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.
Interviews & Articles
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Caricature: Former Grantham Mayor Graham WheatGrantham Journal, May 17th
Mr Wheat, 85, of Manthorpe Road, is an avid collector of aviation memorabilia and has an extensive book collection. Graham said: “My Air Force connections keep me going. That's my main interest now.” He was raised in Coventry before moving to the area...Read more
Flambards family hope new buyer will preserve 'best day of the week'This is Cornwall, May 15th
Starting out as a repository for the Hales' vast collection of aviation memorabilia, the 27-acre site today encompasses gardens, rides, heritage exhibitions and animals. And while its Hornet roller-coaster, log flume, balloon race, cyclocopters, pedal...Read more
Colleen Dietzel: The Ecology-Superwoman of Ocean BeachOB Rag, May 14th
She loves animals. When her dad passed away in 1981, she returned to Palmdale and ran his aviation memorabilia shop for eight months, selling it to a museum finally. Colleen Dietzel store. The Green Store / Center moved into its present location in 2012...Read more
RR Auction Offering EKG of Neil Armstrong's HeartbeatPatch.com, May 14th
This massive auction of over 850 premiere lots of space and aviation memorabilia and artifacts includes some of the rarest and most impressive artifacts yet offered by RR in this rapidly growing and highly sought after genre of Americana collecting...Read more
Remote Controlled Air Show At YeoviltonHeart, May 14th
of experience. In addition to seeing the International Radio Control Model Air Show, visitors will be able to go onboard the first British Concorde and see the award winning Aircraft Carrier Experience all set among Europe's largest Naval aviation...Read more
Cold War plane added to aviation collectionSalisbury Journal, May 13th
Cold War plane added to aviation collection. A FORMER Cold War jet fighter has been added to Old Sarum Airfield's Boscombe Down Aviation Collection (BDAC). And the English Electronic Lightning supersonic jet fighter has been reunited with the pilot who...Read more
Being a professional pilot was a dream come trueOCRegister (subscription), May 12th
Article Tab: The San Clemente home of retired Continental Airlines pilot Diane Myers is filled. MORE PHOTOS ». The San Clemente home of retired Continental Airlines pilot Diane Myers is filled with aviation memorabilia such as this child's peddle plane...Read more
In defense of tourists: 8 travel tips from the massesUSA TODAY (blog), May 6th
The National Air and Space Museum in Washington has an unparalleled aviation collection from the country that gave powered flight to the world. There's a good reason they're always crowded (Fisherman's Wharf, we can't explain). Wear comfortable shoes...Read more