Turn Old Antique Skeleton Keys Into Modern Décor With These Decorating Ideas
Where Can I Find Skeleton Keys?
Skeleton keys are actually pretty easy to find. Etsy has a ton, but some are reproductions. If you're looking for the real deal, hit up antique stores. I'm on a 3+ month adventure to collect about 90 vintage skeleton keys for my wedding. My wedding reception is in the lounge of a historic haunted hotel, so we're using keys in place of escort cards for seating arrangements. I could have been done by now, but this is an expensive adventure, and it's easier on my pocketbook to get about 30 at a time.
Bring a friend...
Unless you have an entire day to waste, bring a friend and ask for help. Antique stores are a labyrinth of dead people's dust. Most of the ones I frequent have hundreds of cabinets, and each cabinet is rented by a different person and filled with their own unique junk. Many times, I have asked for help, and even the owner can't help me because they just don't know what is where. Other times, I have received great help. Bringing a friend makes it easier when you have another pair of eyes, especially if you have to find keys on your own.
Let's Make a Deal!
If you're buying more than a dozen, brush up on your haggling. I make small talk with whoever is helping me, and I'll say "Wow, these are beautiful. How long have you had these in your store?" It's usually a long time. So I reply with, "Wow, well I'd love to take some off your hands and free up that space for something else you could sell. And I say "some," but I need about 20, if the price is right. How low can we go for these?"
I have seen skeleton keys priced between 1 and 10 dollars per key; it depends. In my area, the skeleton keys are about $3, but I always get them to go lower when I buy about 2 dozen in one trip. They usually have clock winding keys mixed in, which are beautiful, but priced usually between $5 and $10. They sometimes have railroad keys mixed in, which are large and thick and start about $10. It depends on what project you have in mind.
Find out if your antique stores have Facebook pages, websites, and/or mailing lists. All of mine do, and I get e-mails and coupons when they have special after-hours events or sales. This has saved me even more money on my precious keys. Bring some items with you for store credit or trade, so you don't even have to take your wallet out.
Don't spend more than $7 on just a regular old skeleton key unless there is something truly special about it. Be familiar with return policies just in case you change your mind and shop around a bit before dropping money. If you start early in the day and hit a few shops before purchasing anything, you can get an idea of who has the best deals and still have time to go back and make your purchase. Some antique stores will even hold items for you for a few hours. Just don't say you're leaving to shop the competition! I use the "I didn't bring enough money with me" excuse. I ask them to hold my items while I "hit the bank and eat lunch." Wink wink.
Display the Keys
Turn them into beautiful art!
Here are some neat ideas to display your great antique skeleton keys:
- Hang them on hooks
- Fill a jar with them
- Display in a candy dish
- Decorate a picture frame with them
- Turn them into jewelry
- Make a skeleton key windchime or mobile
- Use as decorative ceiling fan pulls
- Display inside lantern
Heather Says: I LOVE old skeleton keys. I've had fun collecting them for my wedding and I'll feel sad when I have to say goodbye, but all of our close friends will have one to remember us and our special day.
Questions & Answers
© 2011 Heather Rode