Altavista Follow-up #3 Lock sets

Hi all!

As promised, we are going to talk about lock sets in this entry.  Isn’t it funny, I have been looking at these boxes for years but never really paid attention to the lock sets.  The same key opens most all of them so what’s the difference?  Stupid, stupid, stupid me.

Before we get to the differences, lets talk about the keys.  Back on February 2, 2017 I talked about the round escutcheons.  Some are smaller than others.  The smaller escutcheons are older and the round key works better with them.  The larger escutcheons accept the flat key better.  In the photo below I show the little envelop the keys came in – it was stapled to the bottom of the box – and three flat keys and one round one.  IMG_4458

There are other more ornate keys and slightly different versions but that discussion may be for another time.  Most of our Tall boxes as well as all Short version and short variations have the bigger escutcheon and therefore, the flat key.  I’m getting somewhere – I promise… One more thing about the escutcheons.  As I mentioned in my February post, the escutcheons are just friction fitted into the front of the boxes.  I now know, based on my discussion with Larry, that the installation of the escutcheon was the LAST step in the process before the boxes were boxed up and shipped out.  The entire finishing process was completed BEFORE the escutcheon ring was pressed into place; unlike the hinges that were there all along and, therefore, have a pink color to them from the stain. It was important that little ring was shiny when it reached the graduate!

Just to reset – little escutcheon lock sets with round keys are older than the larger ones with flat keys.  ALL little lock sets (and many big escutcheon versions as well) were screwed into the back of the front of the box and  looked like this…


Interestingly, the lock set was screwed into the front of the box BEFORE the box was assembled in order to make the screwing process easier.

There are definitely “screwed-in” lock sets that have large escutcheons and accept flat keys.  From what I have seen so far, all Tall boxes have the screwed-in lock sets.  In fact, some Short box variations (newer than Tall boxes) also have screwed-in lock sets and this is where it gets interesting…

At some point, in the early 1960’s (I would love to know exactly when but likely prior to 1963) the Lane miniature department started pressing the lock sets into the boxes. There are little barbed tabs (like fish hooks) on the lock set to hold it in place.  The “pressed-in” lock sets look like this…


ALL pressed-in lock sets use the flat key and have large escutcheons.

OK, hear me on this…Short box variations have both screwed-in and pressed-in lock sets. I have seen very few plain Short variations with screwed-in locks.  However, most, if not all?, Short Rounded (rounded vertical corners) and Short Beveled (SB) boxes have screwed-in locks.  This fact leads me to this hypothesis…SR and SB are older than plain Short boxes. Further, I have seen SB boxes with both screwed-in and pressed-in locks.  Did the transition to pressed in locks straddle the manufacture of SB boxes?  Not likely.  I’m trying to nail this down – more to come on this topic.

With the knowledge that screwed-in lock set boxes are older, I can now narrow in on my chronology using other evidence like the branded logo variations.  For example, if I have two boxes with the same logo brands and one has a pressed-in lock and the other is screwed-in, I know which one is older.  Likewise, if the logos are different and so are the locks, I can tell which logo is older because it has a screwed-in lock.  This makes sense to me – hopefully to you too.

I’m hoping to clarify some of the finer points of these findings in my next conversation with Larry and if I am mistaken in any of my assumptions, I will clarify.

This is probably too much to digest so I’m stopping now…

I still need to talk about “branding” vs. “inking.”  Just a teaser…

Still more to come about my Altavista visit.

Until then…








3 thoughts on “Altavista Follow-up #3 Lock sets

  1. I really hope someone can point me in the right direction. I have have a small box with a pressed in lock that is not working. I was going to try to repair it myself and am trying to find out what the workings inside the lock should look like. I think all the peices are there but a small clip has come out. Please help if you have any resources


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s