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World's Fair

World's fairs, or world expositions, are large public events that are held to demonstrate topics of international interest. These large expositions grew out of the tradition of large national expositions held in France, with the largest being the French Industrial Exposition of 1844 held in Paris. The first official world's fair was the Great Exhibition of the Works of Industry of All Nations, held in the Crystal Palace in Hyde Park, London, England in 1851.

The purpose of world's fairs has changed with world events and culture. From 1851 to 1938, the primary focus of world's fairs was advancements in technology. Beginning in 1939, the theme of world's fairs shifted from industry and technology to cultural exchange and world peace. In 1988, the theme of world's fairs changed again, this time as an opportunity for individual countries to improve their images in the eyes of the world.

Since 1851, there have been 76 official world's fairs. Thousands of souvenirs from these fairs have been produced. Beginning collectors can acquire smaller souvenirs, such as guidebooks, posters, and pin-back buttons at fairly inexpensive prices. Seasoned collectors tend to search for harder-to-find items like jewelry, clocks, toys and china.


Quick Facts

  • Many inventions have been unveiled at world's fairs, including the telephone in 1876, the x-ray machine in 1901, and television in 1939
  • World's fair souvenirs include models of world's fair architecture, some of which still stands today. The Eiffel Tower (1889), Seattle's Space Needle (1962), and the China Pavilion (2010) are popular tourist attractions today. Souvenirs depicting these and other world's fair structures are easy to find
  • The first commemorative coin issued by the United States was minted for the 1893 Columbian Exposition in Chicago. Called the Columbian Half Dollar, these coins are fairly common, but mint examples are difficult to find

Recommended Items at Auction

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Arcade 1933 Chicago Worlds Fair GMC Greyhound Lines Cast Iron Vehicle
Apr 20, 9:00 AM CDT
Arcade 1933 Chicago Worlds Fair GMC Greyhound Lines Cast Iron Vehicle
by Matthew Bullock Auctioneers
Est: $30- $300
$253 Bids
Original 1934 Chicago World's Fair Poster Sky Ride
Apr 20, 10:00 AM PDT
Original 1934 Chicago World's Fair Poster Sky Ride
by PosterConnection Inc.
Est: $1,200- $1,500
$6502 Bids
ST. LOUIS WORLD'S FAIR / EXPOSITION PRESENTATION STERLING SILVER LOVING CUP
Apr 26, 9:00 AM EDT
ST. LOUIS WORLD'S FAIR / EXPOSITION PRESENTATION STERLING SILVER LOVING CUP
by Jeffrey S. Evans & Associates
Est: $200- $300
$1102 Bids
Group of 14 1934 Chicago Worlds Fair Century of Progress Ephemera and More
Apr 20, 9:00 AM CDT
Group of 14 1934 Chicago Worlds Fair Century of Progress Ephemera and More
by Matthew Bullock Auctioneers
Est: $30- $300
$151 Bid
Group of 100+ 1974 Worlds Fair Expo Brochures
Apr 27, 9:00 AM CDT
Group of 100+ 1974 Worlds Fair Expo Brochures
by Matthew Bullock Auctioneers
Est: $30- $300
$151 Bid
Original 1933 Chicago World's Fair Poster SHEFFER Art
Apr 20, 10:00 AM PDT
Original 1933 Chicago World's Fair Poster SHEFFER Art
by PosterConnection Inc.
Est: $3,000- $3,500
$1,7001 Bid
Vintage Worlds Fair Glass Souvenir Paper Weight
Apr 20, 10:00 AM CDT
Vintage Worlds Fair Glass Souvenir Paper Weight
by Donley Auction Services
Est: $50- $100
$250 Bids
California Faience, Rare Chicago World's Fair Horticultural tile
Apr 24, 11:00 AM EDT
California Faience, Rare Chicago World's Fair Horticultural tile
by Rago Arts and Auction Center
Est: $1,000- $1,500
$8000 Bids
Pullman Observation Car World's Fair 1893 Photo Print
May 11, 2:00 PM EDT
Pullman Observation Car World's Fair 1893 Photo Print
by Connoisseur Online
Est: $40- $80
$200 Bids
Mr. Christmas World's Fair Vignette Entrance
Apr 30, 5:00 PM EDT
Mr. Christmas World's Fair Vignette Entrance
by Railroad Super Galaxy
Est: $50- $100
$200 Bids
Mr. Christmas World's Fair Vignette Refreshments
Apr 30, 5:00 PM EDT
Mr. Christmas World's Fair Vignette Refreshments
by Railroad Super Galaxy
Est: $75- $125
$350 Bids
Group of 15 Worlds Fair Ephemera and More
Apr 27, 9:00 AM CDT
Group of 15 Worlds Fair Ephemera and More
by Matthew Bullock Auctioneers
Est: $30- $300
$150 Bids
(WORLD'S FAIR 1930)
Apr 25, 10:00 AM CEST
(WORLD'S FAIR 1930)
by Bernaerts Auctioneers
Est: €200- €300
€1200 Bids
Original 1939 NY World's Fair Poster Polish Pavilion
Apr 20, 10:00 AM PDT
Original 1939 NY World's Fair Poster Polish Pavilion
by PosterConnection Inc.
Est: $1,500- $1,800
$9000 Bids
Group of 2 1934 Chicago Worlds Fair Engraved Black Glass Vases
Apr 20, 9:00 AM CDT
Group of 2 1934 Chicago Worlds Fair Engraved Black Glass Vases
by Matthew Bullock Auctioneers
Est: $30- $300
$150 Bids
Rare Original 1934 Chicago World's Fair Poster SANDOR
Apr 20, 10:00 AM PDT
Rare Original 1934 Chicago World's Fair Poster SANDOR
by PosterConnection Inc.
Est: $3,000- $3,500
$1,7000 Bids
Anon - "Chicago World's Fair 1933 Centennial Celebration"
Apr 28, 10:00 AM EDT
Anon - "Chicago World's Fair 1933 Centennial Celebration"
by Bruce Teleky Inc.
Est: $40- $50
$200 Bids
Original 1933 Chicago Worlds Fair Poster PURSELL Design
Apr 20, 10:00 AM PDT
Original 1933 Chicago Worlds Fair Poster PURSELL Design
by PosterConnection Inc.
Est: $1,200- $1,500
$7000 Bids
Framed 1939 New York World's Fair Memorabilia
Apr 30, 12:00 PM EDT
Framed 1939 New York World's Fair Memorabilia
by Akiba Galleries
Est: $25- $250
$250 Bids
Framed 1959 Chicago World's Fair Memorabilia
Apr 30, 12:00 PM EDT
Framed 1959 Chicago World's Fair Memorabilia
by Akiba Galleries
Est: $25- $250
$250 Bids
Vintage Mini 1930's Radio Flyer New York Worlds Fair, Home of Good Taste Red Wagon
Apr 27, 11:00 AM EDT
Vintage Mini 1930's Radio Flyer New York Worlds Fair, Home of Good Taste Red Wagon
by Denise Ryan Auction Co.
Est: $25- $500
$100 Bids
Lot of 2 Original 1964 New York World´s Fair Posters
Apr 20, 10:00 AM PDT
Lot of 2 Original 1964 New York World´s Fair Posters
by PosterConnection Inc.
Est: $400- $500
$2000 Bids

Sellers Who Sell World's Fair


PosterConnection Inc.

PosterConnection Inc.

Matthew Bullock Auctioneers

Matthew Bullock Auctioneers

Railroad Super Galaxy

Railroad Super Galaxy

Akiba Galleries

Akiba Galleries