Concorde sells £100000 of aviation memorabilia to fund ...Daily Mail, July 17th
A former chief pilot of Concorde is selling £100,000 worth of his aviation memorabilia so he can fund his 20-year-old daughter through flying school. Mike Bannister is selling a host of memorabilia including cockpit instruments, a damaged blade, a...Read more