Vintage gifts for the aviation geek in your life

Dec 16, 2019

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It’s the most wonderful time of the year, and for most of us that means hustle and bustle and ‘to do’ lists that never end.

TPG fans and aviation aficionados of all kinds are sometimes hard to please when it comes to gifts (unless, of course, there’s extra points under the tree).

Some of the best gifts I’ve ever gotten were vintage aviation objects. Among my treasures? Vintage AA lapel pins donated from a friend who works at American Airlines, and a vintage photograph of one of the first American Airlines freighter planes.

Vintage American Airlines lapel pins.
Vintage American Airlines lapel pins.


Vintage American Airlines patch found at NYC flea market.
Vintage American Airlines patch found at NYC flea market.


In a quest to find the perfect gift for AvGeeks, I reached out to vintage expert Bob Richter. You may know Richter from the PBS series “Market Warriors,” but his book “Vintage Living” was published this year, and he’s also literally written the book on Christmas, “A Very Vintage Christmas.”

Richter told me there’s several great ways to find vintage aviation items. 

  • eBay
  • Garage sales
  • Flea Markets
  • Friends and family
  • Etsy

Richter told TPG, “The Golden Age of Travel produced many airline customer gifts from ‘Junior Pilot’ wings to model airplanes. Now many of those pieces are at flea markets and other vintage venues. They make sensational gifts for aviation enthusiasts.”

Vintage American Airlines Flagship freighter. Photographer unknown.
Vintage American Airlines Flagship freighter. Photographer unknown.


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Some of my personal favorites are dishes and other crockery from various airlines around the world, old first class menus, and customer memorabilia from airlines and planes of yesteryear like the Concorde. A lot of times, I find old ephemeral objects showing planes or logos and have them framed for wall art. 

Richter even recommends using vintage aviation objects to decorate your tree, “just tie a red ribbon on an object and it’s an ornament.” He says these ornaments will live on forever.   He says trees are like scrapbooks of our lives, chronicling time and places and people we love. He also says that if you didn’t’ get your grandparents’ traditional ornaments, you can go out and find their counterparts at flea markets, etc.   Even if they weren’t actually your grandparents’ ornaments, they conjure up the same memories to be shared.

Vintage holiday greeting card featuring airplane.
Vintage holiday greeting card with aviation theme.


Richter suggests (and I’m inclined to believe him) that if you and I each have things (whether it’s Christmas ornaments or a model airplane) from our family, we have something to talk about that defies so many of our differences (political, socio-economic, religious, etc.).  These treasured objects have the power to open our hearts and bring us together.

And isn’t that what Christmas is all about?

Vintage Delta crockery.
Vintage Delta crockery.


Bob’s latest book “Vintage Living” (Rizzoli) is available now. He has a comprehensive list of the flea markets across the country so you can hunt for treasures just like a pro.

Vintage Living by Bob Richter.
Vintage Living by Bob Richter. Photo by Daniel Yund and Blake Drummond.


Featured photo belongs to Clint Henderson/The Points Guy.

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