Book Review: Aircraft Display Model Collector Investor and Appraisal Guide

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Aircraft Display Model Collector Investor and Appraisal Guide

By Henry Tenby
ISBN 9781926714011
163 Pages

Review by Shea Oakley

I have been collecting airliner models since I was old enough to point up at the sky and say “plane.” That is about 50 years. During this time a precious few of them have been what I always called “airline ticket office” or “travel agency” models. These were the kind of big replicas I remembered from the 1970’s. In those early childhood days, my dad and I would walk down Fifth Avenue in New York City once a year so I could collect ticket folders from the often beautifully appointed ticket offices which, for a long time, lined that street representing every major world airline. I also remember seeing these models in other places, as in the case of an unbelievably huge National Airlines 747 “cutaway” example that sat in the ticketing lobby of their JFK “Sundrome” terminal during that same decade.

While I have collected everything from 1/600th to 1/24th scale airliners in my time, I always knew that these special models were truly in a class by themselves.

Now a physically impressive new paperback book from Henry Tenby, a major collector and true expert on these types of replicas, for the first time gives us not only a comprehensive history of all the makers of “professional aircraft display models” but also a very useful price guide and great general overview of this important segment of the airline enthusiast hobby. His self-published work does so with 162 pages of images that are virtually all color-printed on excellent heavy-stock glossy paper. Photographically this volume is a beauty to behold, in terms of content it is a pleasure to read.

The Vancouver, Canada-based Tenby started collecting in 1988 after visiting Brazil to chronicle the late, great Varig’s legendary “Ponte Area” Lockheed Electra shuttle operation as a reporter for the former “Airliners Magazine.” At the end of his interviews with the Brazilian flag carrier’s executives he was presented with a new 1/100th model of an Electra produced by one of the major players in the field of display models built for airline promotional use, Vogelaar. In his own words “from this point forward the author was perpetually hooked.”

Today Tenby, along with some other familiar, long-known names in the hobby, including Anthony Lawler, David Marx and Dr. Charles Quarles, is one of a small group of collectors who have large collections of these often extremely valuable models. I had the pleasure and rare privilege of visiting one of these collections at the home of its owner last January. In fact that is where I first encountered a copy of this book.

Since the rarest of these pieces can fetch as much as five figures for a single example; this segment is among the most “upscale” in the world of airline collecting and most of us cannot afford more than a few of them (at least without taking out a second mortgage!)  For instance, your reviewer currently has just six models that would qualify as professional aircraft display models by the author’s well-thought out standards.

While not inexpensive (no high-quality illustrated book this size is these days) I highly recommend Tenby’s work for anyone who has had more than a passing interest on this subject. It is rare to find a book that is both chockful of useful and engaging content yet could be proudly displayed on any true airline enthusiast’s coffee table. In my opinion this one definitely qualifies!

There is very little to criticize in Aircraft Display Model Collector Investor and Appraisal Guide. There are a fair number of minor typos that slightly detract from the reading experience. The book ends with some mouth-watering selected photos from some of the largest collections of these replicas in the world. I might have enjoyed a few more photos from them, but the book is self-published and paying for the reproduction of color photos in a book of this quality cannot be cheap! We can certainly be grateful that these collectors were willing to work with Tenby to the degree they did, as I have seen very few glimpses of such collections in my over 25 years in the “official” airline collecting hobby.

So, to sum up, this one is truly a keeper. I can tell you that my personal copy will be treasured for many years to come. Even if you cannot afford a single professional aircraft display model for your own “fleet” this book provides a way to vicariously enjoy hundreds of them!

Availability: Copies of this book can be ordered directly from the author’s website,, for US $36.95 each (plus postage from Canada).

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