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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Leading D-Day plane, C-47 That's All Brother, heads to DallasDallas Morning News, November 27th
That's All Brother is an important example of the World War II workhorse, said Thomas Allen, curator of the University of Texas at Dallas Aviation Collection. “Since it was the lead invasion aircraft, I would say it is an important artifice of World...Read more
Red Aviation Adds BR700-710A2-20 Engines to InventoryAviationPros.com, November 18th
In addition to serving Gulfstream customers, Red Aviation's extensive in-house inventory for Global, Challenger and Lear Jet aircraft makes them the go-to resource for the business aircraft operating community. Red Aviation's collection of businesses...Read more
Museum Seeks to Restore the Last Remaining Solent BoatScoop.co.nz (press release), November 12th
Guests will be treated to a fine selection of wines sponsored by Ngatarawa Wines while they are surrounded by MOTAT's world-class aviation collection, including the 'Aranui' itself. MOTAT's Commercial Manager, Jeff Morris explains that the Solent on...Read more
Unique Auction Is Virtual Time Capsule of Military Achievements of Past CenturyAmmoLand Shooting Sports News, November 6th
Rare and exciting to both militaria and aviation memorabilia collectors, Lot 471 is a large (5¼-inch diameter) USAAF 14th Flying Tigers leather patch. The round patch with a winged-tiger motif has retained its vivid primary colors very well and carries...Read more
Scrap with potentialTyler Morning Telegraph, November 3rd
It houses an amazing collection of aviation memorabilia and 14 restored aircraft. A full story on HAMM appears in the November-December edition of IN Magazine, which is in racks now. For information about membership, group tours or to volunteer, drop...Read more
Historic helicopter to be restored by Boscombe Aviation CollectionSalisbury Journal, November 3rd
THE Boscombe Aviation Collection (BDAC) has added an historic helicopter to its stock. The Scout helicopter an AH1 XP899, was designed and built by Westland Helicopters and based for the duration of its operational career at Middle Wallop Airfield...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