EcommerceBytes-Update, Number 151 - September 18, 2005 - ISSN 1528-6703     7 of 8

Collector's Corner: Airliner Memorabilia

By Michele Alice

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Remember how railroads once ruled commercial passenger traffic? Remember how most people threw away their tickets, timetables, and brochures? Remember how railroad memorabilia increased in value over the years? Well, the same factors are at play in the world of airliner collectibles.

From the beginning of regular passenger service in 1914 (between St. Petersburg and Tampa, Florida) up to the present, people have thrown away their tickets, timetables, and brochures. Many airlines, large and small, have come and gone. Remember TWA (1925-201) and Pan Am (1927-1991)? This has resulted in a finite number of items bearing those companies' logos. Add to the mix today's "no-frills" flights - no swizzle sticks, no menus, no playing cards, no nothing - and there are a lot fewer collectibles available relative to the growing number of people interested in airline memorabilia.

Other much sought after items include post cards, luggage tags, magazine ads, uniforms, jewelry (pins, tie bars, "wings", etc.), airsick "barf" bags, glass, and china - just about anything with an airline's brand. And as with ocean liner memorabilia, promotional models, such as those that graced travel offices, command some of the highest prices, usually several hundreds of dollars, depending on condition.

Some of the most coveted collectibles are from Braniff (1928-1982), an airline especially noted for its sense of style. Not only did the airline ask fashion designers Emilio Pucci (in 1965) and Halston (in 1977) to create striking new flight attendant uniforms, but it also painted its planes in "seven different pastel shades" as part of its "end of the plain plane" campaign. And it commissioned artist Alexander Calder to paint a DC-8 (in 1973) and a Boeing 727 (in 1975).

Unfortunately, Calder's "Flying Art" was lost forever when the planes were painted over in more traditional colors in 1980, but the Alexander Girard designed "Golden Bird" hostess wings often net $100-200 each. And original Pucci uniforms still sometimes turn up at online auctions, where they regularly fetch $400-500 a piece.

Not bad for used clothing.

For further information on this most interesting collectible, the resources listed below are highly recommended:


The Airchive
"The Webseum of Commercial Aviation": timetables, promos, ads, more.

Airline History
Comprehensive index of airlines around the world.

Maintains "The Collector's Guide to Airline Timetables", a profusely illustrated reference to timetables from airlines around the world, past and present.

American Institute of Aeronautics and Astronautics
History-of-flight timeline
Links to historical web sites

Cliff Muskiet's Stewardess/Flight Attendant Uniform Collection
Over 390 uniforms on display.

US Airline Industry Museum Foundation, Inc.

World Airline Historical Society
Organizes yearly convention "Airliners International"; offers quarterly magazine; links.

About the author:

Michele Alice is EcommerceBytes Update Contributing Editor. Michele is a freelance writer in the Berkshire mountains of Massachusetts. She collects books, science fiction memorabilia and more! Email her at makalice @ eBay ID: Malice9

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