Friday, October 11, 2013

A Different Ford Key Board

The other day there appeared on ebay a Ford key board for Model T keys which was noticeably different than others I have seen. Rather than the plain black painted board of the era or the paper covered wooden board, this one was made of sheet metal with the design cut out in the form of a stencil.

Model T Ford key board
Model T Ford key display board photo from ebay.

The description given by the seller notes in part,

          "A Model T Ford Key Board.  Surface rust, but no rust out. No paint 
          showing on either front or back, just surface rust. ... The top with Wings
          is flat and the 3 rectangular sides are bevelled on the edges."

The bidding on the key board began at 99 cents and it eventually sold for $267, somewhat less than the $300 which the standard black painted Model T Ford key board normally goes for.

Although I am an avid collector of early automobile locks, keys and related items, I did not bid on this key board. 

I found it unusual that the entire piece was covered with rust, with no paint evident at all. I have several different automobile key boards from the era. Some are beat up and all of them have some rust, but every one of them is painted.

Model t ford key display board
Photo of reverse from ebay.

Two things from the reverse side caught my attention. The spot welds for the key hooks look sloppy, and it appears that someone had actually tried to use the upper portion as a stencil.

I had also questioned the use of the Ford logo with the wings and "The Universal Car." As popular as it may be among collectors today, it is my understanding that this particular logo was used for only a very few years because of a falling out with the person who designed it. My further recollection is that it was used prior to the use of electric starters in 1919 which is when these types of keys first appeared.

Additionally there is no obvious provision for mounting this to a wall. Although the stencil cutouts could provide an area for this, it would certainly detract from the visual effect and might be considered unprofessional. How much extra effort would it have taken to punch a hole or two for mounting while punching out the stencil design?

But even if we have a hole to hang it up, it might not hang properly. Remember, the seller noted that the three rectangular edges were bevelled, curved as it were. So the board would not lay flat against the wall. That does not seem logical to me.

Does all this mean it's not real? 

What it suggests to me is that it was not designed nor manufactured during the era for this purpose. 

It is no secret that the usual black Model T Ford key board has been duplicated and manufactured within the past decade or so. These have been identified as reproduced items and sold for much less than the original items would have sold for. 

But, I am not suggesting that this is a reproduction. A reproduction must necessarily begin with an original piece. Rather than being a copy of of something, there is the possibility that this is a fantasy piece, a recent model of something that never existed, but looks like it might have. It happens all the time with some collectibles. 

Is this the case with this item? I don't know, but it did present me with enough doubt that I did not bid on it. Perhaps I should have.

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