When do possessions become a collection?

It depends on what you collect. If your penchant is collecting rare, expensive things, then the quantity will naturally be less and you will have a collection with only a few objects. If you collect more common objects, such as stamps or matchboxes, a collection often consists of hundreds.

How do you go about collecting?

Locks that are worth collecting can sometimes be found at auctions, collectors’ fairs, and flea markets. To be successful at collecting, it’s a good idea to learn as much as possible about the objects you collect. Learn by studying museum exhibits, and take pictures of locks and keys to create your own reference library. This helps you avoid being defrauded with counterfeits or reconstructions of old locks. It is also important to keep track of your collection to avoid buying duplicates.


Private collectors

Raine Borg’s lock and key collection

In the introduction to these pages on the history of locks and keys, I mentioned that I have methodically built up my own collection of locks and keys, which form at least part of the basis of this study. The collection includes mainly door locks, keys, and padlocks from Sweden, from the Middle Ages until today.

The collection also includes locks from the rest of Europe and from other parts of the world, such as China and the United States. Keys and parts of locks from the Roman Empire (3rd century) form a subgroup within the collection, as do a number of antique Oriental padlocks.

Erik Borgström’s lock collection

In 1952, Erik Borgström (1882–1951), willed his entire collection of some 200 locks and keys to the Borgå Museum in Finland. The museum still owns the collection and has parts of it on exhibit.

Borgström was an engineer and collector – and also a farmer and the owner of Östersundom Farm near Borgå. The donated locks were a part of his collection of over a thousand objects reflecting the history of the farm and the region. All items come from southern Finland, and nearly all are of Nordic origin. The padlocks date from the 17th to the late 19th centuries.

Ingo Schmoeckel’s padlock collection

In a 60-page booklet published in 2000, Ingo Schmoeckel describes his collection of padlocks. Schmoeckel lives in the city of Oberursel in Taunus, Germany, and has been a collector since 1968. It all started with a journey to the Sahara Desert in northern Africa, when he discovered that Tuareg women carried keys made from a range of metals. One of these keys, with the lock it belongs to, became the first objects in his collection. He acquired further objects on later trips, with a focus on padlocks.

Schmoeckel begins his brief history by mentioning the door lock described by Homer in the Odyssey and the wooden locks of Ancient Egypt. He states that the Ancient Greeks and Egyptians did not know of padlocks, but the Roman Empire in the 3rd and 4th centuries AD did. Schmoeckel’s eleven-chapter catalogue of his lock collection begins with the Roman and Byzantine Empires, followed by separate chapters for Germany, Austria, and Switzerland. Northern and Eastern Europe have their own chapters, and there is one on France, Belgium, and the Netherlands. Chapter six deals with padlocks from the UK. The next chapter covers Southern European padlocks, and the next padlocks in North America. Chapter nine discusses his locks from the Ancient Near East and from the Islamic region. India, Nepal, and Tibet make up chapter ten, and the catalogue ends with North America again.

A list of his own reference literature and tips for museums exhibiting old padlocks round off the account.