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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Flight museum to get £3.6 million faceliftEdinburgh Evening News, October 17th
“With new modern displays and imaginative interactive activities, visitors will gain a greater understanding and appreciation of our national aviation collection,” he said. The museum's civil and military hangars will close in November and reopen in 2016...Read more
Two local businesses come together for a special photo shootSalisbury Journal, October 16th
The photo shoot was to celebrate the launch of Games Room, a new contemporary menswear department within Regent Tailoring at 73 New Street. The shoot took place at Old Sarum airfield in the Aviation Collection and both companies have thanked the ...Read more
National Museum of Flight given £1.3m to transform WWII hangarsstv.tv, October 16th
"With new modern displays and imaginative interactive activities, visitors will gain a greater understanding and appreciation of our national aviation collection. We are delighted to be able to help in this transformation, safeguarding the hangars and...Read more
Vintage planes spiral at Apple Valley AirshowVictorville Daily Press, October 11th
A total of 73 vendors including a beer garden, food and cold drink vendors and purveyors of aviation memorabilia were also present. “We're seeing a lot of people interested in airplanes and bringing their little children, which is wonderful,” said...Read more
The Pan Am Experience invites you to step back in timeRusTourismNews, October 11th
Everything from the china to the glassware is authentic with careful attention to the exquisite service delivery of the era and menu offerings of Pan Am. After dinner, you will have an opportunity to view the vast collection of airline memorabilia and...Read more
Longhorn Trailer Closing Its DoorsKFDX, October 3rd
The business also houses hundreds of photographs and aviation memorabilia that will soon be taken down. On the outside, Longhorn Trailer is just like any other business, but when you step inside, you take a trip back in time. Ridenour says, "There's...Read more
Snohomish County features airplane exhibits, including Paul Allen's Flying ...The Oregonian - OregonLive.com, October 2nd
Arlington: The municipal airport north of Everett is a busy hub for private planes, aviation-related businesses and hobby pilots, but has not aviation collection for public view. It's main annual event is the Arlington Fly-In held every July (9 to 11...Read more
Relive the Glory Days of Flying: This Old 747 is LA's Hot New RestaurantYahoo Travel, September 23rd
Now, 27 years later, Toth is one of the leading aviation collectors in the country. “I can't definitely say I'm the biggest,” he says modestly. But he adds, “I've never met anyone with more than me.” Toth spent two decades buying airplane parts from...Read more