Key & Lock Collecting - The Secreologist!

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The fascinating and lucrative hobby of key collecting has prompted a persistent search for the unusual. The collection of keys is therefore an enigma in itself and the collector who cares to delve into the many interesting biographies will be rewarded in their quest for knowledge for the bounty is endless. The enchantment is enhanced by the individuality of collections. Keys from notable personalities are just as exciting as keys from famous castles. Styles change from the small tea caddy keys to sophisticated computer keys that rapidly replaced the heavy engraved hotel keys that at one time were readily dropped, free paid return, by a forgetful tourist. Where to begin your collection depends on the individual and the size of the wallet.. Most collectors like to display their hobby by decorating that old beam or lobby to add that extra spark to that small corner nook, adding that touch of conversation piece to the decor.The most  popular key seems to be the largest, but beware of reproductions; Iron keys are easily recognised by the tell tale mould markings these keys bear no resemblance whatsoever to the skills of yester-year craftsman. Original iron keys are normally rather crude due to their age, the bigger the more rewarding but cannot be sold as antique unless they are over 100 years. Specialist Collectors are indeed rare breeds and are not anxious to part with interesting items, many have security at heart as an occupation whilst others have found a rewarding hobby...Brass marine keys are the choice of nautical collectors and those reprevied from the breakers yard shine like gold amongst rusty relics from army barracks or disused aufields. Some old brass keys were  nautical and used in explosive stores, those with an inverted V or arrow are definitely military. Old Church keys have their own facination especially those with fancy bows or rare bits. Regrettably not only the years have taken their toll on these excellent examples of the early craftsman but vandals have little respect for such items and it is the foolish rector who allows the original key to remain unguarded. I was amazed in my early years of interest to find a heavy specimen still in the lock as I left an enpty church, a letter to the rector advising him of his attractive and very valuable item obviously went home, as on my next visit the key had been replaced with a fairly efficient duplicate. Beware also of the attractive offers to purchase' place' keys. Many so called 'originals' have a habit of repeating themselves! I have been offered many 'place' keys of some truly attractive establishments; the Eiffel Tower - Lords cricket ground. The Titanic- Colditz Castle - in fact many castles - many prisons etc: but when asked for a letter of authentication the key either vapours or my request was ignored - end of deal! That's  not to say that the originals are not available - they are! Many interesting items lay undiscovered by the sheer ignorance of their  true value. Those keys that will forever remain unavailable to the enthusiast  present yet another interest, they can be photographed. Most museums and old houses open to the public readily sell photographs of old masterpieces and are a haven for the key or lock collector, but do be prudent by asking permission to photograph any lock for times have changed! With the advent of digital cameras, and world wide communications on the internet, ardent collectors can very soon delve into the wonder and mystery of so many wonderful works of art, and what better way to record those beyond your means. For every new key or lock photographed is an expansion of knowledge and apreciation of such craftsmanship. The manufacture of locks and keys is also of great interest and many publications exist. Just over a century ago it was not unusual to see endless rows of children to be employed in the task of removing the rough burrs from moulded keys with simple hand files. It is when you find that rarity of beauty from early days of the individual key maker. From early beginner to ardent collector the discovery of an unusual key gives immense pleasure and it is quite surprising how many blessed with this rather imusual hobby. Keys that were once the property of personalities can hold a good price, moreso if they have world wide interest, but once again beware. Being offered a key once owned by a royal personage or one of the Beatles is a sure way of being conned, unless of course you are really fortunate in obtaining authentication in writing! When I have a spare key to my collection, I always ensure that it goes with a certificate if it has any true historic association or had belonged to a personality. One of my most treasured keys was a parting gift from a visit to Australia; it is an old Sydney Prison key, bent with use, worn and pitted with age, for many years it jangled from a jailors belt and turned the lock on some of the early convicts that settled in the country,what stories such a key could tell?. Another is a simple rim lock key that at one time secured an old Nissan hut at Biggin Hill airfield in Kent used by the 'first of the few' Spitfire pilots between sorties. With the advent of popular antique and auction television programmes there is now an explosion of interest in collectables of all interest to discover ;the scope is truly endless to spark the enthusiasm of a great educational and interesting hobby

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