Reliving the 1939 New York World's Fair Through Collectibles

Steven Chabotte

Visitors: 158

The 1939 New York World's fair opened on April 30, 1939. It closed on October 27, 1940. During that time it attracted over 45 million visitors from all over the world and generated approximately $45 million in revenue (which from a financial perspective made it a great failure as over $160 million was invested in the event. )

Planning for the 1939 Worlds Fair began in 1935 during the height of the Great Depression. A group of businessmen at this time formed the New York World's Fair corporation to make an international event so spectacular that by its sery grace would pull the world out of the depression it was in. The committee consisted of Grover Whalen as the president of their committee, Winthrop Aldrich, Mortimer Buckner, Floyd Carlisle, John J. Dunnigan, Harvey Dow Gibson, Fiorello La Guardia, Percy S. Straus, and many other business leaders.

Even though the fair was not a financial success, it was an emotional success. Millions of people had a wonderful adventure, one that they would share with their children and grandchildren for generations to come. They shared it with films, photographs, brochures and collectible trinkets that they collected while attending the fair.

In addition to all the souvenir stands where one could buy collectibles, they also had a myriad of penny crushers where people could make their own souvenir by putting a penny in the machine, cranking the handle to flatten and imprint the penny with a World Fair Corporation approved design. Along with the 1000's of souvenirs that covered the spectrum, there were also 1000's of corporate souvenirs passed out at the exhibits to help brand the corporations in the visitors minds. This included items such as the Heinz pickle pins, the Planters Peanut mascot, pens, bowls, etc. If you could think of it, it was probably there as a souvenir.

Even in modern times, interest in the 1939 New York World's Fair is still very strong and people are still collecting the souvenirs surrounding the event. In fact, a search on eBay for 1939 Worlds Fair in December, 2006 returns over 450 items for sale. And that is just one place selling Worlds Fair memorabilia. If you search the web, you can find hundreds of other sites selling New York World's fair collectibles. And the prices can be surprisingly affordable. For instance, in the last week on eBay you could have acquired a 1939 New York Worlds Fair Ash Tray for $9.99, a Porcelier 1939 Worlds Fair Sugar , Lid & Creamer for $63.61 or a 1939 New York World's Fair George Washington Creamer for just $14.95.

While there is a huge interest in the collectibles, the prices remain reasonable so it is a great time for you to build a fascinating collection of 1939 Worlds Fair memorabilia. The items are interesting and make great conversation pieces - and who knows - they may even turn into a solid investments someday.

Want to experience the fair. Check out our 1939 New York NY World's Fair 4 DVD Set for almost seven hours of excitement and exploration of the king of World Fairs.

The Historical Archive offers a variety of Historical DVDs and CDs. You can visit us at and shop our large, robust library of DVD and CD based products covering a wide range of significant and interesting historical events and cultural moments through film, photos, audios, maps and other documents.


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