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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Auction of old Mid-Continent Airport items brings in $83000Wichita Eagle, August 25th
Thomas Dang, a local pilot who flew in and out of Mid-Continent several times while working in general aviation, said he won the bid for a set of 10 maroon signs suspended above the two concourses, for $104.50. He said he is “hoarding aviation...Read more
Secluded museum brings military history to life on cattle farmABC Online, August 20th
John began collecting WWII and aviation memorabilia after attending an airshow in his childhood home of Sussex. "I met the old boys and saw the paintings, saw the planes flying and I got really excited," he said. Upon returning to Australia, Kathryn...Read more
Mementos of the Balloon AgeAir & Space Magazine, August 20th
Museum staff are cataloging and conserving the Evelyn Way Kendall Ballooning and Early Aviation Collection, most of which has never been exhibited to the public. Plans for exhibition of the collection and for its presentation on the Web are under way...Read more
Museum of Aviation gets vehicle that saved troops in AfghanistanMacon Telegraph, August 13th
WARNER ROBINS -- A B-17 expected to arrive next week isn't the only significant addition coming to the Museum of Aviation's collection. While the B-17 will get a parade, the museum quietly took delivery Thursday of a Mine Resistant Ambush Protected ...Read more
July's Sky's Airshow returning to Preston for second yearThe Herald Journal, July 30th
Rides can also be purchased individually before and after the show, as well as WWII aviation memorabilia. “It's not every day that an opportunity like that comes around,” Naylor said. “It's a great chance to get a beautiful view of the valley from the...Read more
Sharing a Passion for Creating Impressive Aviation ArtAirline Reporter, July 29th
I suppose I was destined to be doing aircraft profile art from a young age. Many of my notebooks and textbooks had aircraft drawings scribbled on the pages and margins, often to pass the time in class. As long as I can remember, I was always drawing ...Read more
Discovery Close to HomeTyler Morning Telegraph, July 28th
Visitors from all over the world come to see its amazing collection of aviation memorabilia and restored aircraft. But I've often wondered why Tyler residents often overlook the museum in the old terminal building at Tyler Pounds Regional Airport. I...Read more
Delta museum hosts airline memorabilia showAtlanta 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