Airline collectible alert: KLM reveals Delft House 102 that you can snag on your next flight
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Each year on its birthday, Oct. 7, KLM (Royal Dutch Airlines) unveils a new gin-filled miniature Delftware house portraying a different real-world Dutch house that is historically or architecturally significant.
The tradition reaches back to the early 1950s when KLM was trying to deal with limits that were imposed on the value of gifts that could be given to passengers. KLM figured out that because their specially made little houses contained liquor, they were technically not gifts but free cocktails served in souvenir containers. The workaround worked and a tradition was born.
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Initially, only first-class passengers were gifted the little houses as an in-flight amenity. Business-class travellers received Delft tiles. But when KLM did away with first class, the gifting of Delftware miniatures filled with Bols Jenever gin was moved over to business-class passengers on intercontinental flights. Today the houses are highly sought-after collectables, with the rarest editions being sold online and in shops for thousands of dollars. A handy app helps collectors track the KLM houses they have or still need.
This year’s house Delftware miniature – No. 102 in the series – portrays Amsterdam’s stunning Tuschinski Theatre and was revealed during a celebration held inside the theatre on 7 October. Local dignitaries and many of KLM’s most frequent fliers were there, as was Femke Halsema, the mayor of Amsterdam, who received the first house, in keeping with KLM’s tradition.
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Opened in October 1921 by Polish immigrant Abraham Icek Tuschinski and recently named the world’s most beautiful cinema in the world by British Time Out Magazine, the theatre is an opulent mixture of several architectural styles, including art nouveau, art deco, and elements of the Amsterdam School. Now owned by Pathé, everything in the theatre has been refurbished, from the carpeting and the ornamental lamps to the historic wall and ceiling murals and the original Wurlitzer organ.
“Now that the world is gradually beginning to reopen, we are looking forward to taking our customers to special places of culture, such as the Tuschinski movie theatre,” KLM CEO Pieter Elbers said in a statement. He was unable to attend the event this year, but it is part of his job to choose which building will become a KLM miniature each year. (He has a team that brings him suggestions.)
“Like KLM, the Tuschinski has a long history,” says Elbers. “Abraham Tuschinski’s philosophy, creating a warm sense of home and giving customers a memorable experience, is what KLM stands for too. Tuschinski Theatre is a beautiful addition to the KLM collection of Delftware miniature houses,” he added.
“The movie palace is a unique masterpiece,” says Mark Zegeling, an architecture expert and the author of “Little Kingdom by the Sea, a celebration of Dutch Cultural Heritage,” a print and e-book documenting the locations of and the stories behind each of historic buildings KLM features in its series.
Zegeling learned, for example, that the original architect for the Tuschinski Theatre neglected to include a projector room for the cinema in the original plans. After that architect was fired, a spot for the projector room was found, but in a very high spot in the theatre. The odd angle of projection means that, to this day, all films shown in the theatre have an out-of-focus band at the top of the screen.
Taken together, Zegeling says the Tuschinki Theatre and the other houses and monuments featured in the KLM miniature Delftware series represent 500 years of Dutch history.
Last year’s house, No. 101, depicts the 800-year-old building known now as De Moriann, which is one of the oldest brick buildings in the Netherlands. In previous years, the miniatures have depicted the Anne Frank House (No. 47), the home of exotic dancer and double-agent Mata Hari (House No. 26), and the Heineken brewery in Amsterdam (House No. 85).
“Mr. Heineken came from a family of cheesemakers and used his inheritance to buy a small brewery that became the famous Heineken beer brand,” notes Zegeling, reeling off some of his favourites. “House No. 99 celebrates Jacob Douwe Egberts, who was the founder of a coffee brand that is now the second-largest in the world. And Dutch aviation pioneer and aircraft manufacturer Anthony Fokker, lived as a young boy in House No. 98.”
House No. 100, which was issued with KLM’s 100th anniversary in 2019, depicts the Huis ten Bosch Palace in The Hague. The palace was built in the mid-17th century for Prince Frederik Hendrik of Orange and his wife Amalia van Solms.
“After the 100th we thought maybe the airline would stop making the miniature houses,” says Zegeling, “but it remains very important for KLM” and for collectors.
Zegeling notes that many men, including the Netherlands’ King Willem-Alexander, who sometimes co-pilots KLM flights, are avid collectors of the miniature houses. “When I travel in business class, I see a lot of men become like boys collecting football player cards when the tray of little houses is brought around by flight attendants,” says Zegeling. “In fact, every year on 7 October, many business-class passengers book an intercontinental ticket to destinations that may not be important to them just be able to one of the first collectors to get the newest KLM house,” he adds.
More history of the KLM houses
KLM created the miniature Delftware houses off and on after first introducing them in the early 1950s. In 1994, on the airline’s 75th anniversary, a “catch-up” batch of souvenir houses was commissioned so that the number of houses would line up with the age of the airline.
On intercontinental flights, business class passengers may choose one miniature Delftware building from a tray of miniature houses flight attendants bring around at the end of the flight. The tray usually includes the current year’s house and an assortment from past years. Passengers may swap out their houses for another one they need in their collection in KLM airport lounges.
What’s next for KLM
In late September, KLM announced that thanks to the easing of travel restrictions, it would resume service to Las Vegas (LAS) and Miami (MIA) starting 7 December.
KLM already serves cities like Boston, Chicago and San Francisco, so there are plenty of opportunities for you to get your hands on a Delftware miniature of your own.
Featured photo courtesy KLM.
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