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]

Airchive.com

Airchive.com

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]

Plan 59

Plan 59

From the Nostlagia Factory in Virginia comes this celebration of 'mid-century automotive advertising illustrations'… [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]



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Recent News: Aviation Memorabilia

Source: Google News

Mark Twain is a good reason to see Elmira, but it's not the only one
Buffalo News, April 10th

The Wings of Eagle Discovery Center in nearby Horseheads has a collection of military aircraft and other aviation memorabilia. Of course a trip to Elmira would not be complete without paying homage to author Samuel Clemens, aka Mark Twain, who wrote ...Read more

Royal visit: Fans of all ages get snap happy with rock-star royalty
New Zealand Herald, April 10th

Sir Peter Jackson cheekily snaps Catherine viewing his aviation collection. A 26ft-long grey World War I relic, a Caproni CA 22, greeted the royal pair for the start of the tour. "Oh wow, look at this!" a genuinely impressed Prince William exclaimed...Read more

On a whole other plane
Lewiston Morning Tribune (subscription), April 1st

At first, the crowded space on Libby Street looks overwhelmed by a jumble of partially built airplanes, with any remaining space crammed by tools and a lifetime of aviation memorabilia. But a high degree of order can be found beneath the mirage of...Read more

BR 03-94 Carbon Orange
World Tempus (press release), March 29th

Firstly, aeronautical instrumentation, specifically that of the instrumentation panel, with the AVIATION Collection. Secondly, the evocation of key eras in the history of aviation, through the development of pilots' watches in the VINTAGE Collection...Read more

Collector hopes air museum plan will take off
The Northern Echo, March 28th

A MUSEUM dedicated to aviation memorabilia spanning both world wars is to be opened in the North-East. Rare items, including uniforms, flying helmets with goggles, flags and models are to be displayed publicly in Dipton, near Stanley in County Durham...Read more

CASIO G-SHOCK Announces Shades Of Grey: A Second Installation Of The ...
PR Newswire (press release), March 25th

The GA110 timepieces, which sit within the popular G-Aviation collection, demonstrate G-Shock's ability to move seamlessly between fashion and performance; sophisticated aesthetic and perfected functionality. The GA110TS watch models are available in ...Read more

Smithsonian expert to discuss local artifacts at Heinz History Center
Pittsburgh Post Gazette, March 20th

As a result, the museum did not get the brothers' Wright Flyer -- the plan they flew at Kitty Hawk, N.C. -- for its aviation collection until after World War II. Mr. Kurin said he took a very broad view of American history. His book starts with Burgess...Read more