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.


Best of the Web (“Hall of Fame”)

National Air and Space Museum

National Air and Space Museum

The National Air and Space Museum holds some 50,000 artifacts, a significant subset of which can be viewed on this … [read review or visit site]

Aviation Models

Aviation Models

Peter Jackson and friends have put together this great gallery of travel agent airline display models. The photo ga… [read review or visit site]

Airways News

Airways News

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

Lufthansa Model Collection

A private collection of desktop Lufthansa airplane models. Available in English and German, this compact but rich s… [read review or visit site]

AirTimes

AirTimes

This incredible collection of airline timetables by Perry Sloan includes hundreds of vintage and modern airline tim… [read review or visit site]

Airline Spoons

Airline Spoons

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

Airline Bag Lounge

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

Travel Brochure Graphics

The staggering number of images on this site are, unbelievably, only a subset of David Levine's collection of 1920s… [read review or visit site]

Advertising Antiques

Advertising Antiques

This classy looking British site features hundreds of high resolution photos of antique porcelain pre-war (enamel) … [read review or visit site]

Ad Access

Ad Access

Duke University's library has pulled together an impressive collection of over 7,000 ads printed in U.S. and Canadi… [read review or visit site]

Plan 59

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From the Nostlagia Factory in Virginia comes this celebration of 'mid-century automotive advertising illustrations'… [read review or visit site]

American Package Museum

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Recent News: Aviation Memorabilia

Source: Google News

SUN 'n FUN Salutes MacDill AFB with Warbird Fly-Over
SYS-CON Media (press release), April 17th

Located on the campus is Aerospace Discovery at the Florida Air Museum, host to the personal aviation collection of Howard Hughes and the Florida Aviation Hall of Fame. All educational programs and activities offer aviation-based STEM (Science, ...Read more

A life mask of President Abraham Lincoln's face, made in 1860 in Chicago, is ...
cleveland.com, April 16th

150 years ago, President Abraham Lincoln's funeral procession stopped in Public Square so Clevelanders could pay their respects. An exhibit at The Western Reserve Historical Society library includes photographs, a mourning ribbon, decor from the coffin ...Read more

Multimedia Producer
The Drum, April 14th

the collection was moved from Edinburgh for display at East Fortune. The national aviation collections comprise aircraft, engines, photographs, archives, models, flying clothing, instruments and other equipment. The national aviation collection is...Read more

Countdown begins for F1 Gulf Air Bahrain Grand Prix
Arab News, April 13th

Gulf Air will have a dedicated photo-booth tent available for all visitors to have their photo taken with key airline memorabilia and alongside members of Gulf Air's cabin crew — by a professional photographer — at the event in addition to its own...Read more

Honor Flight fundraising breakfast today
St. George Daily Spectrum, April 10th

At the breakfast there will be aviation memorabilia from the 1940s through to present day, including former military fighter and trainer aircraft on display. David Cordero, the Interim Executive Editor of The Spectrum & Daily News as well as a WWII...Read more

Hangar dance to highlight Armed Forces Day celebration
St. George Daily Spectrum, March 29th

There will be military aviation memorabilia from the 1940s to present day, vendors, exhibits, vintage aircraft fly-by and special guest speakers. Aircraft rides in a vintage WWII T-6 & Beech-18 will be available both days for those who want that once...Read more

In Asia, Layovers That Let You Take in the Sights
New York Times, March 20th

At Jet Lag Café, customers can have a cocktail while browsing the airline memorabilia collected by the owner, Vincent Timmermans, a former Sabena Airlines flight attendant. The fondness the city now shows toward the airport is a contrast to the...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