NEW YORK—America’s love affair with flight will find full expression at the Big Apple’s most popular antiques and collectibles event – the Pier Show – Nov. 14-15 on Pier 94. Walk away with a captain’s cap, flight attendant uniform, a Lockheed Jet Star model or a silver-plated model of the Concorde – one of 50 made in London in the 1980s.
With the Amelia Earhart movie about to hit the big screen and Boeing’s long-awaited model 787 ready for flight test, the public’s fascination with all things aeronautical has reached new heights. The search is on for reminders of our conquest of flight and that search begins at Pier 94.
“One hundred years ago, we were flying machines that looked like kites and now we have gone to the Moon,” observes Arthur Cobin of Duchess Antiques, one of the many dealers who will be bringing aeronautical memorabilia to the show. “We’ve come so far that we are now fascinated to revisit our journey. Indeed, the Cobins’ collection of plaques, medals and pins is a chronicle of aviation achievements.
Witness the unusual bronze plaque honoring Lindberg’s New York to Paris flight, May 21, 1927, or the silver-plate medal presented by the aeronautical Chamber of Commerce to Rear Admiral Byrd and his association upon their conquest of the Poles. And, that’s just the tip of the iceberg! Look closer into the cases and you’ll find Zeppelin memorabilia – cast bronze medals commemorating the 75th and 90th birthdays of Graf Van Zeppelin, and a Germany Naval pin showing the Zeppelin that dates back from the first World War. The Cobins’ collection includes paperweights and plaques, such as the Italian bronze award presented in 1941 to a “15th course regular airplane mechanic,” with the inscription in Italian, “Important is one who flies.”
“In the 1930s and 40s, the airplane was considered very upscale, sophisticated and very futuristic,” notes Veronique Cassel of L’Iris Bleu Antiques in Paris, who will be bringing a special collection of 1940s airplanes in wood with aluminum and marble accents.” “Men love collecting these models for their offices – the workmanship is incredible!”
“The luxury, the optimism, the feeling that anything was possible – this was the romance of the airline industry in the 50s, 60s and 70s,” adds Mr. Cobin. “Flying was fashionable, whether you traveled in first class or coach.” The airlines went all out with printed timetables, playing cards to entertain its passengers, and fine china in first class. All of these items are collectible today.
The Cobins carry such esoteric finds as an American Airlines DC6 ashtray, which might have graced an executive’s desk during the days when smoking was allowed and offices were far from “smoke free.” Show goers will also find American and Piedmont airline lapel pins from the 50s, worn by pilots and stewardesses during an era when attending passengers was considered a glamorous career.
Before credit cards and the Internet, travelers physically went to the airport, an airline ticket office or travel agency to purchase a ticket. The airlines supplied amazingly detailed models of their careers, for the counters. The Pier Show will have dozens of these colorful models. Most prized are the models called “cutaways,” that showed the inside of the plane, complete with rows of seats. These can command thousands of dollars.
The most popular airlines among collectors? Hands down, Pan Am and Braniff. Both were considered trendsetters for their time. Braniff was the first airline to really bring panache to air travel – a sense of luxury and style that doesn’t exist at a time when the airlines are trying to stay afloat. Alexander Calder chose the colors for the carriers, with each plane having a different color. Braniff introduced Pucci designed uniforms for their attendants, leather seating and held fashion shows in the aisles. (Boy, how times have changed!) Memorabilia from the early days of these airlines is now in demand.
So, let your imagination take flight at the Pier Show! Show hours are Saturday and Sunday, 10am-6pm. Admission is $15. Pier 94 is located at 55th Street and 12th Avenue, New York City. Contact: 973-808-5015 or www.stellashows.com for more information.
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