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Earliest Lock Experience
Born and raised in California, my first experience with locks and keys was at age 15 when I lost the car and trailer keys while on family vacation. We got to experience an on-call locksmith on the 4th of July, far from home. The Lesson? - Always have an extra set of keys available!

Lesson 2
My next experience came while in the military. Looking for a hobby, I decided to take up model building. I got side tracked though when I wondered how difficult it would be to use the small file I had to duplicate a key for the door to my room. My lack of success prompted me to remove the lock and try to figure out what the problem was. After picking up most of the pins and springs from the floor, I took the whole mess to the locksmith downtown to re-assemble. Everything was fine (for me), but they couldn't understand why the master key no longer worked!

Becomes a Locksmith
After leaving the military the idea of becoming a locksmith appealed to me. I took a correspondence course while in Guam, moved to Hawaii and started to work for a local locksmith. After a year there I moved to upstate New York where I planned to open my own business. But, in order to buy a house we realized I needed a "real job" with "real income", so I tabled the locksmith plan for a few years. Finally, in the mid 1980s I decided to take the plunge and open the business. I gave myself five years to prove I could make it a success. After four and a half years I realized that although I was moderately successful, I had made some bad business commitments that I didn't want to live with so I closed the door.

A Continuing Interest
Although I have removed myself from the business, my interest in locks and keys as a hobby still continues, as does my interest in research. But I found myself with no concentration - high-end padlocks were too expensive, the lower-end too vast. I opted for automobile keys, which has since expanded into automobile locks, and have found that most are very affordable and allow for differing levels of specialization within the broader field.

About Us

Michael the Collector His Children

My interest in collecting locks and keys began after I had bought some old key blanks for my fledgling locksmith business in the mid 1980s. I found that most of those blanks were too old and not at all suited for current day use. But, curious about some of the unusual blanks, I began my research.

I joined Don Stewart's Key Collectors International and bought several of his books on collecting, one of which was "Antique Classic Marque Car Keys." That was my basic reference. Now I knew what I had; better yet, what I didn't have.

I didn't have much money when I first started frequenting the flea markets searching for old keys – at that time I couldn't afford the locks, but spent an occasional quarter for keys. Sellers would ask me what I was looking for, perhaps thinking that they could reduce my time searching by letting me know whether or not they had anything of interest.

The problem with that was, and still is, that most folks don't know what old car keys look like. Some old Ford keys are obvious with their name written on the key head, and many still recognize the magneto switch lever keys that Ford used for the earlier Model T, but the rest of the older automobile keys seem indistinguishable from every other old key. So I diligently searched through piles of keys, jars of keys, cans of keys, boxes of keys, in the hope of finding those elusive older car keys. I still didn't know everything that I was looking for, but if it looked interesting, I bought it.

As I expanded my collection it eventually dawned on me that there were things missing from Stewart's book. I had bought items that were described by the seller as old automobile keys, but could find virtually no information about them. I continued buying, but also started doing more research. I still consider his book an excellent reference for collectors and offer this website not as an alternative, but as an expansion of his work.

Having finally gotten to the point of having a reasonable sized collection of keys and locks, the question for me became how to organize the material that I had amassed. I had seen Cal Allan's (of Arizona Model A fame) collection of automobile keys and I was impressed. But I wanted to include more than just the keys. I thought that it might be more interesting to include a little bit of everything. I decided to try to organize the material in the order of appearance on the market, to create a history as it were, and this is what I have done.

This is not meant to be a definitive examination of all automobile locks and keys, but, for the most part, a representative view showing a progression over the years. Where some areas are covered in more depth than others it is merely because there has been more information available in those areas. Other than a few lock catalogs I have had virtually no access to the records of the manufacturers of locks, keys, switches, or automobiles. Because of this, one of the difficulties I have run into is in ascribing certain tendencies to some manufacturers based on what I have seen, and only later acquiring an item which calls that characterization into question. So it is not impossible that there may be some mistakes in that respect.

Much of what is contained at this website is from my own collection or has been gleaned from early catalogs and the internet. One of my best internet sources of information has been from sales on e-bay. I have found that e-bay is an excellent source for finding that a particular item even exists, although information provided by an e-bay seller must often be taken with a grain of salt.

While on the subject of e-bay, let me say a few words about prices. I generally do not include values on any of the items included on this site because value can be a hard thing to nail down. For the most part, value is what someone is willing to pay and what someone else is willing to accept for any given item.

I have found that prices achieved on e-bay can often depend on the situation. Items that are well presented can achieve much better prices that those that are not. Presentation includes quality photos, excellent description, and proper placement within the e-bay categories. Another factor can only be described as luck. A nice item may be in demand by several collectors, but perhaps during the period of this particular sale, say a week, only one of them happens upon it, and he gets it at a bargain price. A single sale should not be considered as representative of the value of an item. To get an idea of the general value, several instances should be observed.

While I do enjoy collecting, many of the items that I purchase, are acquired primarily for research, so that I can write with some degree of authority. If I tend to pay more for a particular item, I chalk that up to the cost of doing research. After all, once I have the item in hand, I can take it apart, examine it, take notes, photograph it, put it all back together, and sell it, to recoup as much of my costs as possible.

I do not pretend to know much about old automobiles in general, or about specific applications for particular locks or switches. This is merely an assembly of information that I have acquired over the years from a variety of sources. I have tried to make the presentation basic enough for the beginning collector, yet include interesting information for the veteran as well. I hope you enjoy the presentation

Granny Celine, the Computer Analyst

Tim the HVAC Technician
William the Purchasing Agent
Angela the Librarian
Erica the School Teacher