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Where to Buy Antique Skeleton Keys

Updated on October 26, 2012

Found Skeleton Keys

Most of my skeleton keys are packed up for moving. These here are just some recent finds from a yard sale that had them for 25 cents a piece.
Most of my skeleton keys are packed up for moving. These here are just some recent finds from a yard sale that had them for 25 cents a piece. | Source

Why Collect Skeleton Keys

We are all drawn to the beauty of skeleton keys for numerous reasons. I enjoy the symbolism of the old keys. Other people find them beautiful and use them in decorating. Other people start collecting skeleton keys by accident, holding onto old keys as they come by them.

Collecting skeleton keys is generally an inexpensive hobby. You can buy the keys in bulk online and at farm auctions. More ornate keys fetch higher prices, but you can still buy many beautiful keys without spending a lot of money.

How Much Are Skeleton Keys Worth?

Many people who are interested in collecting antiques start with items that don't cost a lot of money. In recent years, the interest in skeleton keys has increased and, with that interest, prices for antique keys has risen. Prices for skeleton keys bought in bought are roughly $1 US a piece. Sometimes less, depending on the condition of the keys. More ornate and rare skeleton keys can go upwards of $1000 US.

If you are just starting out in skeleton key collecting, don't bypass the plain old skeleton keys that are often sold in folk. They have a distinct beauty of their own, can be used for decorating and as jewelry, and they help build up your base collection more quickly. Like all things, their value will increase as interest in skeleton keys increases.

Buying Skeleton Keys Online

One of my favorite places to buy skeleton keys online is Ebay.com. You can begin building up your base skeleton key collection by winning a few bulk skeleton key auctions. Another place to buy online skeleton keys is at Etsy.com.

When buying online:

  • Research the seller. Read buyers' remarks.
  • Avoid the word "replica." Replica keys are not antique keys. If you are looking for skeleton keys for decorating purposes or for jewelry, replica skeleton keys are fin, but they do not have the value of antique skeleton keys.
  • Look for keys that show natural aging. This can be a natural patina or a light rust.
  • Avoid aluminum keys. These are newer keys and have little value.
  • If you have any questions about the authenticity of the key(s), contact the seller before placing the bid. Reputable sellers will get back to you and answer your questions as well as they are able to.

Book on Keys

Keys: Their history and collection (Shire Library)
Keys: Their history and collection (Shire Library)

This is one of the few sources on the history of keys in the English language.

 

Yard Sales and Auctions

Another great way to buy skeleton keys is at auctions. Search for auctions in older neighborhoods and farming communities. These auctions are far more likely to have skeleton keys for auction in bulk. Avoid city auctions because the bids may rise higher for antique keys.

Yard sales in older neighborhoods and farming communities may also hold interesting finds. When searching for skeleton keys in person:

  • Know that most people do not know the value of the skeleton keys. This can mean that the person selling the key or keys may undervalue them or overvalue them.
  • Have a price limit. Know beforehand how much you are willing to spend on a key to avoid overpaying or spending beyond your budget.
  • Do your research online, first. Look into how much keys are selling for online so that you can gauge the current value of skeleton keys your find at yard sales and auctions.

Interesting Key Superstitions

My personal interest in collecting antique keys involves the superstitions surrounding keys throughout history. Here are a few superstitions that I've collected:

  • In ancient Rome, pregnant women gifted a decorative key. This "lucky" key was believed to bring about an easy birth.
  • In old Ireland it was believed that if your burnt a person on the head with a heated church key, he would be cured of epilepsy.
  • In folk magic, a cold key is drawn down a person's back to cure a nosebleed.
  • Keys were worn around the neck to bring good luck. It symbolized the ability to open locked doors.

Comments

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    • profile image

      pnallegood 

      5 years ago

      hey! Do you still have these for sale?

    • Life and Luxury profile image

      Life and Luxury 

      5 years ago from South Beach, FL

      I love skeleton keys. The locks on a few doors in my house open with skeleton keys because the locks haven't been changed since my grandparents owned the place. Great article!

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