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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Aviation Models

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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

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

Airline Spoons

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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

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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

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Advertising Antiques

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

Ad Access

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Recent News: Aviation Memorabilia

Source: Google News

Foundation, residents battle over museum plan
MetroWest Daily News, August 30th

In addition to running a traveling show featuring a B-17 Flying Fortress, P-51C Mustang fighter plane, and other historical aircraft that are part of Collings' aviation collection, the foundation hosts three events each year at its Stow location. Page...Read more

Wingfoot One, Goodyear's newest blimp, christened
The Plain Dealer - cleveland.com, August 23rd

The company said the gondola is destined for the Western Reserve Historical Society's Crawford Auto Aviation Collection in University Circle. The Spirit of America and Spirit of Innovation, Goodyear's last traditional blimps, will retire when the new...Read more

Airline memorabilia show at Hopkins has everything but a window seat (slideshow)
The Plain Dealer - cleveland.com, August 16th

Don Kaylor, owner of Inflight 200, offers 1:200 scale die-cast metal models of airliners at the Cleveland Airline Show held at the Sheraton Hopkins adjacent to the airport on Saturday, August 16, 2014. These models are made in limited editions, sold...Read more

Kwik Fill Rochester International Airshow Returns
WROC-TV, August 12th

The return of the Airshow to Rochester, New York, with the 2014 Kwikfill Rochester International Airshow, will take place on August 16th and 17th at the Greater Rochester International Airport and will feature the USAF Thunderbird Squadron. Parking via ...Read more

Maze Aviation Event Cancelled
4ni.co.uk, August 5th

"Society membership is continuing to grow as is our aviation collection and we will continue to give the public and schools a unique visitor experience. We shall also continue to work with everyone involved to ensure the continued success not only of...Read more