Paper Items This Page Updated June 1, 2000



My name is David Keller, and I will be writing articles about airline timetable collecting.  I have been collecting airline timetables for over 27 years, and I have a fairly large collection of timetables from US carriers from the past 33 years or so.  I will start by answering some of the questions that I have been asked frequently over the years.

What is the attraction of airline timetables to collectors?

There are two main characteristics of airline timetables that make them attractive to collectors.  First of all, there are the visual aesthetics (appearance) of a timetable, including the cover design, photos (both on the cover and within the timetable), logos, and advertisements.  Secondly, there is the historical aspect of a timetable (the information contained within), basically comprised by the flight info, fare data (if presented), and route map.  (Although a route map can certainly be interesting from an aesthetic point of view as well!)  As soon as a given timetable is superceded by a newer edition, that timetable becomes a part of the historical record of airline history.
Most collectors’ interest in timetables is actually a combination of those two factors, rather than being strictly one or the other.  While I don’t think I’ve ever met anyone that collected timetables solely for their visual appeal, I also don’t think that I’ve met any that don’t find their head being turned by an attractive issue on occasion. 

Why do people collect airline timetables?

There is no one single reason that individuals become interested in collecting airline timetables – there are probably as many reasons as there are individual collectors. Many collectors have been in the airline industry (either currently or in the past) or had close friends or relatives in the industry, while others (like myself), became interested simply by wondering where all of these airplanes were coming from and going to.

What are airline timetable collectors’ goals?

Collectors run the gambit from wanting a copy of every airline timetable ever printed, to those who want a single issue to commemorate a special occasion.  (OK, so maybe a single timetable doesn’t rate as a “collection” by itself, but it is usually part of a larger collection of airline memorabilia.)  I know collectors who collect only specific airlines, and those who want as many different airlines as possible.  Some collect airlines from one or more specific countries (most frequently from the US), while others collect on a global scale.  Additionally, some want every timetable issued for a given period of time (which may be from Day One to the present), others only want one per year (or even every few years), and still others want merely a single issue for any given airline.  Most airline timetable collectors’ goals are some combination of these factors, and I don’t think I’ve ever met 2 collectors with the exact same collecting goals.

What steps can be taken to preserve timetables?

The prime enemies of airline timetables are water, insects, light (especially sunlight), handling, and time.  I think that the first line of defense for timetables is to protect them with plastic sleeves.  This serves as some protection against moisture, and I believe that it will greatly reduce the prospects for insect damage.  (Most of the insect-damaged items I have seen appear to have been stored together, and it looks like the insects simply ate their way through one and onto the next.)  To go a step further, zipper-top sleeves (like sandwich bags) are available, which offer even more protection than the more common open-top sleeves.  (Confession – I do not have all of my timetables in sleeves at this point, but I’m getting there.)  An additional note about timetable sleeves – it is my understanding that most plastic sleeves have some sort of acidic residue (left over from the manufacturing process) that will eventually degrade paper.  It is possible to purchase acid-free sleeves, but last time I checked they were about 50 cents each, which is over 10 times the price of “regular” sleeves.  (I do not know of anyone using these acid-free sleeves for airline timetables.)
The next step to preserving timetables is to store them in a dark place.  Light tends to fade the ink and also degrade the paper, and sunlight does both of these much faster than artificial lighting.  I use both metal filing cabinets and cardboard boxes to store timetables, although my personal collection is all in the metal cabinets. (I believe that it is better to store timetables in a metal cabinet than a cardboard box, again for protection against insect damage.)  If you purchase used filing cabinets as I do, I recommend taking the time to clean them thoroughly before use.

I do not recommend basements as a place to store timetables, as they tend to be cool and damp, which also leads to insect and mildew damage. Additionally, basements have a tendency to flood now and then, and I have seen many examples of very nice timetables turned to trash due to a flooded basement. If you do store items in the basement, I have 2 suggestions: First, store them in something that is air- and water-tight. Secondly, place them in a location that is elevated above the floor, since many basement floods are only a few inches deep.

Common sense in the handling of timetables will go a long way in preserving them.  A few items of note: It is advisable to avoid handling timetables in warm, humid conditions, as even a little perspiration on the hands will result in yellowish-brown spots appearing on the paper in the future.  Also, on “double-fold” timetables (older timetables that were stapled in the middle, folded, then folded again), do not reverse the fold in an effort to make the timetable lay flat, as this will cause stress tears in the paper at the fold. (Image below shows a very nice timetable receiving very poor treatment.) 

Also, on the new “book-style” timetables, where the pages are glued in rather than stapled, be careful not to open the timetable too wide, or pages will frequently detach.

A little side note here - while nearly all dealers at collectible shows are more than willing to allow prospective customers to remove an item from its protective sleeve and look through it, please have the courtesy to treat the item with utmost care. (Bear in mind that you may be the first person to unfold the item in 10, 20, or even 50 years!) Although not a frequent occurrance, I have had individuals who handled my items with complete disregard for the fact that a timetable needs to be treated with more care than a pet rock! (At a recent show, one fellow was looking for some beginning and ending dates of a certain service. I had the issues at the show, which he poured over, bending and folding as he saw fit.  After convincing himself that these were the issues he wanted, he decided not to buy them because they weren't in good enough condition, but asked me to let him know when I acquired better copies. I hope he isn't holding his breath!)

Not much can be done about the effects of time.  Older timetables that were made with good quality paper will hold up for a long time.  I have many timetables from the late 60’s and older that are in absolutely wonderful condition, while I worry that the timetables that are currently being produced may disintegrate before they expire! (In all fairness, timetables were meant to be disposable items - we timetable collectors are fortunate that they didn't make them that way many years ago!)

Down the road, I will feature some timetables that I believe will be of interest to many collectors.  Here are some of the timetables for which I will post scans and related information:

First 747 issues for US carriers.
Merger issues.
Final issues for merged and bankrupted carriers.
Inaugural issues for new carriers.
Strike issues.
Color scheme change issues.

This category will cover paper airline collectibles, including timetables, ticket jackets, annual reports, posters, and brochures.