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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UK-based Aviation Collector Scouts for IAF HelmetThe New Indian Express, November 30th
UK-based Aviation Collector Scouts for IAF Helmet. By Anantha Krishnan M | ENS - BANGALORE. Published: 01st December 2013 10:04 AM. Last Updated: 01st December 2013 10:04 AM. Photos. Scott Bouchard, an aviation enthusiast and pilot equipment ...Read more
Growth in region prompts Hexpol to expand in MexicoRubberNews.com, November 27th
From left, Hexpol Compounding's Saul Reyes, Francisco Viliesid and Donald Picard pose by a vehicle at the Western Reserve Historical Society's Crawford Auto Aviation Collection in Cleveland. That was the site of Hexpol's event to detail its expansion...Read more
Aviation's key role in Nelson historyMarlborough Express, November 26th
It's high time Graeme McConnell cleaned out his den. In a small room off his garage, a desk is squeezed on all sides by file boxes, shoeboxes and folders filled with aviation memorabilia. It's an incredible resource - a time capsule of flying in New...Read more
Volunteers fly to the rescue of iconic planeThis Is Wiltshire, November 18th
VOLUNTEERS have come to the rescue of the front of a jet that has taken centrestage outside the former RAF Lyneham base for more than quarter of a century. The nose of the Comet Mk2 has been saved by the Boscombe Down Aviation Collection – a ...Read more
New arrival at airfieldSalisbury Journal, November 18th
New arrival at airfield. 10:20am Monday 18th November 2013 in News By Hugh Cadman. New arrival at airfield. THE front end of a former RAF Lyneham gate guardian has arrived at Boscombe Down Aviation Collection. The museum, at Old Sarum Airfield, ...Read more
SpaceUp LA and the MAVEN Launch on Planetary RadioThe Planetary Society (blog), November 15th
We were in an open hanger at the Western Museum of Flight, a great little aviation collection at the Torrance, California airport. I gave the attendees this premise: You are the Administrator of NASA. The President of the United States has just handed...Read more
CR Smith Museum celebrates 20 yearsDallas Morning News (blog), November 15th
The best part of a party here is all the airline memorabilia to check out and the chance to sit on a plane–an historic DC 3 to be exact. The museum also offers traveling exhibits. Showing now through Jan. 4 is Colorama, an exhibit of photographs from...Read more
Nose of RAF Lyneham's Comet Mk2 saved by volunteersBBC News, November 15th
The front 10m (32ft) of a jet that stood outside the former RAF Lyneham airbase in Wiltshire for more than 25 years, has been rescued by volunteers. The nose of the Comet Mk2 was saved by the Boscombe Down Aviation Collection (BDAC) by using the ...Read more