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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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Rare 1917 World’s Series Rain Check Ticket Comiskey Park
Dec 04, 10:00 AM CST
Rare 1917 World’s Series Rain Check Ticket Comiskey Park
by Thriftiques of Iowa
Est: $10- $1,000
$203 Bids
1893 World's Fair Framed Silk Commemoratives
Dec 08, 9:00 AM PST
1893 World's Fair Framed Silk Commemoratives
by Grant Zahajko Auctions, LLC
Est: $100- $200
$701 Bid
6 VINTAGE 1933 A CENTURY OF PROGRESS CHICAGO WORLD'S FAIR SPOONS
Dec 02, 4:00 PM EST
6 VINTAGE 1933 A CENTURY OF PROGRESS CHICAGO WORLD'S FAIR SPOONS
by Diefenderfer Auction Company
Est: $0- $0
$51 Bid
1904 St. Louis World's Fair Collection of Books
Dec 10, 10:00 AM CST
1904 St. Louis World's Fair Collection of Books
by Link Auction Galleries
Est: $150- $200
$751 Bid
World's Fair 1904 St. Louis Souvenir Plate
Nov 30, 9:00 AM PST
World's Fair 1904 St. Louis Souvenir Plate
by Grant Zahajko Auctions, LLC
Est: $50- $100
$200 Bids
set of 5 large antique mounted photographs of 1895 Cambridge U.S.A. Fair
Dec 04, 10:00 AM EST
set of 5 large antique mounted photographs of 1895 Cambridge U.S.A. Fair
by Yardley Antiques
Est: $400- $450
$1900 Bids
General Electric Art Deco cigarette box
Dec 03, 9:30 AM EST
General Electric Art Deco cigarette box
by Rachel Davis Fine Arts
Est: $150- $250
$1200 Bids
Rare 1893 Framed Chicago Worlds Columbian Exposition Fair Hand Painted Porcelain Plaque
Dec 03, 9:00 AM CST
Rare 1893 Framed Chicago Worlds Columbian Exposition Fair Hand Painted Porcelain Plaque
by Matthew Bullock Auctioneers
Est: $1,000- $2,000
$5000 Bids
World's Fair Metalware, Stein & Trays
Dec 08, 9:00 AM PST
World's Fair Metalware, Stein & Trays
by Grant Zahajko Auctions, LLC
Est: $80- $125
$500 Bids
1915, 1925 Pan Pacific, World's Fair (9 Pcs)
Dec 08, 9:00 AM PST
1915, 1925 Pan Pacific, World's Fair (9 Pcs)
by Grant Zahajko Auctions, LLC
Est: $80- $125
$500 Bids
World's Fair Souvenirs
Dec 08, 9:00 AM PST
World's Fair Souvenirs
by Grant Zahajko Auctions, LLC
Est: $50- $100
$300 Bids
A Souvenir Spoon
Nov 27, 1:00 PM EST
A Souvenir Spoon
by Designer Homes of Central Florida
Est: $35- $350
$350 Bids
A 1982 Worlds Fair Shotglass
Nov 27, 1:00 PM EST
A 1982 Worlds Fair Shotglass
by Designer Homes of Central Florida
Est: $10- $100
$100 Bids
World's Fair, Columbian Expo Tickets (6)
Dec 08, 9:00 AM PST
World's Fair, Columbian Expo Tickets (6)
by Grant Zahajko Auctions, LLC
Est: $100- $150
$700 Bids
World's Fair Commemorative & Souvenir Jewelry
Dec 08, 9:00 AM PST
World's Fair Commemorative & Souvenir Jewelry
by Grant Zahajko Auctions, LLC
Est: $100- $150
$500 Bids
1940 NEW YORK WORLD'S FAIR BRITISH PAVILION COVER
Dec 16, 11:45 AM EST
1940 NEW YORK WORLD'S FAIR BRITISH PAVILION COVER
by Carroll's Auctioneers & Appraisers
Est: $80- $280
$100 Bids
Collection of Six Hand Colored Photographs in Three Frames of the 1904 St. Louis World's Fair
Dec 10, 10:00 AM CST
Collection of Six Hand Colored Photographs in Three Frames of the 1904 St. Louis World's Fair
by Link Auction Galleries
Est: $300- $500
$1500 Bids
1939 NEW YORK WORLD'S FAIR HEINZ PICKLE PIN
Dec 19, 12:30 PM EST
1939 NEW YORK WORLD'S FAIR HEINZ PICKLE PIN
by Museum of Culture and Arts, Inc
Est: $90- $370
$150 Bids
Vintage Worlds Fair collectibles and more
Dec 12, 8:00 PM EST
Vintage Worlds Fair collectibles and more
by Baker's Antiques and Auctions
Est: $50- $60
$350 Bids
1904 St. Louis World's Fair Ephemera
Dec 10, 10:00 AM CST
1904 St. Louis World's Fair Ephemera
by Link Auction Galleries
Est: $200- $300
$1000 Bids
General Electric Art Deco cigarette box
Dec 03, 9:30 AM EST
General Electric Art Deco cigarette box
by Rachel Davis Fine Arts
Est: $150- $250
$1200 Bids
General Electric Art Deco cigarette box
Dec 03, 9:30 AM EST
General Electric Art Deco cigarette box
by Rachel Davis Fine Arts
Est: $150- $250
$1200 Bids
Antique 1893 World's Fair Calendar
Dec 04, 10:00 AM MST
Antique 1893 World's Fair Calendar
by Monarch Auction and Estate Services
Est: $0- $0
$100 Bids

Sellers Who Sell World's Fair


Grant Zahajko Auctions, LLC

Grant Zahajko Auctions, LLC

Rachel Davis Fine Arts

Rachel Davis Fine Arts

Link Auction Galleries

Link Auction Galleries

Designer Homes of Central Florida

Designer Homes of Central Florida