Locks have been around for thousands of years, so it’s not surprising that some of them have become collectible. People like to collect things that are old or rare, and as a rule, the older and rarer they are, the more valuable they are. Of course, the condition that they are in plays a part in determining value as well. Between two antique locks of similar age and design, the one in better condition is likely to sell for a higher price.
The oldest antique door locks are made of wood. These are pin tumbler locks and were invented by the ancient Egyptians. There are also very old antique locks made of brass, iron, and other metals. Some antique door locks are very ornate while others are quite plain. Many of them were handcrafted and are almost works of art in addition to having a practical purpose as a lock.
Antique combination locks often have letters on them instead of numbers. Some are designed so that the letters of the combination can be read from left to right, while others have dials on the face like a present-day Master Lock. Combination locks were developed to eliminate a weakness in other types of locks: the keyhole. Since there is no keyhole, it is impossible to pick a combination lock with a set of lock picks.
When it comes to buying and selling antique locks, the value of any lock is the price at which a seller is willing to sell and a buyer is willing to buy. You can get an idea of what that value might be by comparing prices at lock shows, flea markets, and on eBay. However, just because you see someone trying to sell a certain lock for $200 doesn’t necessarily mean that’s what it is worth. The true value is determined only when the buyer and seller agree on a price.
Before buying an antique lock, always inspect it to make sure it is in good condition. Check for marks that may indicate that the lock has been pried apart or opened up, and give it a good shake to make sure it doesn’t rattle. If it is a padlock, try pulling on the shackle while it is locked to make sure that it doesn’t come loose without being unlocked. If there is a key, try the lock out. You may want to walk away without buying a lock that is in poor condition, but if you still want the lock in its current condition, try to negotiate a discount to make up for any defects.
Antique locks that receive publicity tend to command a higher value. For example, if a picture of a certain lock is published in an article in a collecting magazine, demand for that piece might rise, and the price will go up. This effect may be temporary, but it is possible that it could last. When you purchase antique locks and keys, you are making an investment, and hopefully the value will increase over the years. However, you should not buy a lock just because you think it might be worth something someday. Buy antique locks that appeal to you, and you will enjoy your collection regardless of whether the value increases.