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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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Bus Routes & Schedules 1920-1940's (1) 1961
Nov 21, 11:00 AM EST
Bus Routes & Schedules 1920-1940's (1) 1961
by Moggies Auction Service
Est: $20- $30
$101 Bid
Minni De Angelo Yorta Framed Aboriginal Oil Painting - Jesus loves the Chil
Oct 24, 7:00 PM AEDT
Minni De Angelo Yorta Framed Aboriginal Oil Painting - Jesus loves the Chil
by The Collector
Est: AUD30- AUD60
AUD301 Bid
VINTAGE MEAKIN 1939 NEW YORK WORLD'S FAIR PINK AND BLUE TRANSFER PLATES
Oct 22, 4:00 PM EDT
VINTAGE MEAKIN 1939 NEW YORK WORLD'S FAIR PINK AND BLUE TRANSFER PLATES
by Diefenderfer Auction Company
Est: $0- $0
$101 Bid
1939 WORLD'S FAIR IMAGES
Oct 31, 8:00 AM EDT
1939 WORLD'S FAIR IMAGES
by Alexander Historical Auctions LLC
Est: $20- $30
$101 Bid
NEW YORK'S WORLD FAIR COOKBOOK
Oct 31, 8:00 AM EDT
NEW YORK'S WORLD FAIR COOKBOOK
by Alexander Historical Auctions LLC
Est: $40- $60
$201 Bid
Jacques Monory: Lushness of Florida
Oct 22, 11:00 AM EDT
Jacques Monory: Lushness of Florida
by 500 Gallery
Est: $400- $1,200
$2250 Bids
Chicago WF 1934 rolled penny /GM
Nov 17, 6:00 PM EST
Chicago WF 1934 rolled penny /GM
by Captain Ahab's Antiques
Est: $35- $60
$250 Bids
3 World's Fair Exhibition Souvenir Items inc. Globe, Toleware
Oct 23, 9:00 AM EDT
3 World's Fair Exhibition Souvenir Items inc. Globe, Toleware
by Case Antiques, Inc. Auctions & Appraisals
Est: $350- $450
$1750 Bids
ST LOUIS WORLDS FAIR POCKET KNIFE & 1933 TOKEN
Oct 30, 10:00 AM EDT
ST LOUIS WORLDS FAIR POCKET KNIFE & 1933 TOKEN
by Milestone Auctions
Est: $80- $150
$200 Bids
MLYNARČÍK ALEX - Page 20
Oct 21, 6:00 PM CEST
MLYNARČÍK ALEX - Page 20
by Auction House Groma
Est: 45,000 Kč- 55,000 Kč
45,000 Kč0 Bids
W. Eckert, portrait painter c.
Nov 08, 10:00 AM CET
W. Eckert, portrait painter c.
by Historia Auktionshaus
Est: €0- €0
€500 Bids
NOEL LAURA NISBET (BRITISH, 1887-1956), REVELLERS AT A COUNTRY FAIR, artist
Oct 23, 10:00 AM BST
NOEL LAURA NISBET (BRITISH, 1887-1956), REVELLERS AT A COUNTRY FAIR, artist
by Elstob and Elstob
Est: £300- £500
£1800 Bids
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Walter Henry Williams (American/Danish, 1920-1998) Caged Bird, 1966 Woodcut on J
Nov 05, 4:00 PM CDT
Walter Henry Williams (American/Danish, 1920-1998) Caged Bird, 1966 Woodcut on J
by Heritage Auctions
Est: $2,000- $3,000
$1,0000 Bids
1893 Chicago World's Fair Columbus Linen Tablecloth
Nov 27, 2:00 PM EST
1893 Chicago World's Fair Columbus Linen Tablecloth
by Connoisseur Online
Est: $50- $100
$250 Bids
Crucial Comics Part One Rat Bastard Signed Cliff Galbraith
Nov 12, 6:00 PM EST
Crucial Comics Part One Rat Bastard Signed Cliff Galbraith
by Lettieri Auction & Appraisal
Est: $100- $200
$300 Bids
(4) CEREAL BOX w/SPORT PLAYERS (2) WHEATIES
Oct 28, 11:00 AM EDT
(4) CEREAL BOX w/SPORT PLAYERS (2) WHEATIES
by Premier Auctions Live
Est: $20- $40
$100 Bids
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Rosa BONHEUR 1800s Etching The Great Horse Fair SIGNED Framed
Oct 24, 10:00 AM EDT
Rosa BONHEUR 1800s Etching The Great Horse Fair SIGNED Framed
by KCM Galleries
Est: $500- $700
$1400 Bids
Arcade 1933 Worlds Fair Greyhound Bus Cast Iron Toy
Oct 30, 9:00 AM CDT
Arcade 1933 Worlds Fair Greyhound Bus Cast Iron Toy
by Matthew Bullock Auctioneers
Est: $50- $150
$250 Bids
Arcade 1933 Worlds Fair Greyhound Bus Cast Iron Toy
Oct 30, 9:00 AM CDT
Arcade 1933 Worlds Fair Greyhound Bus Cast Iron Toy
by Matthew Bullock Auctioneers
Est: $50- $150
$250 Bids
Arcade 1933 Worlds Fair Greyhound Bus Cast Iron Toy
Oct 30, 9:00 AM CDT
Arcade 1933 Worlds Fair Greyhound Bus Cast Iron Toy
by Matthew Bullock Auctioneers
Est: $50- $150
$250 Bids
Arcade 1933 Worlds Fair Greyhound Bus Cast Iron Toy
Oct 30, 9:00 AM CDT
Arcade 1933 Worlds Fair Greyhound Bus Cast Iron Toy
by Matthew Bullock Auctioneers
Est: $50- $150
$250 Bids
Sam Francis, Manner of: Abstract Composition in Blue
Oct 21, 12:00 PM EDT
Sam Francis, Manner of: Abstract Composition in Blue
by 500 Gallery
Est: $6,000- $8,000
$1,5000 Bids
16 1933-34 CHICAGO WORLD'S FAIR SOUVENIRS
Oct 30, 10:00 AM EDT
16 1933-34 CHICAGO WORLD'S FAIR SOUVENIRS
by Milestone Auctions
Est: $200- $300
$500 Bids

Sellers Who Sell World's Fair


Alexander Historical Auctions LLC

Alexander Historical Auctions LLC

Matthew Bullock Auctioneers

Matthew Bullock Auctioneers

Designer Homes of Central Florida

Designer Homes of Central Florida

Diefenderfer Auction Company

Diefenderfer Auction Company