Recent remodeling at our Main Office led to the discovery of the ‘mystery’ keys shown on a ring in the photo collage.
I asked our Service Manager, Jim Riddle, who worked with Andy almost 40 years ago, what those oddly shaped keys might have been used for.
He told me that Andy cut the bows off decorative barrel keys, and welded them onto his GM car key blades. Andy’s custom car keys are well worn, indicating that they were functional, not merely decorative. That’s Andy in the center, and a key stamped ANDERSON LOCKSMITHS, DES PLAINES, IL, the company’s first name, on the right.
Arnold O. Anderson, aka “Andy,” collected locks and keys. Lots and lots of locks and keys. From tiny vintage brass keys, to the huge Scandinavian iron gate key that hangs above the counter in Anderson Lock’s showroom. Like most locksmiths, he was very mechanically inclined, and enjoyed tinkering with wood and metal. Andy, and his wife, Ella, (parents of Anderson Lock’s founder, Gene Anderson, and his younger brother, Norman) had owned hardware stores in Chicago before “retiring” and joining Gene at Anderson Lock.
Arnold W. Mente, Teresa Anderson’s father, was a Tipton, Iowa, farmer with a big old barn. Many years ago, after the barn came down, Teresa gave her father-in-law several weathered barn boards. Cortney Anderson Wascher (President / Owner of Anderson Lock) likes that her Grandpa Anderson’s collections of knobs, locks, padlocks and keys are artistically displayed on boards from her Grandpa Mente’s barn.
The hobby of collecting includes seeking, acquiring, and displaying items that are of interest to an individual collector. Andy naturally had access to dozens of different kinds of keys, especially in the years he worked at Anderson Locksmiths, because many older style locks, opened with skeleton keys, were being replaced with more secure cylindrical knobs and flat cut keys.
Genuine antique skeleton keys are quite collectible, although their value varies greatly, depending upon the type of metal used (for example, brass or iron), the keys’ age, scarcity, details, weight, shape, and size.
In addition to keys, locks, door knobs, hinges and hardware that Andy creatively bound to barn boards, we have giant key rings chock-full of time-worn, old-time utilitarian keys, and a four-inch deep wooden casket brimming with skeletons.
One key ring held a variety of antique luggage keys, including American Tourister, Samsonite, Excelsior, and several prized-by-collectors Amelia Earhart suitcase keys.
As a card-carrying member of the Cookie Cutter Collectors Club, I should not have been surprised to learn there are national associations of Lock Collectors, West Coast Lock Collectors, Antique Door Knob Collectors, and niche collectors within the larger associations, like Padlock Collectors and Prison Key Collectors. There are also collectors of door hardware, like rim locks, entry locks, pocket locks, antique coat hooks and mail slots, vintage hinges, push plates, and antique keyhole escutcheons.
We boast having “about a million key blanks” at Anderson Lock, not counting any from Andy’s collection. We have large head and small head. Nickel-plated, brass and steel. Double-sided, four-sided, tubular and switch keys. We stock residential, commercial, cabinet, padlock, high security, auto, truck, tractor, equipment, motorcycle, boat, bit, flat steel, safe deposit, (new) skeleton, and hard to find, unusual key blanks. Our key code cutting machines use the latest computer technology and are calibrated to ensure accurate cuts. Our master key experts design key systems to match existing hardware, customized to meet particular security needs. We maintain key codes for thousands of Master Key Systems.
However, we do not evaluate, buy, sell, or trade antique keys. We merely admire them!