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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Aviation Models

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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

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

Airline Spoons

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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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Travel Brochure Graphics

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Advertising Antiques

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

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Recent News: Aviation Memorabilia

Source: Google News

Last chance to dine at Tustin's Nieuport 17
OCRegister, March 26th

When Nieuport 17 closes next week, its owners have one month to clear out a significant collection of aviation memorabilia that's expanded on the restaurant's walls for nearly half a century. "We were different than most restaurants," owner Bill Bettis...Read more

In Asia, Layovers That Let You Take in the Sights
New York Times, March 20th

At Jet Lag Café, customers can have a cocktail while browsing the airline memorabilia collected by the owner, Vincent Timmermans, a former Sabena Airlines flight attendant. The fondness the city now shows toward the airport is a contrast to the...Read more

Cleveland was once the automotive capital of the world
newsnet5.com, March 4th

"That period of 1896 to 1907 was really the time period when Cleveland produced the most cars in America and was turning them out in high numbers," said Derek Moore, curator of transportation at the Crawford Auto-Aviation Collection at the Western ...Read more

Aviation museum hosts Utah Honor Flight fundraiser
St. George Daily Spectrum, March 1st

At the breakfast there will be aviation memorabilia from the 1940s through to present day, including former military fighter and trainer aircraft on display. David Cordero, the Interim Executive Editor of The Spectrum & Daily News as well as a WWII...Read more

Retired Goodyear blimp gondola joins Cleveland exhibit
Vallejo Times Herald, February 28th

After the Spirit of Goodyear was retired a year ago, Akron-based Goodyear Tire & Rubber Co. donated the gondola to the Western Reserve Historical Society's Crawford Auto Aviation Collection, where it was recently unveiled. The historical society's...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

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

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