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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Somerset attractions: Easter highlightsTelegraph.co.uk, March 10th
Toys for the boys: Europe's largest naval aviation collection of helicopters and fixed wing aircraft. Exhibits also include the first British-built Concorde. Allow four hours to see everything. Open daily from April onwards and lunch is available at...Read more
Willow Pond upgrades will be well above parChampaign/Urbana News-Gazette, March 9th
They will still be able to do that, but most people prefer to buy on-site. The clubhouse will be decorated with an Air Force theme. The overhead fans look like propellers, and table tops will have runway lights. Bates said aviation memorabilia that...Read more
Gina Ginsburg Chairs Frontiers of Flight Museum Gala to Support Organization's ...Dallas Morning News, March 7th
Southwest Airlines Federal Credit Union; TAC Air; Angela and Jim Thompson/Blue Sky Foundation; Tolleson Wealth Management; University of Texas at Dallas – Eugene McDermott Library, History of Aviation Collection; UPS; Wolfgang Puck Catering...Read more
The Seasoned Collector: Victorian images at Rengstorff House; Toy Show in ...Contra Costa Times, March 6th
Airline show. The Spring San Francisco Airline Memorabilia Show and Sale happens today. Aviation aficionados search high and low at this show for advertising paraphernalia, posters, playing cards, timetables, pamphlets, postcards, china, flatware and pins...Read more
Hangar 24 to Release Betty IPABrewbound.com, March 4th
Betty Grable's iconic 1943 poster hung on the wall of Flo's, amid countless other pieces of aviation memorabilia. The photograph had made Grable the most popular pin-up amongst the US soldiers stationed abroad during World War 2, troops who were ...Read more
MAJOR CRIMES TALKING TO PHILLIP KEENETVGrapevine.com, March 3rd
He worked for Pan-Am from 1988 until they closed and is a huge fan of airline memorabilia. In fact, he did an exhibit last year that featured everything from old uniforms to aircraft pieces and hopes to do it again sometime. He wants to preserve the...Read more
A sign of sunshine to come: Renovation ongoing at Willow Pond golf courseRantoul Press, February 25th
Bates said aviation memorabilia that Applebee has run across in cleaning out several old buildings will be part of the decor. “We feel this is an absolutely perfect venue for a golf event,” Bates said. The business will also be available for holiday...Read more
Ernie Hall Aviation Museum planned for HowlandYoungstown Vindicator, February 20th
At the groundbreaking, 4059 North River Road, the public will be invited to tour the Sloas hangar to view aviation memorabilia. The museum was founded in the past few months and is expected to be operational by August. It's first event, Wings-n-Wheels, ...Read more