I often get questions from our social media agents – the ladies and gentlemen who manage all of KLM’s social media channels – about KLM items. How old is this puzzle? Have you seen a box like this and why was it made back then? In other words, “KLM” is avidly collected and cherished. I mentioned this in an earlier blog last year. I have a few more gems I’d like to share.
It won’t surprise you to hear that there are now millions of Delftware miniatures in circulation around the world. Customarily filled with Dutch gin, these miniature houses have been given to passengers travelling in World Business Class and its predecessors for the past sixty years. And the nice thing is that everyone has a place to put them, on top of a cupboard somewhere or the windowsill. When I was a kid, I used to cycle past a house where they were displayed behind the window. And they were specially placed for passers-by with the facades facing outwards. “Very thoughtful,” I thought.
These “houses” won’t fit on the windowsill. They’re way too big. That’s because they’re specials, and they’re generally a bit larger than the average miniature house. It’s also because of the kind of building. Take the Ridderzaal (Knights’ Hall) at the Binnenhof in The Hague. The symbol of Dutch politics and the “Speech from the Throne” on budget day. As many as 300 were once produced as a gift from the KLM management board. So you won’t run into them often. Practically never, in fact. I once saw one of them for sale on an EBay-like site. The bidding went through the roof, approaching EUR 1,500. Collecting can get out of hand sometimes, but who am I to judge. I was able to hold the Ridderzaal in my own hands for a bit. Then it went back into its box. Just like the Palace on Dam Square. Which takes being typically Amsterdam to a new level. Also rather large.
Over the years, KLM has used loads of different kinds of tableware on board. And by no means shoddy. If you’re after a KLM dish, cup or plate, you’re bound to find one soon. There are so many around. Certainly those produced over the past forty years. I like the line with tulips around the edge. So Dutch.
These plates are old. Probably from before the war, but they’re difficult to date. And you can see from the edges and logo that they’ve been well used. In fact, they’re pretty worn. If you hold one of these plates in your hands, it’s clear that weight savings were not the priority then. It’s thick and heavy catering porcelain, capable of withstanding rough treatment. Plastics emerged towards the end of the 1940s. It was called melamine, a novelty offering loads of options. KLM realised this and commissioned the well-known Dutch glass designer Andries Copier to design its melamine tableware. But I digress.
Say it with a tile. Don’t ask me why, but tiles are always considered a successful promotional gift. A memorable occasion? A tile! Are there people who’ve put them to proper use? Neatly included somewhere on the kitchen wall? Do you use them as a coaster? Paperweights? “Nothing quite as charming as a tile on the wall,” I once read. The person who came up with that must have been a cynic.
This photo shows two of them: a memorable occasion and a promotional gift. The former is a so-called cloisonné tile made in Delft. Cloisonné is a technique for decorating materials using enamel. The memorable occasion was the first KLM flight to New York in 1946. “Nederland herrijst, KLM bewijst.” (The Netherlands rises, KLM proves it.) While KLM took on a weighty pledge, it has more than honoured it.
I see the other tile as a serious hankering for nostalgia. They were produced by the established Royal Tichelaar porcelain factory of Makkum in Friesland and were hand-painted – in the 1990s. Different modes of transport were used for the images, probably to show how diverse airfreight is in this respect as well. You will undoubtedly have your own ideas about these tiles, but they certainly took a lot of work to produce. I’ve no idea how many different versions were made, but each series was limited to no more than 200. I can see this one somewhere on the kitchen wall.
Collecting paper would be a smart move. It’s flat, doesn’t take up too much space, and isn’t that heavy. And there’s plenty of it about. I’d opt for paper. And KLM’s certainly produced enough. Take the schedules, for example. Collect them all! Two seasons a year for 96 years so far.
Given the far-reaching process of digitisation, I suspect that paper schedules haven’t been published for a few years, but you’ve got your work cut out for you if you decide to take on a project like this. There wasn’t a clear house style yet and blue hadn’t become prominent. Each year saw a new design and colour: red and gold or orange, for example. There was no standard format; it more or less turned out differently each time. And that’s what makes collecting such fun.