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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Hamburg area calendar of eventsBoyertown Berk Montgomery Newspapers, September 29th
Open House from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. The festivities will include vintage aircraft and airliners, vintage automobile show, historic airport displays, aviation memorabilia and refreshments will be available. Activities will take place at the original...Read more
The Pan Am Experience: Would you pay $340 to pretend you're on a 1970s ...NEWS.com.au, September 29th
Later comes the dinner service, followed by a viewing of a vast collection of airline memorabilia amassed by Anthony Toth, a United Airlines sales executive who owns the largest collection of Pan Am memorabilia in the world and has partnered with Air ...Read more
Relive the Glory Days of Flying: This Old 747 is LA's Hot New RestaurantYahoo Travel, September 23rd
Now, 27 years later, Toth is one of the leading aviation collectors in the country. “I can't definitely say I'm the biggest,” he says modestly. But he adds, “I've never met anyone with more than me.” Toth spent two decades buying airplane parts from...Read more
The Pan Am Experience Invites You To Step Back In TimeInternational Business Times, September 19th
Instead, "passengers" spend four hours being served cocktails and dinner by flight attendants decked out in original 1970s Pan Am uniforms, followed by a movie and a chance to view a huge collection of airline memorabilia and see other film sets...Read more
The Seasoned Collector: 'Shrouded Tales' at spooky Hayward mansionsSan Jose Mercury News, September 17th
If you're into airline collectibles, pilot your way to the 21st semi-annual Airline Memorabilia Show and Sale on Sept. 27. Here you will view swizzle sticks, posters, postcards, playing cards, photos, brochures, books and more. Many of the artifacts...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
First flight of the VS-300CT Post, September 13th
"And I have no hesitation in telling people that it's the most significant piece in our aviation collection." The VS-300 went through several development stages since that first flight. One of its problems was that at first it could fly left, right and...Read more
$300 for a first-class trip to… nowhere?Q13 FOX, September 9th
After dinner, guests will be able to view other airline memorabilia and film production sets. It should be noted: the Pan Am Experience is not a real flight; it does not actually take off, land, or go anywhere. The $200/$300 experience is on board a...Read more