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Airline Collectibles

After the success of the Wright Brothers, everyone wanted to fly. On July 25, 1909 French aviator Louis Bleriot flew across the English channel in a single-engined aircraft. The dream of breaching international borders was a reality. A year later, there were mail flights and charters, but it wasn't until World War One that regular passenger and cargo flights began. Both sides in the war were strongly motivated to use the amazing flying machines for more than aerial reconnaissance and combat. They were also required for transportation of goods and personnel. In May of 1918, regular US Air mail began with single-engine biplanes. They covered the extent of the country, linking the coasts, and the small beginnings of an expanding airline industry. By 1927, US mail routes were taken over by the private sector with the establishment of the first transcontinental airlines: Boeing, National, United, American Airways, and TWA. The latter served the New York to Los Angeles route while United Air Lines joined New York to San Francisco. German domestic traffic began in 1919, and that same year British Air Transport and Travel united London to Paris in a DeHavilland craft. It was a two and a half hour flight and cost the first civilian 21 pounds sterling. Soon, more and more passengers wanted to take the fast way to Paris, and larger aircraft were added to the route.

 It was only in later years, with regular passenger traffic becoming a commonplace event, that the airline industry released a flood of items that entered collectible history. As some airlines came and went, bags and route maps, general collectibles, all showing the company insignia became nostalgia, in much the same way when an artist dies, his works increase in value. 

Many times, souvenir hunters lifted items belonging to an airline, if only to have a memory emblazoned by the airline logo. It became more cost effective to discontinue placing your motto on items, such as dinnerware, that you did not want to disappear, otherwise you just had to raise ticket prices to cover losses. For the most part, it was cheaper to hand out colorful route pamphlets, or sell licensed flight bags at the souvenir stores. It was equally good advertising to see those flight bags portrayed in movies, so that when it came to choosing a carrier, the customer would often rely on the experience of travelling by knowing in advance which was the more  trusted name. 


Airline collectibles, as with any subject, have greatly varying prices depending on rarity and condition. Many of the items include silverserving pieces and flatware, wings and badges worn by the crew, playing cards, complimentary junior wings given to the passengers, model company planes, timetables. Items before World War II are especially desirable, and before 1930 can be rare and valuable. 

Most popular airlines for airline collectibles (of those still operating) are Quantas, Southwest and Northwest, though American Airlines and Canadian Pacific may rank higher for North American airlines. Most interest will be for cheap air flights and cheap airline tickets; just keep in mind that when you get your flight, a souvenir from the souvenir shop can be a good investment as the years go by. 




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