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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EXCLUSIVE High Flyer Interview: Spirit's Former CEO Ben Baldanza – Part IIAirways News (blog), February 10th
of AirwaysNews.com and a veteran reporter and aviation expert with a keen historical bent and an extensive collection of aviation memorabilia and photos. In early February 2003, he created Airchive.com. Contact him at email@example.com ...Read more
A Taco Showdown, A Bike Ride For Pizza And More Weekend EatsLAist, January 29th
Sample over 100 wines from some of the best Bordeaux producers and enjoy delicious bites, while surrounded by vintage aircraft and aviation memorabilia. Hosted by Wally's Wine & Spirits, the 2016 Union des Grands Crus de Bordeaux is the single largest ...Read more
Plane to be named after ClintonvilleWaupaca County News, January 27th
Airline memorabilia and photographs would be on display in the library. Helminiak didn't have a timeframe for the project, but said he hopes to have a DC-3 purchased and at the Aviation Heritage Center by the end of this year. In December, the...Read more
Top ten things to do on a trip to SalisburyExpress.co.uk, January 23rd
Get up close to aircraft and see restoration taking place at Boscombe Down Aviation Collection.. It's a great thing to do when the weather's bad as it's mainly all indoors. The collection of aircraft, cockpits, replicas and models weapons and equipment...Read more
CV Glines, Curator for McDermott Library's Doolittle Archives, DiesUniversity of Texas at Dallas (press release), January 22nd
“When I first came to the History of Aviation Collection in 2002, C.V. was one of the first volunteers I met. Over the years, as I got to know him, I realized what a wonderful person he was. He had great stories to share with us,” said Paul Oelkrug...Read more
Mojave Air and Spaceport CEO RetiresKern Golden Empire, January 15th
Friday was Stuart Witt's last day at work as chief executive officer of Mojave Air and Spaceport. His office is cleaned out.Boxes of aviation memorabilia are now stored in his Inyokern hangar, his exit plan executed with precision. In his 14 years as...Read more
Recycled and Retro Airline Memorabilia Flies HighAirways News (blog), September 18th
The aviation enthusiast or airline industry lifer looking to bring more flying memorabilia into their lives has never had it so good. The number of companies big and small offering refurbished homeware and souvenir items is larger than it's ever been...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