Antique keys are an easily collected item and are often found in antique stores, thrift shops and at garage sales. Some antique keys are similar, and others are different sizes. Some antique keys are made to go with an antique lock within a vintage-era home, or some people simply like the look of an antique key on their keychain. Copies of antique keys are needed when an antique key is used on a daily basis for a lock. If an antique key is lost, it is always a good idea to make a few copies of the key to have handy.
Make a bump key. Any key can replace an antique key needed to open an old lock in case of an emergency, or to have extra spare bump keys if the antique key is ever permanently lost. Take any modern key, and a black Sharpie pen, and make a mark below the ledge of the key. The ledge of the key is the bottom straight line across the key, where the indentation is.
Use and inexpensive triangular shaped metal file from a hardware store, and file the metal on the key all the way down to the lowest edge. File away the 5 teeth of the key--the little triangle edges--to get to the bottom ledge. Test the key in an antique lock by tapping the key into the lock to open it. The key should be able to get the door open, and can be a substitute for a lost key. Some bump keys are like antique skeleton keys, and can work in most locks, not just antique locks meant for antique keys.
Press the antique key into a key mold kit; one containing Blu-tak or clay. Take the mold to a locksmith who specializes in replicating antique keys. Sometimes the antique key is made from old metal, or is a barrel key, with a hollow interior.
Don't try to copy more intricate barrel antique keys, because these need to be specially made. Take these types of antique keys to a locksmith or experienced key maker, and have the key made from the impression you took with the mold, or if need be, take the original key in with you for him to copy.
Go to a local hardware store, and use the key making machine to make a duplicate key. Follow instructions posted on the machine or ask a worker in the hardware store for help.
The Value of Antique Keys
Collectors determine the current value of vintage or antique keys according to availability and marketability. Current price guides for determining the value of many antique keys may be found online at the Antique Detective website.
Historians generally agree that the ancient Egyptians and Chinese invented the key and lock around 4,000 B.C. Most of these keys were made of iron or wood. The lock and key flourished during the Roman Empire as riches were amassed during various conquests.
Popular Antique Keys
Chubb, Bramah, Cotterill and Victorian-era keys range in price from $2.50 to $15 depending on the metal and intricacy of the design, according to the website DEA Bathroom Machineries.
Railroad key collectors are in a special niche of antique key collectors. Collectors of railroad memorabilia hold a special regard for the little brass keys. According to railroadkeys.com, prices for a key to railroad's history ranged from $35 to $250 in June 2010.
Skeleton key collectors are a special breed of antique key collectors. The skeleton key is sometimes called a pass key. According to iTaggit.com, some skeleton keys made of titanium, gold, sterling silver or commemorative designs will fetch prices ranging from $50 to $417, as of June 2010.
Unique Fancy Keys
Collectors' value unique intricately designed antique keys. Oftentimes eBay, estate sales and antique auctions offer unique keys. The price is determined by the condition of the antique key.
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