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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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
LOOK: Farmer builds aviation museum in Hebei villageShanghaiist, September 14th
A Hebei farmer in his sixties who's been collecting aviation-related items and occupying an area of over 6,000 square meters for 30 years became a big shot in his local village when he decided to use the space to open up his own aviation museum, China ...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
MAPS Museum and powwow thrive on educationAkron Beacon Journal, September 6th
That's why the museum, which displays 43 airplanes and other military and aviation memorabilia, likes to support the group, MAPS Executive Director Kim Kovesci said. He estimated that there would be hundreds of people who visit the powwow and museum ...Read more
Foundation, residents battle over museum planMetroWest Daily News, August 30th
STOW - Turn right off of Hudson's Main Street onto West Avenue, and immediately the yard signs start popping up, each one bearing an image of a tank with a red strike over it. Another left turn and a few hundred yards up on Barton Road, a makeshift...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