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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Midland Philanthropist, Oilman Passes Away at 84NewsWest9.com, October 5th
Joe Mabee died unexpectedly at the hospital on Saturday, October 3, after suffering a heart attack. He was 84 years old. Mabee was instrumental in relocating the Confederate Air Force to Midland. He was an avid aviation collector, a member of the...Read more
Snowbird CT-114 Being Added to Royal Aviation CollectionChrisD.ca, September 28th
The Snowbirds aircrafts (CT-114 Tutor) perform one of their formation stunts during the 8 Wing / CFB Trenton Canadian Forces and Air Display Weekend. (CANADIAN FORCES / CORPORAL IGOR LOUTSIOUK). WINNIPEG — The aircraft made famous by the ...Read more
Out of town events for Sept. 27-Oct. 3Richmond Times-Dispatch, September 26th
Biplanes and Triplanes Air Show — Saturday-Oct. 4: WWI aircraft, living history, military and aviation memorabilia, period entertainment and more, beginning at 9 a.m. each day at the Military Aviation Museum, Virginia Beach. $12-$25 daily admission; ...Read more
Frontiers of Flight Museum in Dallas will open doors for free, display ...Dallas Morning News (blog), September 24th
technology, engineering and math] patch. * Aviation Swap Meet: Aviation enthusiasts can find the perfect model kit, airplane book or historical aviation memorabilia. * Open Cockpit Day: Visitors can sit in the cockpits of some of its aircraft and...Read more
Founder of Spirit of Flight Center in Erie joins ranks of great Colorado aviatorsColorado Hometown Weekly, September 23rd
Page began collecting aviation memorabilia in junior high school with a model plane that he received for trading in old wrappers from a summer's worth of Popsicles. "I really wanted the one-man submarine, but they sent a letter saying they were out so...Read more
Recycled and Retro Airline Memorabilia Flies HighAirways News (blog), September 18th
The aviation enthusiast or airline industry lifer looking to bring more flying memorabilia into their lives has never had it so good. The number of companies big and small offering refurbished homeware and souvenir items is larger than it's ever been...Read more
Seasoned Collector: Native American art in Pleasanton, Doll & Teddy Show in ...San Jose Mercury News, September 17th
One of the most unusual sales to occur in the Bay Area -- The Great Native American Artifact and Art Show -- takes place Sept. 26-27. Visitors will find nearly 40 vendors displaying antique and contemporary works, including baskets, pottery, kachina...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