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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Wingfoot One, Goodyear's newest blimp, christenedThe Plain Dealer - cleveland.com, August 23rd
The company said the gondola is destined for the Western Reserve Historical Society's Crawford Auto Aviation Collection in University Circle. The Spirit of America and Spirit of Innovation, Goodyear's last traditional blimps, will retire when the new...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
Kwik Fill Rochester International Airshow ReturnsWROC-TV, August 12th
The return of the Airshow to Rochester, New York, with the 2014 Kwikfill Rochester International Airshow, will take place on August 16th and 17th at the Greater Rochester International Airport and will feature the USAF Thunderbird Squadron. Parking via ...Read more
Maze Aviation Event Cancelled4ni.co.uk, August 5th
"Society membership is continuing to grow as is our aviation collection and we will continue to give the public and schools a unique visitor experience. We shall also continue to work with everyone involved to ensure the continued success not only of...Read more
Art installation at Boscombe hangarAndover Advertiser, August 1st
THE Boscombe Down Aviation Collection (BDAC) based at Old Sarum airfield will mark the centenary of the start of the First World War on the 4 August 1914 by unveiling an art installation in their hangar on Sunday (3) at 4pm. BDAC received a Heritage ...Read more
Home News Air crash veteran calls response to MH17 crash...www.insideottawavalley.com/, July 31st
Bass Lake resident Ron Coleman, a former Canadian air force jet pilot and accident investigator, seen at home with historic aviation memorabilia lining his walls, has spoken out about the international community's response to the downing of MH17 in the ...Read more
A Quick and Dirty First Timer's Guide to EAA AirVenture Oshkosh 2014Jaunted, July 30th
Build shopping time into your schedule, because in the midst of the Fly Market's vendor tents are all sorts of tempting purchases, from outdoor goods and crafts to aviation memorabilia and actual airplane parts. We hauled home a retro-painted rudder...Read more
LAX Flight Path Museum Finds Itself Up for Possible RelocationAviationPros.com, July 27th
Los Angeles World Airports is formally seeking proposals for development of the Proud Bird site on Aviation Boulevard, a popular gathering spot noted for its aviation memorabilia and aircraft displays. Airport officials say the proposals, due in...Read more