AvGeek Heaven: How and Why You Should Check Out Delta’s Surplus Sale

Aug 29, 2019

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There’s a shed in the parking lot near the Delta Flight Museum in Atlanta. If you didn’t know any better, it’s easy to assume that it’s a maintenance shed. But inside this nondescript building, Delta houses a treasure trove of memorabilia, vintage items and aircraft seats. And once a month, Delta puts these items on sale to the general public.

After hearing about this sale and wanting to go for years, my travel schedule finally lined up and I was able to check it out in mid-August. And I already can’t wait to go back.

If you’re a Delta fan, AvGeek or just love browsing fascinating items, you need to check out the Delta Surplus Sale for yourself. Here’s why — and how to do so.

When

The Delta Surplus Sale occurs on the second Friday of each month, running from 9am to 2pm. The next sale is Sept. 13. As we learned from personal experience, you’ll want to show up early if you want first dibs on the merchandise. The line can stretch out the door.

Delta estimates that between 250 and 300 people attend each month, and there’s not much space on the merchandise floor. To prevent crowding, the volunteers who help run the sale only allow a certain number of patrons in at a time. However, there’s no limit on the time that you have inside once you’re allowed in.

If you don’t like crowds, I’d recommend arriving a couple of hours after the sale has begun. When we left around 11am, there was no line and the sale floor wasn’t crowded.

Where

The Surplus Sale occurs in the Museum Support Building located next to the Delta DC-9 — and not too far from Delta’s Boeing 747 — on static display near the museum gate entrance. If you show up early, you’ll get to enjoy these beauties while you wait for the sale to open.

For ease of navigating, here’s the exact location of the entrance to the building.

The easiest way of getting to the Surplus Sale is by driving yourself or using a ride-hailing service. While the building is located just north of the Atlanta airport, there’s no public shuttle to get to the museum area from the airport terminals.

How Does It Work

Upon arrival at the parking lot, you may need to specify to the parking agent that you’re visiting the Surplus Sale in the event you arrive before the museum’s opening time (10am). Parking is free, but you’ll get a parking decal to hang on your rear-view mirror. After parking near the Museum Support Building, head to the door marked “Sale Entrance.”

Once inside the building, your wait isn’t over yet. A volunteer or two paces the number of patrons allowed on the sale floor.

Once it’s your turn to enter, you’re handed a price sheet and a golf pencil. Let me recommend from experience: don’t mark your sheet until you’re done shopping. My sheet had a lot of cross-outs by the time we were ready to check out.

(Photo by JT Genter / The Points Guy)

What’s For Sale

The headline item for our visit in August was the MD-80 first-class seats. A pair of seats were priced at $300 and there were only about a dozen pairs on the floor to be sold.

(Photo by JT Genter / The Points Guy)

We figured these would sell out quickly, but seats were still unsold by the time we left around 11am. Judy Bean — the manager of the Surplus Sale — noted there were still more seats in storage that would be available at future sales.

After the sale, I reached out to a Delta spokesperson who told me there are about 20 sets of seats in storage. She says that it’s likely these will sell out in the next couple of months.

While the first-class seats were the highlight, the sale mostly consisted of a disorienting blend of gems surrounded by endless knickknacks. Photos of classic jets were stocked next to drink coasters; unopened Delta aircraft trading cards next to “bingo daubers.”

(Photo by JT Genter / The Points Guy)

There were trays of old Delta and Northwest ticket jackets available for four for $1. And you could have grabbed a nearby pamphlet holder for $1 if you need a place to display these ticket jackets:

(Photo by JT Genter / The Points Guy)

While Delta Air Lines has been around since the mid-1920s, it hasn’t grown to be the world’s largest airline by revenue on its own. The Delta of today is the result of numerous mergers over the decades. All of that history is summarized on this amazing “family tree” that you can pick up for $1.

(Photo by JT Genter / The Points Guy)

Also, you can take home an actual piece history by buying a brick from Delta’s original headquarters. The bricks even come with a certificate of authentication. However, you’re going to have to search the sale floor for these gems, as we randomly found them on the floor behind other items for sale.

(Photo by JT Genter / The Points Guy)

There are tables and tables full of pins, playing cards, Delta-branded cutlery and vintage magazines:

(Photo by JT Genter / The Points Guy)

My favorite shelf in the whole store contained “crash crew charts.” These charts show detailed layouts of older aircraft — including the location of emergency equipment, fuel tanks and locations for crews to breach the aircraft in case of emergency:

While most of the items are less than $5, there are some more expensive items on a couple of tables that are labeled with “unique boutique” tags. These items include everything from service pins to vintage uniform hats and branded bags to books.

You can even buy this Delta flight attendant doll:

Among all of the Delta-branded items, I noticed a few items with a distinctive “AA” logo. Sure enough, Delta was selling American Airlines coffee mugs and trays for $1 each.

(Photo by JT Genter / The Points Guy)

Although there were plenty of AvGeek goodies, we were surprised by the number and diversity of non aviation-related items. There were plenty of framed photos of cities around the world, chairs, tables, flag stands, fishing tackle boxes and ottomans. In fact, most of the space is filled with office furniture from Delta’s headquarters:

(Photo by JT Genter / The Points Guy)

However, strangest item by far was the $50 wedding dress and veil:

Naturally, I had questions. Was this dress left on a plane by a runaway bride? Was the dress found in a lost bag? And surely this had to be the most unique item that’s been available for sale, right?

Thankfully, I got answers. A Delta spokesperson confirmed that the dress was donated to the Delta Flight Museum, and the dress will still be available at the September sale — as it hasn’t been sold yet.

As for the most fascinating item available at the Surplus Sale, Delta shared that it once sold the pressurized bulkhead door that leads to the steps in the emergency exit from a DC-9. While the MD-80 first class seats are pretty special, an escape door from a DC-9 is certainly a unique garage sale item.

Payment

When you’ve finally settled on what you’re going to buy, you’ll need to fill out the form that you got at the entrance and visit one of the cashiers to check out. The Surplus Sale takes cash, check and credit card. While the cash line can be the quickest, those of us who are points and miles collectors might be fine with waiting for the credit card line to open.

When we checked out around 10:45am, there wasn’t a line for either, so I handed over the sale sheet to a cashier at the credit card desk. He could clearly see we didn’t have anything too valuable, so he trusted our math — which came to exactly $50. I charged the purchase to my Chase Sapphire Reserve curious to see if it’d code as travel. Unfortunately, it coded as “entertainment” and only received 1x points on the purchase:

On our way out the door, we saw a framed photo of the Star Ferry and the Hong Kong skyline for just $25. As Hong Kong is one of our favorite places in the world, we couldn’t help but double-back to purchase this as well.

Not knowing how the first transaction coded, we charged this second payment to Katie’s new Citi Premier® Card to see if it would code as “entertainment.” Sure enough, it earned 2x Citi ThankYou Points as an “Entertainment-Tourist Attractions and Exhibits” purchase.

Now that we know how the purchases code, you’ll want to bring along one of the best credit cards for entertainment spending — such as the U.S. Bank Cash+™ Visa Signature® Card (5% cash back on the first $2,000 in combined eligible purchases each quarter) Capital One® Savor® Cash Rewards Credit Card (4% cash back) or Citi Premier® Card (2x ThankYou Points) — to pay for your purchase. The information for the Capital One Savor Cash Rewards Credit Card and U.S. Bank Altitude Reserve card has been collected independently by The Points Guy. The card details on this page have not been reviewed or provided by the card issuer.

Where the Money Goes

The Surplus Sale is operated as a fundraiser for the Delta Flight Museum, helping the museum keep admission prices low while still having the funds necessary to preserve its exhibits. There’s 12 to 15 volunteers that run the sale each month. They get first dibs at the merchandise in exchange for volunteering. Delta confirmed that most of the volunteers are Delta retirees, but some still work for the airline — like the flight attendant I met who has 37 years of experience.

I was also surprised to learn how much those $1 items add up. A Delta spokesperson shared that the Surplus Sale has raised more than $10,000 per month so far this year. And the historically busiest month is still coming up: December, which sees a surge in patrons due to the holidays.

If you want to check out the Surplus Sale for yourself, the upcoming schedule is as follows:

Related: Snapshot: A Look at Delta Air Lines by the Numbers

 

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