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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Santa Claus flies into MAPSSuburbanite, December 17th
They also visited the MAPS gift shop and wandered about the museum looking at all the planes and aviation memorabilia. One of the most popular exhibits was the Mig-17 which the children could sit in. Many of the smaller kids completely disappeared from ...Read more
War hero's clock sold at auction containing service medals and records of ...The Northern Echo, December 16th
A private collector from the region is now the proud owner of the piece of aviation memorabilia. Mr Middleton, who died in 1994, was an RAF flight engineer from Consett, County Durham, who flew more than 40 missions over Nazi Germany and was shot ...Read more
Old Sarum Airfield in Salisbury: Plan for 470 homesBBC News, December 12th
Proposals to build 470 homes on a World War One airfield in Wiltshire are going on show to the public. Old Sarum Airfield, which is still in use, is a conservation area and the hangars are listed buildings. The owners say the aim of the proposed...Read more
Remembering when it was fun to fly at Grayland StationChicago Tribune, November 26th
He sells a lot of model trains and caters to railroad aficionados, but his shop's eccentric heart is in its airline memorabilia: the lapel pins of bygone airlines, the menus of foreign carriers, the thank-you bags passengers once received and the china...Read more
Boscombe Down Aviation Collection to double in sizeSalisbury Journal, November 25th
THE Boscombe Down Aviation Collection (BDAC) expanding to occupy a second hanger at Old Sarum Airfield. The collection, which tells the story of flight and flight testing at Boscombe Down and houses a number of nationally significant exhibits, has ...Read more
Meet the Man With 40k Pieces of Airline Memorabilia in His NYC ApartmentABC News, September 15th
Marvin G. Goldman has accomplished much in his life so far. In addition to a 43-year career as an international attorney, he'll be married 50 years this month and is the father of three kids. He's perhaps best known for holding the world's largest...Read more
Airline memorabilia show at Hopkins has everything but a window seat (slideshow)The Plain Dealer - cleveland.com, August 16th
Don Kaylor, owner of Inflight 200, offers 1:200 scale die-cast metal models of airliners at the Cleveland Airline Show held at the Sheraton Hopkins adjacent to the airport on Saturday, August 16, 2014. These models are made in limited editions, sold...Read more
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