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.


Best of the Web (“Hall of Fame”)

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The National Air and Space Museum holds some 50,000 artifacts, a significant subset of which can be viewed on this … [read review or visit site]

Aviation Models

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Peter Jackson and friends have put together this great gallery of travel agent airline display models. The photo ga… [read review or visit site]

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

AirTimes

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

Airline Spoons

Airline Spoons

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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The staggering number of images on this site are, unbelievably, only a subset of David Levine's collection of 1920s… [read review or visit site]

Advertising Antiques

Advertising Antiques

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

Ad Access

Ad Access

Duke University's library has pulled together an impressive collection of over 7,000 ads printed in U.S. and Canadi… [read review or visit site]

Plan 59

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From the Nostlagia Factory in Virginia comes this celebration of 'mid-century automotive advertising illustrations'… [read review or visit site]

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Recent News: Aviation Memorabilia

Source: Google News

Oak Harbor base opens doors to the public for Prowler sunset
South Whidbey Record (subscription), June 24th

Aviation memorabilia will also be available for purchase as well as a variety of food and beverages. The event will begin with an all-ages Flight Line 5K Run which will start at 8 a.m. Saturday. T-shirts will be on sale for $15 on day of the event...Read more

Birds of a Feather
Southeast Missourian, June 20th

Mark and Elizabeth Seesing with their daughter, Hannah, go through some of the family's aviation memorabilia inside their Cape Girardeau home. (Laura Simon) [Order this photo]. The old joke was that they would fly around the world with J.T. Seesing in...Read more

Czech episode of Nazi rocket science uncovered by historian
Radio Prague, June 19th

Michal Plavec, curator of the aviation collection at the National Technical Museum in Prague, has scoured archives in several countries to piece together the history of the research facility. He takes up the story. “The Germans decided that it could be...Read more

Delta museum hosts airline memorabilia show
Atlanta 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

COLUMN: Viola Gentry: North Carolina aviatrix
Statesville Record & Landmark, June 13th

untiring advocacy for women in aviation, but an unexpected job which came near the end of her life, when she was employed by the University of Texas at Austin as a consultant in the History of Aviation Collection to document the early history of...Read more

Free stuff: museum hosts open house
Chron.com, June 10th

Enjoy free food and drinks (and if you're lucky, take home a door prize) when the 1940 Air Terminal Museum hosts an open house. Operated by the Houston Aeronautical Heritage Society, the museum is home to several galleries of aviation memorabilia...Read more

Meet the Man With 40k Pieces of Airline Memorabilia in His NYC Apartment
ABC 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

Former chief pilot of Concorde sells £100000 of aviation memorabilia to fund ...
Daily Mail, July 17th

A former chief pilot of Concorde is selling £100,000 worth of his aviation memorabilia so he can fund his 20-year-old daughter through flying school. Mike Bannister is selling a host of memorabilia including cockpit instruments, a damaged blade, a...Read more