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.
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Recent News: Aviation Memorabilia
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Oak Harbor base opens doors to the public for Prowler sunsetSouth Whidbey Record (subscription), June 24th
Aviation memorabilia will also be available for purchase as well as a variety of food and beverages. The event will begin with an all-ages Flight Line 5K Run which will start at 8 a.m. Saturday. T-shirts will be on sale for $15 on day of the event...Read more
Birds of a FeatherSoutheast Missourian, June 20th
Mark and Elizabeth Seesing with their daughter, Hannah, go through some of the family's aviation memorabilia inside their Cape Girardeau home. (Laura Simon) [Order this photo]. The old joke was that they would fly around the world with J.T. Seesing in...Read more
Czech episode of Nazi rocket science uncovered by historianRadio Prague, June 19th
Michal Plavec, curator of the aviation collection at the National Technical Museum in Prague, has scoured archives in several countries to piece together the history of the research facility. He takes up the story. “The Germans decided that it could be...Read more
Delta museum hosts airline memorabilia showAtlanta Journal Constitution, June 18th
The Airliners International 2015 memorabilia show has 250 dealer tables beneath "The Spirit of Delta" Boeing 767 in the Delta Flight Museum. The 4-day show is open to the public for a $7 admission fee Thursday, June 18, 2 p.m.-6 p.m., Friday, June 19, ...Read more
COLUMN: Viola Gentry: North Carolina aviatrixStatesville Record & Landmark, June 13th
untiring advocacy for women in aviation, but an unexpected job which came near the end of her life, when she was employed by the University of Texas at Austin as a consultant in the History of Aviation Collection to document the early history of...Read more
Free stuff: museum hosts open houseChron.com, June 10th
Enjoy free food and drinks (and if you're lucky, take home a door prize) when the 1940 Air Terminal Museum hosts an open house. Operated by the Houston Aeronautical Heritage Society, the museum is home to several galleries of aviation memorabilia...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
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