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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Airchive.com

Airchive.com

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

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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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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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It would be hard to pick just one of these carry-ons for your next flight: Troy Litten's Airline Bag Lounge is a vi… [read review or visit site]

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]

Ad Access

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Recent News: Aviation Memorabilia

Source: Google News

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

Whidbey Navy base hosts open house, 5K
South Whidbey Record, July 16th

Aviation memorabilia will also be available for purchase as well as a variety of food and beverages. There are no cash machines on the flight line so attendees should plan accordingly. All guests will come onto Ault Field via Charles Porter Gate...Read more

NAS Whidbey to hold open house and 5K Saturday
Whidbey News-Times (subscription), July 16th

Aviation memorabilia will also be available for purchase as well as a variety of food and beverages. There are no cash machines on the flight line so base officials advise attendees to plan accordingly. All guests will enter the naval station at Ault...Read more

More than 700 lots will come up for bid at Philip Weiss Auctions' summer sale ...
EcommWire (press release), July 15th

A marvelous aviation collection will include items pertaining to the famed female aviator Amelia Earhart (including her autograph, plus the autographs of other early flyers), a typed letter signed by Arrigo Balboni with a piece of plane fabric from the...Read more

Andy Warhol signed pen and ink soup can drawing to be sold July 23rd
ArtfixDaily (blog), July 15th

A marvelous aviation collection will include items pertaining to the famed female aviator Amelia Earhart (including her autograph, plus the autographs of other early flyers), a typed letter signed by Arrigo Balboni with a piece of plane fabric from the...Read more

AVIATION COLLECTION – BR03 CERAMIC BR03 ???????
????, July 7th

Bell & Ross??????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????Bell & Ross????? Bell & Ross???????????????????????????????????? ...Read more

at a glance
Port Townsend Leader, July 2nd

Aviation memorabilia is available for purchase as well as a variety of food and beverages. There is no ATM on the flight line. Guests enter Ault Field via Charles Porter Gate, just west of the intersection of Ault Field and Goldie roads. All visitors...Read more

Alness air cadets savour a flavour of aviation history
Ross-Shire Journal, June 24th

EASTER Ross air cadets have been reaching for the sky – getting up close to aircraft and aviation memorabilia at the Highland Aviation Museum at Dalcross, near Inverness. Members of the 379 (County of Ross) Squadron, based in Alness, were thrilled at ...Read more