I collect Cunard/ QE2 brochures (with zillions of them now filling up a filing cabinet...!). See - I am not so mad..:
Collector's Corner: Ocean Liner Memorabilia
Humans have been travelling by boat for millennia, but it was not until 1818 that the James Monroe, an American packet ship, initiated the age of scheduled departures. To attract passengers, advertised accommodations were upgraded from the dismal standards of the "coffin brigs" of the day, and it was not long before dozens of fleets were plying the Atlantic to satisfy the subsequent demand.
By the time the Lusitania and Mauritania (Cunard Line sister ships) were launched in 1907, steam had long since replaced sail, the screw propeller had succeeded the paddle wheel, and accommodations vied with those of the best hotels of the day. It was the Golden Age of the Ocean Liner.
But civilization continued to progress (at least, technologically), and by the 1960s, the increasingly faster and cheaper competition from the airline industry had swamped many of the ocean line companies. Most of the great vessels were either converted to cruise ships, dockside museums or hotels, or sold for scrap, and, today, only Cunard Line's new Queen Mary II still serves the transatlantic routes.
Due, in part, to James Cameron's 1997 movie Titanic, there has been a resurgence in interest in the great liners and in ocean liner memorabilia. Interest has, in fact, been so intense that in 2003 Norwegian Cruise Line bought the SS United States, moored in Philadelphia since 1996, with an eye to putting her back into service.
When a ship was to be retrofitted or decommissioned, it would very often be stripped of everything possible and all the items would be auctioned off. Ocean liner memorabilia can thus run the gamut from ashtrays, dinner plates, and linen to larger items like deck chairs, stateroom furniture, and ships' bells.
Windmill Point Restaurant in North Carolina has an SS United States Lounge furnished with items purchased at the 1984 auction of the United States' contents. These include the kidney-shaped bar from the first-class salon, ballroom tables and chairs, and the aluminum sculptures by artist Austin Purves commissioned for the ship.
Of course, the "greater" the ship, the more desirable its memorabilia. The Big U, as the United States is affectionately called, is one of the more popular, and dozens of items are listed on online auctions at any one time. (Hint: on eBay, searches with SS and S.S. will yield two different results.)
The most collectible items are, of course, associated with the ill-fated White Star liner Titanic. A prime example recently was a luncheon menu that was appraised on The Antiques Roadshow for $75,000 to $100,000! (http://www.pbs.org/wgbh/pages/roadshow/series/highlights/2004/favorites). The menu had been found on the back of a painting purchased in an antique shop. (I never give up hope that such a "find" will someday come my way.)
But while many collectors concentrate on a single ship or shipping line, many others select a category such as postcards, models, luggage tags, deck plans, menus, magazine ads, posters, photographs, and home movies - just to name a very few. An inexpensive place to start is the Cunard Line website http://www.cunard.com/default.asp where you can request free brochures of the Queen Mary 2 and Queen Elizabeth 2 (now a cruise ship).
For more information on ocean liners and ocean liner memorabilia, try these resources:
"The Fabulous Interiors of the Great Ocean Liners in Historic Photographs," by William H. Miller, Jr.
"Ocean Liner Collectibles," by Myra Yellin Outwater, Eric Boe Outwater
"Ocean Liner Postcards in Marine Art," by Robert Wall
Graphic Design from the 1920s and 1930s in Travel Ephemera
The Great Ocean Liners
Royal Regals - a History of Ocean Liners
The Titanic Historical Society, Inc.
Vintage Labels - The Lost Art of Travel and the History of the Luggage Label