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The Key To Collecting: Collecting Keys

Peek at your key rings and try to remember what every key opens. I have a ring with nine keys: two different cars, one each house, shed, post office box and office, and three that I’m sure are important but I’ll be darned if I can remember what they open. My dresser drawer and desk have more keys that I have not used in years. When drawer cleaning time comes around again, I’ll be placing them in a shoebox along with old nuts and bolts, tools, keychains and assorted “parts” from gadgets I intended to fix. I’ll move them to the basement workshop and later sort and place the keys into bread baking pans that now hold all manner of goodies.

Collecting Keys
I have two overflowing pans of keys already. There are so many that they go way beyond a “collection”. Nuts, that’s a tough realization to actually write down on screen. Without known function, what else could you call all these keys?

Oh! Several might be useful, at some point – one from this group of unusual keys was used for winding a very vintage kitchen clock that I intend to sell at flea market. A couple probably work on old fashioned outdoor water spigots, and some will open little banks or antique desk drawers.

Collecting Keys
Antique mortise lock sets sell well with decorative door handles and backplates and from this large group, I’m sure I could match keys to some old locks,

Collecting Keys
But what about the rest? Like this group of vending machine keys, and how did they wind up in my collection? I can only guess they were in a box lot at an auction.

Collecting Keys
Then there are the car keys. Sure I have had many cars in my driving career as an industrial salesman. I often traded in a car every twelve to eighteen months, and of course wifey had her own autos, making it easy to see how one can acquire lots of car keys. OOPS! Some of them are from brands I never owned, nor drove.

Collecting Keys
Many keys in the collection are actually duplicated from originals, and some feature store names on the keys. This group includes Sears, True Value and Ace, while others had the name of the company that made the blank (Cole National), etcetera. Companies making the locks or the products they were used on were commonly stamped onto the head of the key and on the lock, as on the red Yale Lock below. In Wisconsin we have two lock makers. One is Master Lock, a name everyone should remember from their TV ads or from the lock on their school locker. The other is Briggs & Stratton, now called Strattec Security Corp. and the manufacturer of many of the locks used on automobiles.

Collecting Keys
What happens when you have this many keys? You also gather a lot of locks and bunches of key rings with advertising and some with “Return Lost Keys by US Mail” tags.

Collecting Keys
Since most of these keys no longer have a useful purpose, and piling them in bread pans hidden in the basement does not qualify as a display of my collection, I have to wonder if these is any good reason to continue to hold onto the pile, let alone add to them. The key rings are okay, and I have a granddaughter working on a keyring collection so at least they have a future home. But who would want the locks? Oh, woe is me – when shall I stop these accidental collections?

Check out your own abode. What lurks in your drawers or at the back of a closet?


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Erin R M Yes, Dean, I have at least looked up the history and it matches up with what's on the key. However, I have no clue how valuable this key might be. October 20th, 2012 at 3:25 PM

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