The Telegraph Office

The Telegraph Office FAQ, Frequently Asked Questions

by Neal McEwen, K5RW

Key Values | Spare Parts | Buying Keys | Selling Keys | Identifying old Keys
Your Relative | Beginning Collectors | Why Trade Only? | Student Projects
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Copyright © 2000, Neal McEwen

Over the past few years I have gotten many, many Email messages concerning The Telegraph Office and questions about old telegraph instruments, telegraphy and telegraphers.  Often, I lack the time to give each person a detailed answer.  And often times, a complete answer lies within the Telegraph Office pages.  Here are the most frequently asked questions with  a better answer than I could normally give in an Email response.

Question:  I have an old telegraph key and I am wondering what it is worth.  Can you tell me?
Answer:  "What is an old key worth?" is like asking "what is an old car worth?"  Some are valuable, some are not.  There are many factors influencing the value of a vintage telegraph instruments.  For a complete discussion, see my article, "Values of Old Telegraph Instruments."

Question:  I have an old telegraph key that is missing parts.  Where can I find replacement parts?
Answer:  None of the dozens of antique key makers are still in business except for Vibroplex.  But there is a way to find old parts.  See my article, "Finding parts for old Telegraph Instruments."

Question:  I would like to buy an old telegraph key.  Where can I go to buy one?
Answer:  Finding keys can sometimes be difficult.  You need a few hints.  See my article, "Where to Find Old Keys."

Question:  I have an old telegraph key I would like to sell.  Can you help me find a home for it?
Answer:  Yes, Send me a description of the key.  I am Email connected to several dozen telegraph and wireless collectors and can assist you in selling it.  I may even be interested myself.  The best way to describe an old telegraph instrument to me is through the On-Line ID form.

Question:  I have an old telegraph key or  bug.  Can you tell me more about it?
Answer:  Yes, with a good description, I can tell you who made it, the model, the approximate age, and any other information that I might know.  Go to the On-Line ID form and answer the questions.  I'll get back to you.

Question:  My grandfather worked for ABC Telegraph Company or XYZ Railroad as a telegrapher. I would like to find more information about his career.
Answer:  Unless your relative was a famous telegrapher, inventor or business man, I will not have information on him.  And unfortunately, the chances of you finding employment records are very slim.  However, you have nothing to loose by writing to the human resources department of your relatives former employer.  Your own family records and older relatives are your best avenue.

Question:  I would like to start collecting telegraph instruments.  Do you have any advice for a beginning collector?
Answer:  Yes, I do!  First welcome to a wonderful and fascinating hobby.  Beginners should read "Where do I find old keys?",  "Advice for Beginning Key Collectors", by Lynn Burlingame, and equip himself with as many of the currently in print books that are in the Bibliography section of the Telegraph Office.

Question:  I have meet several collectors who have duplicate keys.  They do not want to sell them.  They want to 'trade only.'  I don't understand.  What is the reasoning for this?
Answer:  One of the best ways to build your collection is through trades.  To see how this works and why most experienced collectors use it, see "Why Trade Only; breaking the trade barrier."

Question:  I am doing a term paper on the telegraph.  Can you send me information that will help me?
Answer:  The information on the Telegraph Office page and links will answer all your questions and more.  Check the section for students; you will even find plans for a working telegraph.  Good luck with your paper!

For more information, visit the Telegraph Office home page

Neal McEwen, k5rw@telegraph-office