Human powered flight encompasses a large area of collecting interest. Aviation is equal parts technology and romance. It occupies a small slice of the span of human history but is a defining element of the modern world. Airplanes fascinated me as a kid who spent many hours in libraries. I poured over all the books that showed airplanes and explained how they worked. The magazine racks held Model Airplane News magazine. I was one of those kids who hung on the airport fence and watched the planes take off. After high school I got distracted by popular culture but came back to my earlier interests as I got settled into a steady job and home ownership. I put the necessary time and money into getting a private pilot’s license which was one of the highlights of my life. Virtually every aspect of Flying, it’s history and continuing development, civilian, military or commercial is part of an ongoing love affair..
The kind of feeling I grew up with for aviation is what makes a collector tick. A lot of people have that feeling for automobiles, trains, dogs, horses, stamps, coins, you name it. I have the same thing for sailboats, hence my other blog: Seaward Adventures. As a dealer in collectible items, buying and selling to make a profit was the main consideration. Aviation was one of the few areas I collected for myself. My pride and joy was an assembly of aviator’s wing badges.
When I first started selling collectibles I naturally gravitated toward items that interested me personally. My interests payed off surprisingly well. I had stumbled onto the formula that became my business model. Artifacts that relate to an activity engaged in by well educated people with a passion for the activity and a healthy income to support the activity equals profitability. Lets face it you don’t see any poor people climbing into a Cessna 172 to go for a hundred dollar hamburger.
The aviation demographic was grown by WWII and the postwar economic growth that allowed many Americans to pursue their personal dreams. My customers were frequently people with good stories to tell. I always enjoy some good hangar talk which is why my favorite podcast is Uncontrolled Airspace. Jack, Jeb, Dave and the various other contributors to the podcast are entertaining and educational in a way that makes a pilot feel connected with the flying community.
Some interesting items I have handled in my business or personal collection are: Pilot’s operating handbooks for various vintage aircraft, early variations on the E6B flight computer, parts for Jacob’s radial engines, early pilot’s goggles and way too many other items to remember. I divested myself of all those collections. I still dabble. I have a few items on eBay right now. A recently acquired WWII item was the subject of a previous Adventures in antiquing post. You may view it at http://cgi.ebay.com/ws/eBayISAPI.dll?ViewItem&item=220663480133.
I find that people have fond memories of the aircraft they flew once upon a time. The old sales literature with full color photos of prosperous young folks traveling cross country on business and pleasure have been good sellers. I three examples on eBay right now. See the Vintage Beech Sierra Sales Brochure 1973.
Sales have slowed down a bit because eBay is not a happening place lately. Aviation itself is feeling the effects of the economic downturn. Certainly some people will slow down their collecting as they tighten their budget. Ultimately what sustains the market is passion. Pin your business model on that