Tuesday 9 September 2008

J-38 Telegraph Keys used by the US Army Signal Corps

I'm not an avid key collector. If I come across something interesting I usually go for it if the price is right. I found this Lionel J-38 key at the large flea market just north of Morrisburg on Hwy. 31 (Bank Street). I'd seen it a week before I bought it but the seller wanted way too much for it. The following weekend I went down again but he was nowhere to be seen since it was one of our 'rainy' type weekends. Well three weeks later I went down with a friend who did the haggling for me since I didn't want to show up again drooling over that key and him not budging from his price. I eventually brought it home for $35CDN.

Now was research time - I had done a bit of research during that first week but looking again at all the Google hits I realized that this was one of the rarest J-38 keys manufactured by the Lionel Corporation of N.Y. The full name of the Lionel company was engraved just below the knob on the base. Now the key is not perfect but a little cleaning will bring it all back to an acceptable 'shack' showpiece condition.

In the coming weeks I'll showcase a few more finds. My collection isn't huge but I do have some interesting keys. Bob Ellis, VE3DUB (Dirty Uncle Bob), now a silent key, got me interested after seeing his collection way back in 2002 - here's a photo of Bob and his collection and his ham station.


Asahel said...


I read with interest about your Lionel J-38 key. Yes, they get expensive. I paid too much for mine on eBay; I was replacing one I'd had years previous, and the eBay key was in excellent condition. Anyway, I wanted to ask what made your Lionel J-38 one of the rarest. I know various vendors manufactured keys to the U.S. Government J-38 specifications, and that Lionel was one of them. However, I never learned enough about the J-38 keys to know why yours is one of the rarest.

Best regards,
John Maass, K7JKZ
Oklahoma City, Oklahoma

Bob VE3MPG said...

Thanks for reading my blog John. The J-38 in my collection has the name "The Lionel Corporation N.Y." printed on it just below the knob. That's what makes it rare - do a google search for similar J-38 keys and you will find more information about rare J-38s. Most J-38s were printed with 'J-38' only just below the knob.

73 Bob VE3MPG