VINTAGE
VIBROPLEX

VintageVibroplex.com

We sell pre-owned Vibroplex telegraph keys.
This website has no connection with The Vibroplex Company, Inc.

This page Rev. March 2014

NOTE RE THE PHOTOS: Due to varied lighting conditions, camera positions, and computer diplays, the color of later gray-base keys may not display accurately. The usual medium-gray crackle base may appear darker, lighter, or even beige. Rely on the text decription, and if you have questions, do not hesitate ot ask. My email is .

ANNOUNCEMENTS:

I am always happy to answer questions, but if you attach photos to your email, please keep them reasonably sized. I suggest that you set your camera resolution to take email-sized photos (typically about 1024 pixels wide, see your camera instructions); you will find that your correspondents appreciate this. An alternative is to use your picture program to shrink them to an 800 to 1000 pixel wide size before sending them.

We have added a section on parts we may have for sale. It appears below, before the listing of keys for sale.

All foreign shipments are at buyer's risk. This should not concern most buyers, since I ship by priority airmail which is tracked. I have never had a problem with shipments to most countries, including Italy, Germany, Australia, Japan, and manyothers. Priority mail usually includes up to $70 - $80 of insurance automatically. Full insurance is available for shipments to most countries (average cost $6.00), although many buyers choose to forgo it.

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You may click to jump down to the listing of keys for sale
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WELCOME to our website offering vintage Vibroplex telegraph instruments and accessories. I have been selling telegraph reference books, keys, and other instruments to collectors for over 20 years, as Artifax Books. Since one of our specialties -- the sale of older Vibroplex items -- took on a life of its own, we decided it deserved its own website. Here you will find all of our Vibroplex offerings.

For other telegraph and communications books, CDs and instruments, see the original Artifax Books website.

If you are interested in new Vibroplex items, visit the Company website at vibroplex.com.

And if you collect Vibroplex keys, be sure to visit the Vibroplex Collectors Association website (this recent site may be still under construction).

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WHO AM I? : Tom French, W1IMQ, licensed amateur radio operator for over 50 years, and author of the Vibroplex Collector's Guide.

ORDERING: Since this site offers one of a kind items, email me before making payment to be sure it is still in stock.

SHIPPING COST: Add to the purchase price a shipping charge of $12.00 for a bug. Shipping for other items is stated in their description. Email me for the cost of shipping two or more items; I will try to ship them together to save you money.

PAYMENT: After I confirm I have your item, you may pay by paypal to my email address (see below), or mail payment to:
Tom French, 151 Barton Road, Stow MA 01775 USA. Make check or money order payable to Tom French. Let me know if you will be mailing payment and I will hold the item for you. For foreign payments, see the announcements.

EMAIL and QUESTIONS: My email address is .

SHIPPING OF BUGS: I will usually remove at least the weights, paddle and knob from the key and pack them separately in the box. (If the paddle is left on the key, it is often broken in transit.) I may remove the entire lever/pendulum assembly, especially on older bugs where the paddle/knob cannot be easily removed; see this page). In this case your task would be to re-install lever onto the pivots, affix the dot lever sping to its adjutment screw, and make the appropriate operating adjustments. Feel free to ask if you have any questions or concerns.

********** A BRIEF HISTORY **********

First there was Horace Martin's "Autoplex," an electromechanical semi-automatic telegraph key. Then in 1905 came his Vibroplex key, a manual bug. Today, thousands of keys and many models later, the Vibroplex key is a collecting specialty in itself. This page will include anything Martin or Vibroplex related.

You will occasionally see statements that the Vibroplex was first produced in 1904. There is no evidence for this. It is based on the "Aug 9 1904" patent date on the first nameplates - but that patent was for a release-mechanism bug, not for the Vibroplex (which patent was finally applied for in April 1906). See pages 37 - 38 of the Vibroplex Collector's Guide, third edition. The earliest ad offering the Vibroplex for sale is in the March 1905 issue of "The Railroad Telegrapher" at page suppl. 16 (this ad was discovered by Fabio Bonucci, IK0IXI, NB1V).

THE GEORGIA BUGS: Two years after starting production of the Vibroplex in New York, Martin moved to Georgia for 1907-08. First he produced a few keys in Norcross under United Electrical Manufacturing Company, then a few more in Atlanta under Martin Manufacturing Company.
The Norcross plates are found in a small size (2-1/4" wide) and a large size (3" wide); the wording is identical (with the incorrect last patent number 342,154 which should be 842,154).

After Horace Martin developed his Vibroplex, others were quick to copy it. Around 1911 to 1915 J.E. Albright, Martin's "sole selling agent," threatened to prosecute not only those manufacturers but anyone who used the "bastard bugs" - unless the operator paid a $2 license fee. Bugs bearing the Albright license nameplate are especially collectible Vibroplex artifacts and will be included on this page (in the rare event we have one for sale).

Additional information on specific models may be found under the models for sale headings below. For much more information on the history of the company itself, see Randy Cole's Vibroplex Collectors website, the book by Bill Holly (K1BH), The Vibroplex Co. Inc., which is available from The Vibroplex Company, and John Casale's (W2NI) web pages on Horace G. Martin. And be sure to sign in at Fabio's Vibroplex Collector's Association.

********* THE CHROME BASED BUGS *********

While the chrome base is usually associated with the DeLuxe models (jeweled pivot, red paddle and knob), it actually replaced the optional nickel finish before the DeLuxe bugs were offered. We recently sold a 1938 Lightning Bug with a chrome base; this was a pre-DeLuxe model.
Once the DeLuxe models were offered (in 1939), chrome would be available only on those.

********* THE EARLY DELUXE MODELS *********

The Deluxe bugs are identified by their chrome base, red paddle and knob, jeweled upper and lower pivots, and (since the jewels are insulating glass) a grounding pigtail from the main lever to the pivot frame. (Some Deluxe bugs may be found without the pigtail; ground is achieved through the dot-side return spring.

The early (1939 - late 1940s) upper pivot looks like the standard type -- a protruding adjustable screw with locknut. The screw has a glass jewel embedded in it where it supports the top of the pivot shaft. Later deluxe bugs used a short upper screw, hidden under a red plastic cover (the so-called "jewel") at the top of the frame.

An interesting and fairly scarce collectible is the foil tag that came with the Deluxe bugs from their introduction in 1939 to the mid-1960s (photo at right). This measures 1-1/8" wide by 1-11/16 high. For larger photos of both sides of the tag, click here and here.

********** The VIBROPLEX COLLECTOR'S GUIDE **********

For twenty years this book ( now on CD only) has been the primary collector's reference to Martin and Vibroplex keys. It includes descriptions and illustrations of every bug from the Autoplex, the 1905 Original, the Model X, Double Lever, Blue Racer and more, including their variations, as well as the first three paddles and the straight key. The book also includes historical information on the keys, the complete patents (with the original drawings) that gave Horace Martin control of his inventions, identification and description of all of the nameplates, dating information, and much more. Illustrated with drawings, photographs, and reproductions of early advertisements.

The third edition with supplement, out of print, was a softcover, comb bound book, 8-1/2 x 11 inches, with 128 pages. It is available now on a CD in PDF format ... $15.00 ... Shipping in the USA is $3.00 .

********** COLLECTING VIBROPLEX KEYS **********

A nice collection of Vibroplex keys would contain one of each model. But since the Upright and the Midget are scarce (and expensive), a more reasonable goal might be the six bugs of the late 1930s: Original, Lightning Bug, Champion, Junior, Zephyr, and Blue Racer.

There are also rare models such as the "patent 457" bug, a predecessor to the Model X (Martin said about 100 were made; today one is known), the "Vibroplex Premier," a Vibroplex-built Mecograph (again, only one is known), and perhaps others still waiting to be found.

But a large collection isn't necessary. One nice representative example to use or display can fulfill the "Vibroplex part" of a telegraph or ham radio setup.

********** IF YOUR BUG DOESN'T WORK **********

Close the contacts and no sound out of your test oscillator? No dots and no dashes? Or maybe you have dots, but no dashes? Most problems are easy to track down. A used bug may have been disassembled for one reason or another, and re-assembled incorrectly. Often, the trouble is oxidized contacts; cleaning with a contact file, plain bond paper or a crisp dollar bill should cure that. If it doesn't, you may have a problem I have found only a few times on Vibroplex bugs -- and the cure is the Alabama Fix.

Other issues may arise. I recently acquired a 1960s Champion with the connector strap problem, but correcting that did not cure it. I found a second issue: The dot contact which rides on the pendulum was not making contact with the pendulum, and thus not with ground. Strange, since there are no insulators there. I removed the contact, cleaned the two brass washers, and reassembled it. Now it works well.

************* A BUG DESCRATCHER *************

Mechanical bugs are often prone to generating scratchy dots, due to the lack of contact pressure on make and break. Back in the nineteen-thirties, Ted McElroy offered his Mac-Key bugs with a "dot stabilizer" on the pendulum. This was a simple metal hook which applied some pre-tensioning to the spring-mounted dot contact. Other companies and individuals offered such devices to telegraphers; you may occasionally find one on an old Vibroplex or Speed-X bug. This page shows a few stabilizers, including one currently available from Jim, W0EB.

For those who prefer to descratch their bug electronically, Chuck, WB9KZY (dba Jackson Harbor Press) offers a descratcher kit at very low cost. See it on this page.

*************** THE BUG TAMER ***************

Many Vibroplex bug generate dots too fast for most operators. There are a few ways to tame your bug into QRS mode: You can add weight, or use a Vari-Speed (devised by Joe Hills, W8FYO, years ago, and now available from Vibroplex). But perhaps the best method, and one used even a century ago, is to extend the pendulum beyond the damper, and attach a weight to the extension.
An extension seems to have a better effect on slowing a bug down. It doesn't require as much weight to accomplish a given reduction in speed, and in operaton it doesn't try to twist the pendulum and mainspring as a Vari-Speed mounted weight seems to. Some extensions slip over the end of the pendulum; the one shown here screws onto the threaded pendulum end of a rare Mac-Key.

********** CREDITS and REFERENCES **********

Vibroplex key <"http://vibroplexcollector.net/?page_id=527">nameplates are based on my list in the Vibroplex Collector's Guide, third edition. Dates are based on John Elwood's (WW7P) survey. (Thanks to Randy Cole KN6W for providing this information on the web.) Pictures of the plates can be seen here, courtesy of Bob, N0UF.


*************** INFORMATION WANTED ****************

Here is a small straight key that fastens to the wire terminals of a bug. This "Piggy-Back" key was made by Martin Research and Manufacturing Corp. and was offere to "operators who desire an occasional change from the semi-automatic type of transmitting machine." Russ, WA5Y, found one on a Martin Research bug (Flash Key); the one shown here was found on a 1941 Vibroplex Blue Racer, as shown.

If you have one, let me know what key you found it on (if Vibroplex, model and serial number); a photo would be appreciated. And a scan of an old advertisement, or a photo of the box one came in, would be especially interesting.

Thanks for your help.


*************** PARTS FOR SALE ****************

We sometimes have parts for sale for the modern (1945 - present) Original model. These parts may fit other models; check the machine drawings and parts lists at the Vibroplex website. We usually have the parts shown at right in stock, but always ask before ordering.

At left, complete fixed contact dot, includes screw and insulators. $17.00
Center, hot wire terminal, complete. $7.00
right, ground wire terminal, complete. $5.00
Not shown, damper assembly, complete. $16.00

We may also have other parts such as the pivot frame (Deluxe or standard), shorting lever, etc. Inquire as to availability and price. (Our prices are usually 1/2 that of new parts from the Company.) Our parts are used, and may show some sign of age (and so may all the better match the rest of your bug!); they are guaranteed to be functional and will get your bug back on the air. If you require new condition parts, they are available from the Company.

Bug feet Here are some feet you can use to replace badly worn, incorrect or missing feet on your Vibroplex bug. These are not original Vibroplex parts, but they are the same size as the older feet (3/4" diameter and 3/8" high).

They are a little larger than the more recent Vibroplex feet (which are 5/8" in diameter) but still make a good replacement for those bugs -- especially since these are softer rubber and "grip" the operating desk better. Use them with 6-32 x 3/8" round head screws (not included).

#BUG-FEET: $6.00 for three plus $2.50 shipping (no extra shipping charge if ordered with a bug)


********** INSTRUMENTS AND ACCESSORIES FOR SALE **********

You can scroll down the page, or jump to the section for a particular model by clicking on it here:

United Electrical, Martin, Albrights, clones, J-36, etc
Original
Presentation
Double Lever
Model X
No. 4 Blue Racer
No. 6 Lightning Bug
Martin Junior
Zephyr
Champion
Paddles (Vibrokeyer, Iambic, Brass Racer)
Accessories (cases, cords, etc.)


United Electrical (Norcross), Albrights, J-36s, Martins, clones, etc.


#608GER Norcross Vibroplex double lever.

Horace Martin Vibroplex, United Elec. Mfg Co., Norcross Ga. double lever. This small-nameplate bug dates to 1907-08.

The mainspring is slightly bent to the right and I have not tried to adjust it to operate. The weight does not look original. This would be a scarce addition to your Martin/Vibroplex collection.
Another photo.
Another photo.

$2,495.00


#411TGY Norcross Vibroplex Original type.

Horace Martin Vibroplex, United Elec. Mfg Co., Norcross Ga. original style bug. This dates to 1907-08.

This large-nameplate bug has serial number 4165 stamped on the side of the damper upright. This bug is complete and operable, though the contacts need cleaning and adjusting. One weight is not original, and there is an odd screw on the right side of the pivot frame. The paddle and knob are not original. It needs a thorough cleaning.

If you run a bug and ragchew on the air, this is a great conversation starter, as well as a scarce collectible for your station.
Another photo.
Top view.
Frame detail.
Nameplate.

$2,495.00


#308BAR Mecograph Premier by Vibroplex.

This is the only known Mecograph made by the Vibroplex Company after it acquired the Mecograph company in 1913. See this page for complete information on this bug.

$6,495.00


#411TRH Albright license bug.

This appears to be an ATOZ bug. It has had the "first type" Albright license plate affixed (This machine is not guaranteed...) which reads "Special No. 2263."

It is dirty and is missing one of the weight screws, but has traces of the original pinstripe around the edge of the base. The paddle is a replacement. It needs cleaning and adjusting, especially of the dot contact.

Another photo.
Nameplate.

$495.00


#1012TYL ATOZ "Improved Vibroplex".

The most flagrant imitator of Martin's keys was Max Levy, of the ATOZ Electric Novelty Company, going so far as to call this key the "improved Vibroplex." Many of his keys in the hands of operators were spotted by Albright, who removed the ATOZ nameplate and affixed his own Albright license plate. (With a charge of $2.00 to the unlucky operator.) This ATOZ bug retains its original nameplate.

The base and plate on this ATOZ are the nicest I've seen. While it works well (tested on my trusty oscillator), some of the parts, notably the lever, weight and circuit closer, are not original ATOZ parts.

So I offer it as shown, mainly as a display key and a rare addition to your Vibroplex collection.

The nameplate and base may appear red in some photos, but that is the lighting -- they are black.

Another photo.
Nameplate.

SOLD


#M806TGL ... Martin Flash Key.

Here is a Flash Key made by the sons of Horace Martin in the 1930s under the name of Martin Research & Manufacturing Corp. All Martin Research Flash Keys (there were four models) are scarce, because the Bunnell company acquired the rights to the keys shortly after they appeared. (The "Bunnell-Martin" Flash Keys were offered for at least five years, and so are more common.)
This "professional no. 1" model with serial number 5597 is in excellent condition, with a wonderfully clear nameplate. The single large weight may be a later Vibroplex weight; otherwise, this bug is complete and original.
Another view.

$395.00 (s&h = $12.00)


#1007EPG ... Martin Flash key.

A Martin Research "Professional No. 1" as above, same excellent condition, serial number 5987. This one has the two original small weights.

Another view.
Nameplate.

SOLD


#0205CAG Vibroplex clone.

In the early twentieth century, several makers, many still unidentified today, copied Horace Martin's design for the Vibroplex semiautomatic key. This one is rare and unusual: The lever stop screws are held in a U-shaped bracket like that of Martin's Norcross and New York double lever bug. Rivet holes show that a nameplate was once attached. The nickel plating on the base is mostly gone and the base is covered with a patina of surace rust. One wire terminal nut, and one stop screw and locknut are not original. This would benefit from restoration and refinishing, but it works fine, though the contacts need cleaning. If you collect Vibroplex clones, this one may be unique. (It is remotely possible that this is actually a Vibroplex prototype.) Second photo

$195.00


Vibroplex Signal Corps J-36.

We occasionally may have one for sale. If we do, you will find it on the "Other U.S. Military Keys" page at the Artifax Books site: click here.


ORIGINAL


INFORMATION: Horace Martin's first semiautomatic key, the Autoplex, was superceded in 1905 by the Martin Vibroplex. The name Vibroplex would soon be applied to his company itself and all future models of mechanical semiautomatic keys. To distinguish them, the first bug was referred to as the Original model.

The early Original is distinguished by its A0 (serif) or A1 (sans serif) lettered nameplate, damper adjusting screw, and lock screws instead of jam nuts for the lever throw adjustment screws. The serial number is usually found on the damper upright, but earlier ones will have the number stamped into the right front side of the base -- or have no number at all.

Many collectors want one of the first Originals, and look for indications of priority. But there is one more difference that the very first Originals will have: Instead of the U-shaped dot contact spring on the pendulum, look for an unusual flat dot contact spring on a heavier metal arm.

Our Originals for sale are listed below.


#212BTH ... 1905 Vibroplex.

An early first model Vibroplex. Dating from 1905, the type A0 nameplate reads "The Vibroplex, patented Aug. 9, 1904, by Horace G. Martin, New York." This plate is very similar to the A1 plate, but the earlier "zero" plate uses serif letters in the first line. See the photo below.

On early 1905 Vibroplexes a serial number is found not on the damper but stamped on the near right side of the base. The earliest Vibroplexes may have no number at all. I could not find one on this bug, though it may be buried under the thick Japan paint (see last photo).

This is in quite good condition for a 1905. The lever knob and circuit closer knob are the old brown color and appear original; the paddle may have been replaced. The copper "carry handle" (which may be easily removed, but gives historical flavor to this key) required the addition of two holes in the base (or perhaps only one hole, since the hole nearest the pivot frame is exactly where the factory placed mounting holes in later bugs). A thin metal clip was folded over the mainspring, perhaps to speed up the key. It has one weight. The contact on the dash lever is missing but the key works as shown.

About 50% of the gold pinstriping remains, and the black Japan on the base is in very good condition. Needs cleaning. Tested with my oscillator and works.

Another photo.
Another photo.
The nameplate.
Serial number location?

SOLD


#992TTY ... 1905 Vibroplex.

Ready for your cleaning and restoration, here is the scarce first model Vibroplex. Dating from 1905, the type A1 nameplate reads "The Vibroplex, patented Aug. 9, 1904, by Horace G. Martin, New York." The serial number, stamped on the damper support, is 1197.

Three items identify this as a 1905 model: the A1 nameplate, the long screw in the damper frame used to adjust the rest position of the swing-arm, and the use of lock screws (rather than jam nuts) in the ends of the frame arms to secure the position on the stop screws.

As seen in the photos, the base finish is worn and the contact screws and jam nut are (after over 100 years and perhaps used by a commercial telegrapher) replacements. This early Vibroplex awaits your attention.
Another photo.
Another photo.
Another photo.
Another photo.

475.00


#792BGY ... 1906 Martin Vibroplex.

The A2 nameplate reads "The Vibroplex, Horace G. Martin's, patents no. 732,648, 767,303, others pending." It has serial number 26xx stamped on the damper upright. This 1906 bug is the second variation of the Original, and is in working condition. It has the usual 3/16" hole in the base near the hot wire connector (common on very early Vibroplexes, perhaps for a screw to fasten the bug to the operating desk).

It probably belonged to a full-time Western Union or railroad telegrapher since it shows heavy use: The fixed dot contact and its jam nut are non-Vibroplex replacements. The wire terminals are of different styles (although both are of the type used on early Vibroplex bugs). The feet look to big to be original. The dash lever contact holder is soldered to its screw. The paddle screw is rusted. The black japan finish is chipped on edges and sides of base, and the nameplate has some light surface rust. (The upper pivot jam nut may be hard to see, it is mounted under the frame bar.)
On the plus side, all the hardware is present including the original weights, paddle and knobs. If you are looking for a very early Vibroplex, here's one to consider.

Photo 2
Photo 3
Photo 4

$495.


#514MAG ... 1912 Original.

Here is a Martin Vibroplex with the B3 type nameplate; serial number 20074 is stamped inside the damper. This has the scarce flat-topped L damper (with adjusting screw in the swing-arm) found only on some 1912 - 1915 Originals. Note that this 1912 still has the through-base feet mounting screws.

This has been overpainted with black paint. It has a home-made "dot stabilizer" on the pendulum dot contact (a piece of wire used to pre-tension the dot sping). There is one original weight and a non-factory weight on the pendulum. The fixed dot contact appears to be worn down to the screw threads.

A scarce Martin bug and a nice cndidate for restoration.

Another view.
View of damper.

SOLD


#814TRL ... rare 1913 Original.

More than rare, this is unique -- the only nameplate of this type known. Recently discovered, I call it the B3Y since it is a B style with a serial numner of 20751 coming after the (also unique) B3X and before the B4 numbers. It has the scarce flat-top damper typical of 1912-13 bugs, with the serial number stamped on it.

This appears complete except for a pendulum weight and a replaced paddle. The base finish (which seems to have been nickel) is gone as is the nickel plating of the upper brass parts, which have a dark patina. Some of the locknuts do not turn so need an application of penetrating oil. The bottom of the base is covered with a light coating of rust.

If you are looking for one of each nameplate for your collection, this may be your only chance for a "B3Y plate."

Nameplate.
View of damper.
Serial number.
Right side view.

$995.00


#514BGT ... 1919 Original.

This Vibroplex has a C2 type nameplate with serial number 69334. The black base finish is very good but the gilt pinstriping is all gone; there is the usual opersating-desk mounting hole in the base near the hot wire terminal. The pendulum dot contact appears to be an unusual old replacement. The weight also appears to be an old replacement.

Tested and works very well on my oscillator, but a bit fast with only the one weight.

Another view.
Nameplate.

$119.00


#307TYL ... 1920 Original with bug decal.

This 1920 Original has a C3 type nameplate and serial number 77032. It has the Vibroplex bug decal which was only used on keys for a few years in the late 'teens and early 'twenties. (The hole at the top of the decal is the desk mounting-screw hole found on keys of this vintage.) The decal is unusually complete.

The knob and paddle are reversed -- from the thumb impression on the paddle, this bug was evidently used by a left-handed operator. The black base finish is very good; it has a few small chips on the edges. The key has one weight. It needs cleaning (but be careful cleaning the decal, it may be subject to water damage). The nameplate shows its age and the serial number is difficult to read.

Another view.
The decal.
Nameplate.

$195.00


#506TYT ... 1923 nickel based Original.

The nickel plated base finish cost a couple dollars more than the colored or black bases, which was a lot in the 1920s. This explains why they are scarce. The 89xxx serial number on the type D2 nameplate dates this bug to 1923. This old-timer is complete with both weights. It is well used and the finish is worn and freckled. With its early style design it would be a nice addition to a vintage operating desk.

Larger photo
Photo 3
Photo 4

SOLD


#113TYL ... 1926 Original Standard.

Serial number 97828 on a D3 type nameplate dates this nice Original to 1926. It is complete with its original paddle and knob, and both weights. There are a couple very small black-paint touch-ups where the base finish had chipped. Most of the gilt pinstriping is still there. A great vintage bug from the intersection of the spark/CW era.

Another view.
Front view.

$169.00


#314MAY ... 1926 Original Standard.

Serial number 96770 on a D3 type nameplate dates this nice Original to 1926. This is a very nice vintage key, with the early square-shouldered frame and damper. It has both its weights, and operates well.

Most of the faults are minor and would not be noticed until I told you: There are several small chips along the side edges, the front feet are old larger replacements, the paddle is NOS, and the knob is not original. Almost all of the gold pinstriping is gone.

This old bug would be a nice addition to an old-style ham station.

Another view.
Nameplate.
Front view.

$149.00


#714TYY ... 1926 nickel plated Original.

Serial number 990828 on a D3 type nameplate dates this nice Original to 1926. It is complete with its original paddle and knob, and both weights. This has one of the nicest plated bases from this era that I have seen; there is very tiny freckling started, but a light cleaning and perhaps a little wax will cure that.

There is a chip in the knob, the knurled nut on the hot wire terminal is a replacement (the original was missing, and a hole has been drilled in the base (perhaps for screwing to an operating desk). None of this would seem to detract from that amazing nickel finish.

Another view.

$229.00


#611BHR 1940 VGN RWY Deluxe Original and case.

Rare and historic railroad telegraph apparatus? Some background: I obtained this key, in this case, from a seller in a small town North of Lynchburg, Virginia. It had a tag mentioning "VGN RLW Brookneal." Now Brookneal is a small town South of Lynchburg, and the Virginian Railway (VGN Rwy) passed through it. This railroad existed in name from 1907 (when it was created by the merger of the Tidewater Railway and the Deepwater Railway) until 1956 (when it was merged with the Norfolk and Western). There is a lot of history regarding the VGN, which includes Buffalo Bill, train wrecks, and "the longest yard." My guess is that this key was used by a telegraph operator on VGN.

The key (an early deluxe Original) is serial number 115707 on a D4 (Fulton Street) nameplate dating it to 1940. It is in excellent condition, needing only cleaning.

The carrying case is an unusual and rare top-lid model. This style was never advertised by Vibroplex, and the Eagle Lock Company latch uses a center-pin key (all other Vibroplex cases use a flat key) so it may be from another maker but made specially for the Vibroplex bugs. The case covering shows wear and use.

Rather than break up this interesting set, I am listing the key and case together.

The key.
The case.

SOLD


#614CAG ... 1940 Standard Original.

This has the D4 nameplate with 113993 serial number. It is complete with both weights, and in very good condition. There are no chips in the black crackle finish. The chromed, squared pivot and damper frames combined with the black crackle base give this model a formal look which was available for only a few years. In my opinion it is one of the nicest looking vintage Vibroplex bugs going.

A light cleaning to remove a bit of dust, and perhaps oiling of the base, would make this stand out on your operating desk.

Left view.
Right side.

SOLD


#214BGT ... 1943 WWII Deluxe Original.

This is a war-era Deluxe, with the Battleship Gray base. It has serial number 125476 and a D5 nameplate. This early Deluxe has the jewel bearings and ground pigtail from the lever to the pivot frame. I put the NOS black paddle on to match the black knobs, but to be a correct Deluxe these parts should be red. The single large weigh is also be a later replacement. Even with this weight, it generates very fast dots; a bug tamer may be desired.

This key has an excellent base finish -- it is a dark, crystal-like finish, quite different from later gray bases. This early Deluxe with the squared-off damper and pivot frames would be a nice addition to a vintage station or collection.

Front view.
Left side.
Right side.

$125.00


#414TTY ... 1944 WWII Deluxe Original.

This is a war-era Deluxe, with the Battleship Gray base. It has serial number 136725 and a D5 nameplate. This Deluxe has the jewel bearings and ground pigtail from the lever to the pivot frame. As an early Deluxe it has the red paddle and knobs, but still retains the earlier squared-off damper and pivot frame.

The base paint is in good condition with no chips, but could use cleaning. The WWII nameplate has the typical aging found on those plates. The dark gray WWII Deluxe base finish may be darker than it appears in the photographs.

Another view.
Nameplate.

SOLD


#113BRG ... 1944 Original Standard.

This Original Standard, serial number 136xxx with a D5 plate dating it to 1944, has the nicest WWII era base I have seen -- the black crinkle base finish looks new. There is not one chip or defect in the surface finish. The chrome parts are excellent but could use a little polishing.

Three initials are scratched onthe bottom. It comes with one weight. Tested on my oscillator, it is very fast; you will probably want to add more weight or use a pendulum extension.

Another view.
Bottom.

SOLD


#1113BAY ... 1945 Original Deluxe.

A beautiful Original Deluxe, serial number 142xxx and D5 plate dating it to 1945. With the WWII restrictions on the use of chrome, the Deluxe was given a "Battleship Gray" finish. This finish is a nice sparkling or crackle type finish, unlike the flat-gray finishes used later. And as a Deluxe, it does have the ground pigtail from the mail lever to the pivot frame, and the red plastic paddle and knobs.

This is one of the nicest WWII Deluxe bugs I have had -- the base finish is excellent, and this key does not have the poor tin-steel nameplate found on many WWII Viboplexes. In many ways, this Deluxe is nicer, and more interesting, than the chrome-base models. It has one weight, and is a very fast bug; you may want to add a weight, a Vari-Speed, or a pendulum extension.

Another view.
Back view.
Bottom.

SOLD


#314BAP ... 1950 Original Deluxe.

The type D6 nameplate and 166945 serial number dates this Deluxe to 1950. I named this key "Frosty" because the fine microbubbles in the chrome give it that appearance. (If you search closely you will also find a few small voids in the chrome.) This unusual frosty appearance is actually not unattractive (to me, at least).

In any case, this bug is complete with all original parts, including the Vibroplex box. Like all Deluxe models, it has a smooth action and works well.

With box.
Right side view.
Left side close-up.
The nameplate.

$119.00


#213BEL ... 1951 Original Standard.

Serial number 173517 on a D6 nameplate dates this bug to 1951. This is in good operating condition. It is complete with both weights, but still somewhat fast on the dots. There are chips in the black crackle finish on the edges as shown in the photos. A nice working bug for your operating desk, though the contacts could use a little more cleaning.

Another view.

$95.00


#305TOR ... Unusual 1955 Left-handed Deluxe Original.

Serial no. 189xxx, D6 type nameplate (833 Broadway NY). Left-handed Vibroplex bugs are scarce, but what makes this one even more unusual is that the wire terminals are on the right side! It is the only one I have ever seen made like this. And no, this is not an altered right-handed bug.
This chrome plated Original is complete with two small weights. Very good condition except for some freckling of the base in front of the pivot frame, see the photo. The screw which normally fills the hole in the left frame arm is missing, or was never installed. Another view
The rust.

$395.00


#214WGE ... 1958 Standard Original.

Gray base, serial no. 204250, D6 type nameplate (833 Broadway NY). The plating on the large single weight does not match the nice chrome of the other parts. With a little cleaning of the base finish you would have a nice vintage Vibroplex for your station.

Another view

129.00


#413BRY ... 1963 Original.

A Standard model Original with the gray painted base. The serial no. 233xxx and D6 type nameplate (833 Broadway NY) dates it to 1963. It is original and complete with one large-size weight.

This is in good used condition. It works well as tested on my oscillator.

Another view

$139.00


The Maine Vibroplex bugs.... Peter Garsoe bought the company in 1978 and moved it to Maine. His early bugs used up the New York inventory, including D7 type nameplates. The nameplates were glued to the base (no rivets). When the circuit closers ran out, he put a screw in the base hole; later Maine bases were pure "radio" bugs, with no circuit closer and no hole in the base needing to be filled. The Maine nameplates are identified by having no address. These late Maine Vibroplex keys are very nice, plain, uncluttered bugs.


#413CPH ... 1986 Maine Standard Original.

This is a Maine bug, serial no. 523xx, D8 type nameplate, dating it according to Elwood's list to 1986.

This is the standard model, with a gray base made with no circuit closer. It is in excellent, perhaps unused, condition. It has one small weight on the pendulum. A scarce and collectible bug for your operating desk.

Nameplate.

$160.00


#811CRA ... 1991 Maine Standard Original.

This Maine bug has serial no. 66xxx, D8 type nameplate, dating it to 1991.

This is the standard model, with a gray base (photo may look tan but it is standard gray) and no circuit closer (note it does not have the hole for the closer screw). It is in excellent condition with probably no use. It has one large (3/4" long) weight on the pendulum. A scarce and collectible bug for your operating desk.

Nameplate.

$170.00


#1113BGE ... 1992 Maine Standard Original.

This Maine bug has serial no. 68876, D8 type nameplate, dating it to 1992.

This is the standard model, with a gray base and no circuit closer (the company seems to have done away with the circuit closer by this time). It is in excellent condition with no use, and comes in the original box. It has one large (3/4" long) weight.

This includes the original paperwork: parts list and diagram, unpacking instructions, warranty information, and a two page reprint from QST by VE2AGO on adjustment. A scarce and collectible bug for your operating desk.

Right side.
Box label.
Nameplate.
Papers.$190.00


#X01CPY ... Mobile AL Standard Original.

Serial no. 105390, D9 type nameplate (11 Midtown Park E., Mobile AL USA). This dates to the period 1995 - 2010. Peter Garsoe sold the company in 1994 to Mitch Mitchell, W4OA, whereupon Vibroplex moved from Maine to Alabama, where it remained for 15 years. This Mobile Original has one large weight; the key is in like-new condition. These Vibroplexes carry the last of the embossed-metal D-type nameplates.

Another view
Nameplate.

$195.00


PRESENTATION


Appearing in 1948, the Presentation was the Company's "Super Deluxe" model with a gold-plated brass plate on the base, jewel bearings, "super speed control" adjustable mainspring, and ground pigtail on the lever.

For a small charge, you could have the company engrave your name or call letters on the gold plate (some did, some didn't). And based on those found, the circuit closer was an option; when not selected, a screw was placed in the lever hole, and the lever ground tab under the dash contact post was not installed.

The "real" Presentation was discontinued in 1979 when the adjustable mainspring was dropped. The "Presentation" then became just a pretty variation of the Original. Today it is offered by the company as the "Original Presentation" at $340.00 (the "Original Gold" with the base itself gold plated is $380.00). But if you want the best looking and nicest bug the Company ever produced, look for an early (1948 - 1978) Presentation. You will get a vintage collectible key.


#401BCA ... left handed 1957 Presentation.
Here is a scarce and collectible left handed presentation. The serial no. 199xxx, 833 Broadway NY, D6 plate dates this one to 1957. A very nice Presentation in very good condition. It has one small weight on the pendulum. This has the circuit closer option, and no call letters on the plate. Note that, as a left-handed model, the Company filled the lever tension screw hole in the left-side frame arm with a screw (frames were drilled for right-hand use, and modified when a left-hand bug order came in).
The plate shows a bit of age -- examine the photos, keeping in mind that photographs of keys (or cars, or houses) usually look somewhat better than the actual object. It has one small weight, and is quite fast so you may want to add another (available from the Company). As usual, the gold-plated plate needs a little cleaning, but be very careful and gentle in doing so as the 24K plating will scratch easily. Do not use rough cleaning compounds.

Another view
Yet another.

SOLD


#414TTG... 1972 Presentation.
A beautiful unused, new-old stock Presentation with its box. The 269540 serial number and the D7 New York nameplate indicates a manufacture date of 1972. This bug was ordered without the shorting switch; a screw fills the lever hole.

The original owner of this key never used it; it still has the rubber shipping bumpers on the main lever. There is a tiny ding in the gold-plated plate (look between the dot stop screw and the fixed dot contact post) and you may find other micro-imperfections on the plate (possibly factory-inflicted), but I doubt you will find a nicer Presentation for your operating desk.

Top view.
Right side view.
Left side view.
Mainspring adjustments, and rubber bumpers.

SOLD


#113TOO... 1978 Presentation.
One of the last real Presentations, with the adjustable mainspring. The 386xxx serial number and the D7 New York nameplate indicates a date of 1978. But the plate is glued on, not rivetted, suggesting this was one of the early Maine assemblies using the last of the New York parts. This bug was ordered without the shorting switch; a screw fills the lever hole.

The chrome base is excellent, but the gold-plated plate on top (which is 1/4" short of the base!) shows some scuffing (you have to be careful cleaning them). The red "jewel" atop the frame is chipped. And the ground pigtail and its little screw in the frame is missing (or never installed).

Tested with my oscillator, this works well with the one large weight.

Right side view
Showing the "jewel".
Pigtail screw hole in frame
Nameplate

$249.00


DOUBLE LEVER


INFORMATION: The first double levers were made in Norcross GA in 1907 and have a "half-frame" pivot support. These were quickly followed by the full square pivot frame; these carried the Norcross GA nameplate. (This plate came in two sizes, I believe the Norcross DL only had the smaller 2-1/4" wide plate). plate.)
Martin then moved to Atlanta. The 1908 - 1909 double lever also had the square frame and carried the Atlanta plate. This square frame was continued in the early NY double levers, starting with the B1 plate in 1910.
The last double levers, around 1926, had a round-shouldered pivot frame and the D3 nameplate.
DL serial numbers: The Georgia DLs may or may not have a SN, some do, some don't. If they do it is somewhere on the damper upright. The early NY DLs (B1, B2 plates) do not have SNs (as far as I know). By 1913 (B4 plate), they do have SNs (D5000 series numbers). the last plate to be used on the double lever was the D3 plate (1926).


#514EEY 1910 Double Lever.

This is one of the earliest double levers made in New York after Martin's return from Georgia. It carries the B1 nameplate and the early NY circuit closer. But note especially that Martin used (briefly) the Norcross / Atlanta style damper swing-arm; this is a rare feature for a B1 double lever. Typically (for a B1 plate Vibroplex), it has no serial number.

This appears complete (with one weight). The fixed dash contact seems to be an old replacement; the dot contacts certainly are. This needs complete restoration: The nickel plating is gone from the upper brass parts, and the base finish it totally gone; there is a light patina of rust on the base. Although the pendulum is free and it does generate dots, many of the other parts need an application of penetrating oil (I recommend Kroil) to loosen them.

This is a rare early model for someone who enjoys restoring their keys -- or free it up and use it on the air as is!

Damper.
Right side.
Nameplate.
Frame.
Dot contacts.
Bottom.

$449.00


#401BCC Double Lever.

This is an early New York Double Lever. The square pivot frame, type B4 nameplate, end-pivot circuit closer, and D5189 serial number all work to date it to 1913. It has the remnants of an Albright decal on the base (typically only found on bugs in the 1913 - 1915 era).

Both dot contacts are later replacements, there is no weight, and one paddle is broken. The damper is slightly cocked, probably from a drop some decades ago. Overall this almost-century-old key needs only minor attention to be a star of any Vibroplex collection.

Another photo.
Front view showing frame.
Damper and serial number.

SOLD


#1105EOT Double Lever.

A later Double Lever with the cloverleaf style pivot frame; the C3 plate and 76579 serial number date it to 1920.

This key was obviously used by a professional telegrapher: The wedge cord is expertly attached to the terminals, and one wedge leaf is stamped WU TEL CO (stamped on the back of the leaf and reads backwards). And despite the heavy looking homebrew weight, it is adjusted to be fast.

The base retains remnants of a Vibroplex decal, and pinstriping. The nameplate is hard to read, the dot lever stop screw is a replacement, and the head of the upper pivot screw is gone. Interestingly (and unusual for such old bugs) it operate nicely as shown, just as found.

A great collectible, complete with evidence of its past use and history.

Another photo.
Front view showing frame.
Another view.

SOLD


MODEL X


SHIPPING a Model X: On old keys it is sometimes difficult to remove the knob and paddle for shipping, so the entire lever assembly is often removed. To do this on an Model X, remove the two upper pivot bar retaining screws, and back the dot lever spring tension screw out to release the spring. (See this photo.) Then lift the lever assembly up and out.
The photos show an early Model X; the procedure is the same on the later improved model.


#205ETHG left handed Vibroplex Model X.

A left-handed Model X Vibroplex bug. Unusually fine condition. One other LH model X is said to exist, but I also heard that its condition was not as nice as this one. Serial number 599xx on a C1 type nameplate dates it to 1917.
Another photo.
Another photo.
Another photo.

$9,950.


#1004EEY ... Early Model X.
Horace Martin's "single lever direct point transmitter," soon known as the Model X, was introduced in 1911. The one offered here is a scarce early model; it has a B4 type nameplate ("Horace G. Martin" on the plate) and serial number 12356 on the terminal connector strip, dating it to 1913-14 (Elwood's list says "no numbers reported" in this range, but that's where it would fit).

Note that first-style Model X bugs have the mechanism mounted to a sub-base, and on the "early early" models (such as this) the screws for the feet protrude through the base, as on this one. Original and complete; needs cleaning. The base casting and the black finish appear crude; there is no pinstriping.

Left view
Right view
Bottom

SOLD


#1001TRG ... Improved Model X.

The improved model offered here has a C3 type nameplate with serial number 75xxx, dating it to 1920. It also has the bug decal (quite faded). It is original and complete, although the black finish is chipped on the corners. Some of the original gold pinstiping remains.

It is complete and all of the parts are correct and original. Tested on my oscillator, and works -- excellent dot action, althought the dash lever throw is a bit long so you may want to adjust it to your fist.

Another view
Decal
Nameplate
Top view
Bottom

SOLD


BLUE RACER


#V907TLR ... 1919 Blue Racer on large base.
A rare Blue Racer on the "old style [large] base." From 1919, with C2 type nameplate and 67xxx serial number. It also has the cloverleaf frame found on Racers of this era.
Good condition, complete with both weights. The paddle and the dash spring are replacements. An early owner's initials "HLL" are scratched into the base -- that it is initials and not call letters suggests that this was used by a railroad telegrapher.
Another view. Nameplate.

SOLD


#0413BAE ... 1917 Blue Racer ??
A scarce nickle plated vintage Blue Racer. The year is a guess -- it appears to have had a C type plate (C2 ?) which is missing. This has the cloverleaf frame found on Racers of this era.

The base plating is worn, but personally I would just polish it up as is. The wire teminals need loosening. The dash-side lever is tight (I put penetrating oil on it - Kroil - it may loosen up); the dot-side motion works well. The weight screw is incorrect. The feet are so worn that the circuit closer screw hits the table.

A scarce key worthy of restoration, especially if you have a type C nameplate to put in it.

Another view.
Bottom.

SOLD


Note. The D3 style nameplate, 796 Fulton St. with seven patent numbers, appeared in 1925.


#V907TTG ... 1925-26 Blue Racer.
This Blue Racer has the earliest D3 nameplate (Fulton Street, 7 patents) I have seen. The serial number 94XXX dates it to 1925 according to John Elwood's list. In my book I date the first appearance of the D3 plate at 1926; looks like I may have to change that. This has the U damper and early cloverleaf frame. It has seen a lot of use and some abuse: the damper arm carrying the wheel is slightly bent in, the front of the frame (facing the operator) has dents, much of the nickel plating is worn off, the knob has been replaced with a paddle, and the huge feet look like old replacements. The base is shiny,and looks like it was sprayed with clear lacquer.
Yet it works very well, though quite fast with the one weight. Overall, it gives the impression of having sent many train orders in an old railroad depot. This is a Blue racer with character.
Another view

$195.00


The new style Blue Racer appeared in 1946 with a pivot frame and damper styled like those on the Original, only smaller. Personally I consider these, whether Deluxe or Standard, the prettiest Blue Racers made. The earliest ones have a D5 nameplate (833 Broadway, 6 patent numbers with "other patents pending"). The last Blue Racers were made in 1967.


#314TYL ... 1946 Deluxe Blue Racer.

This early new style Blue Racer has serial number 152490 on a D6 nameplate (833 Broadway, "patented," no patent numbers), and dates to 1946. It is the Deluxe version with red fingerpieces and a chrome base. It has the "jewel" bearings, and a ground pigtail from the main lever to the pivot frame.

This is complete and original, including both weights. The base and other chromed parts are in excellent condition, but they do need cleaning.

Another view.
Top view.
Front view.

SOLD


#VBR191 ... 1955 Blue Racer.

A standard model, new style Blue Racer, this has a D5 nameplate with the serial number 191xxx dating it to 1955. Complete with two weights.

There is a small chip in the paint on the upper left edge, and the nameplate could use cleaning. Overall this is in very good condition, all ready for your mid-fifties vintage operating desk.

Another view.

SOLD


Note. The D7 style nameplate, 933 Broadway with no patent data, appeared in 1963.


I don't often do this to keys listed here -- I leave that to the discretion of the buyer -- but the base on this one, #513BHR, was so clouded with tarnish that it begged to be cleaned. Several minutes with Nevr-Dull made a big difference. (I wish I had taken a "before" photo.)


#513BHR ... 1965 Deluxe Blue Racer.

A new style Blue Racer with the D7 style nameplate and chrome base, and serial number 243xxx. As a deluxe, it has the ground pigtail from the main lever to the pivot frame.

The base chrome is covered with tiny freckles overall (see photo), and the red plastic "jewel" atop the pivot frame is missing. Otherwise it is a very nice late Blue Racer, and works well (although fast) on my test oscillator.

Freckles.
Another view.

$195.00


#BOX406 ... Blue Racer carrying case.
This case dates from the 1930s - 40s, and was made for the 2-1/2" wide Blue Racer; the photos show it in front of an Original case for comparison. Unlike the larger cases, which were made for the Original, Champion, and Lightning Bug, these cases were made to fit only the smallest Vibroplex and so are seldom found. The outside measurements are about 3-3/4" wide x 8-1/2" deep x 3-3/4" high.

This is in very good condition. The handle is missing, and there is light scuffing on the lid corners. One small area on the front edge of the inner lining is torn. No key.

Larger photo

SOLD


LIGHTNING BUG


The Vibroplex "No. 6" was introduced in 1927, and was a major departure from the Original and the No. 4 Blue Racer. Its frame was assembled from posts and triangular plates, the pendulum was a flat bar, and the damper was a bridge shape (M type) with a heavy hanging wheel. It was first offered with the usual black Japan and nickel plated base, as well as the now-scarce red, green or blue colored base. Its last appearance was in 1979.

The Lightning Bug is a favorite among many collectors and CW operators, who feel it surpasses the Original in beauty of design and smoothness of operation. The Army Signal Corps liked it as well: It became the J-36 bug for World War II.


#414NPY ... 1928 Lightning Bug.

This Lightning Bug has a D3 plate and 103102 serial number dating it to 1928. It is in very good condition with all original parts. It has most of the gilt corner decorations; the black japan base finish is excellent with only a couple small chips on the far back side. The upper "bright parts" are not so bright, they carry the patina and oxidation of 80 years.

A nice vintage Vibroplex for the CW operator, or a good example of the Lightning Bug for the collector.

Right side.
Top view.
Bottom.

$149.00


#307BHR ... 1932 Lightning Bug.

The 1064xx serial number on a D3 nameplate (Fulton Street, seven patents) dates it to 1932. The nickel plated base (an extra-cost option) has some rubbed areas on the edges and a few freckles on the top, but it should polish up nicely. Two items are replacements: the dot spring tension screw and locknut (appears chrome plated), and the circuit closer knob. Otherwise it's a nice No. 6 for your operating desk.

Another view.
and another.
Bottom.

SOLD


#114MRG ... unusual 1936 Lightning Bug.

This Lightning Bug has a D3 plate and 109174 serial number dating it to 1936. This has a very flat or minimal kind of wrinkle finish in a satin hue. Perhaps Vibroplex was experimenting with base finishes to replace the black Japan (real black wrinkle appeared in 1939.) The gilt pinstriping is mosly present, and it, too, seems done with a dull or satin type paint. It is a very nice effect, and the only one of its kind I have seen. Cosmetically, the black finish is excellent with no chips or defects.

This key is complete and works well as tested on my oscillator. The paddles and circuit closer knob are non-original as seen in the photos.

Another view.
Rear view
Bottom

$175.00


#214MGL ... 1936 Lightning Bug.

This is a Standard model Lightning Bug with a D3 plate and 109811 serial number dating it to 1936. It has the usual black Japan base finish, which is chipped at the back, sides and corners. If it ever had gilt pinstriping, it is all gone. The weight is home-made; otherwise this key is complete with all original parts and works well.

Another view.
Another view

$129.00


#213CRH ... 1939+ Lightning Bug.

This is a Deluxe model Lightning Bug; the nameplate is missing (you can see the pins in the base). The Deluxe models appeared in 1939; with the old style upper pivot, this would date from 1939 to about 1950.
The chrome base finish is frosty, with several small voids. The paddle is in poor condition (see photos). And because the upper pivot screw is short (or the jam nut too thick), the pivot is a bit loose in the trunnions. I tested it on my oscillator and it works well, but it would be better if you file down the bottom of the jam nut and tighten the pivot more.

Another view.
Pivot and paddle area.

$129.00


#714NRY ... 1944 Deluxe Lightning Bug.

This is a Deluxe model Lightning Bug from the WWII era; it has the dark "battleship gray" base. The D5 nameplate and 27565 serial number date it to 1944. The red knobs and paddle have acquired a nice patina with age, something you don't see with the plastic used on the modern Deluxe Vibroplexes. The base finish is in very good condition with no chips; however, if you look at it "just so" near the wire terminals you will see a light stain. This is hardly noticeablein normal use on the desk. Overall it is one of the nicer WWII Deluxe bugs I have had to offer.

Another view.

$135.00


#314BPE ... 1944 Lightning Bug with Case.

This Deluxe model Lightning Bug has a D5 plate and 136812 serial number dating it to 1944. It has the ground pigtail (as do all the Deluxe models), and the early-style glass-bead upper pivot. This has a beautiful, dark Battleship Gray base (darker than in the photo) in excellent condition. The nameplate, like most WWII plates, appears to have some tarnishing.

This key comes with its original case. The leather handle is broken, and the metal parts have been painted black. The external fabric covering is in good condition, with only a couple of small dings at the back.

This belonged to Stephen Schmalzel, W8WGU, an active CW ham radio operator and sergeant in the Army, who likely bought it new. He was in charge of commmunications wherever he was assigned. That's a photo of his 1940s girlfriend inside the case cover. This key was acquired from his nephew. It is a nice key with known provenance; I have more information on the first owner of this key which will be passed on to the buyer.

Another view.
Nameplate.
Case, inside.

$229.00


#314MAG ... 1946 Lightning Bug.

This Deluxe model Lightning Bug with a D6 plate and 151702 serial number dates it to 1946. It has the ground pigtail (as do all the Deluxe models), and still has the old-style glass-bead upper pivot (the red "jewel" would not appear for a few years).

This is in good original condition, and works well. It should polish up nicely for your operating desk.

Another view.
Yet another...

$179.00


#714BPP ... 1947 Lightning Bug.

Vibroplex is known for experimentation and one-off keys occasionally found by collectors. It is also known for its colorful keys of the 1930s, those optionally colored red, blue and green-based keys, as well as the alligator or leather-finished keys sometimes found.

Is this green-crinkle finished Standard model Lightning Bug one of the company's experiments - or was it done by a previous owner? The color is over black, just as the 1930s colors were, except that here the bottom is in color also.

The D6 plate and 154638 serial number dates it to 1947. It is in very good condition, with a few small chips in the finish (see photos). Tested on my oscillator, it works well and would be an interesting addition to your operating desk -- especially if you are using vintage green (Heathkit?) equipment!

Nameplate and finish close-up.
Chips.
Bottom.

$139.00


#113BGG ... 1948 Lightning Bug.

This is a Standard model Lightning Bug with a D6 plate and 159xxx serial number dating it to 1948. Sometimes we aquire a key that is too nice not to get the dust off of, so I cleaned and oiled the base (with Outer's gun oil) and polished the nameplate. It really sparkles now. There is not one chip or scratch in the black crinkle base finish.

You may want to polish the chrome parts, and the worn paddle shows it has seen a lot of use... otherwise it is a beautiful vintage Lightning Bug for your vintage operating desk.

Another view.
Yet another...

SOLD


#1012TRY ... 1961 Left Handed Lightning Bug.

A nice left-handed Standard model Lightning Bug. The D6 plate and 219xxx serial number date it to 1961. This is in very good condition; there are no chips or scratches in the light gray base paint. This key is complete and original.

Another view.

SOLD


MARTIN JUNIOR


#1003TOY ... 1920 Martin Junior.
The Martin Junior was produced from 1921 to 1939, and the D1 nameplate came out in 1921, according to my book (Vibroplex Collector's Guide, 3rd edition, 2001, out of print). I may have to revise that, because the serial number on the D1 plate on this one - 803xx - dates it to 1920, according to Elwood's list! This is one of the lowest serial number Juniors that I am aware of. It shows age and use: One weight, poor knob, the gold pinstriping is very faint, there is a large chip in the finish at the front right corner, and the finish has craze cracks (seen in second photo). Includes a cord and wedge, which was used to attach the operator's personal bug to the company hand key on the operating desk.
Second photo
$235.00


#305TTY ... 1920 Martin Junior.
Another very early Junior, with serial number 806xx on a D1 plate, dating it to 1920. Very little of the gold pinstriping is left, it has one weight, and the dot contact on the pendulum is a later replacement. Otherwise all parts (including the knob and paddle) are original. Second photo
$235.00


#605TTT ... 1920 Martin Junior.
A very early Junior, with serial number 807xx on a D1 plate, dating it to 1920. None of the gold pinstriping is left. It has one weight. The dash lever is somewhat loose on the main lever (the bent lugs could be crimped tighter). The top pivot screw has been broken short. Otherwise all parts (including the knob and paddle) are original. Former owner's call and year (1922) on bottom. This Junior has the best action of any I've tried. Second photo
$195.00


#492TYY ... 1921 Martin Junior.
This is the nicest Junior I have had, it has been in my personal collection for twenty years. The D1 nameplate and 880xx serial number date it to 1922. The pinstriping is practically all present, and bright. The black base has only one tiny chip on the far left edge. It is complete and original with both weights. A light cleaning of the base will make this look practically new.

Another view.
Closer view.
Bottom view.

SOLD


#113CPR ... 1936 Martin Junior.
A very nice Junior -- This has a D3 nameplate and a 109xxx serial number, dating it to 1936. The black base has an unusual and very attractive matte finish (compare the shiny Japan finish on the 1921 #492TYY above).

The pinstriping appears 100% intact; this key is complete with all original parts and both weights. The paddle has a slight curve, possibly from years of (careful) use, and there is a 3/4" scrape in the finish on the left side but due to the matte finish is hardly noticeable.

Take a little time to clean and buff the upper plated parts and you will have a scarce vintage Vibroplex for show or operating.

Another view.
Top view.
Base showing pinstriping.

$325.00


ZEPHYR


Although the Zephyr was offered for almost twenty years -- from 1939 to 1958 -- it is one of the scarcer models. One noted collector acquired every Vibroplex model, and the Zephyr was the last one he found -- after the Upright and the Midget !! The Zephyr is similar to the Champion, with its flat pendulum and I-style damper, but it is on a narrower (3" wide) base and has a circuit closer.


#113TAL ... 1956 Zephyr.
Zephyr with D6 nameplate and 196xxx serial number dating it to 1956. This is in near-new condition with no defects. I have an identical model that I bought in 1956 (and still have !!) and the only difference I see is the washer under the weight screw -- mine is round while the one on this bug is rectangular. See the photos.

One of the nicest Zephyrs I have seen.

Another view.

SOLD


CHAMPION


The Champion is a nice "radio bug" (no circuit closer) for the CW operator. It is an excellent choice for the modern operator who wants a vintage bug on his operating desk, or for the collector's display shelf. This model has not been made by the company for over thirty years, and good examples are becoming scarce.

The Champion was the Company's basic, low-price bug; it was never offered in a deluxe version. The base was black crackle from its introduction in 1939 to about 1952, followed by gray crackle, then beige.

The Vibroplex Champion was also the bug of choice for the U.S. military after WWII. No longer did the Signal Corps J-36 have a special nameplate, and no longer did the Navy bugs have a base with cast-in "property of U.S. Navy." But they are identifiable as military bugs from the ink stamp on the bottom of the base. You can see these Champions on our U.S. military keys page -- look for them under J-36 keys, and under U.S. Navy keys.


#V410BOG ... 1944 Champion.
The D5 nameplate and 137332 serial number date this Champion to 1944. This is complete with all its original parts. The black crackle base finish is perfect; the nameplate is darkened with age (and may be suffering from the use of wartime materials). This is a great example of a WWII Champion.
Another view.

SOLD


#V908BPR ... 1952 Champion.
This is one of the last black-based Champions. The D6 nameplate and 178xxx serial number date it to 1952. It is all original and in excellent condition. I had to search for flaws, and only found a tiny chip at the back edge and one on the right front corner. It appears to have had very little use.

Another view.
Back view.

SOLD


#514MOG ... 1957 Champion.

The D6 nameplate and 197181 serial number dates this Champion to 1957. This is complete with all original parts; clean the contacts and it will make a nice vintage radio bug for your operating desk.

The base finish is in very good condition, though it needs cleaning; the nameplate is quite tarnished. That is tape residue on the upper pivot plate -- I cleaned most of it off after the photographs were taken.

Top view.
Bottom.

SOLD


#413CAH ... 1960 Champion.
A nice gray-based Champion. The D6 nameplate and 214xxx serial number date it to 1960. It is all original and in very good condition -- the front left corner of the base is rubbed, otherwise I found no flaws. It appears to have had very little use and no wonder: the connector straps under the base were incorrectly installed and I had to apply the Alabama Fix.

Another view.

$139.00


#514BGY ... 1963 Champion with box.

The D7 nameplate and 236444 serial number dates this Champion to 1963. There is some scuffing of the gray wrinkle finish on the left and right sides of the base, otherwise this Champion is in very good condition. A previous owner has added weight to the standard weight (nicely done) so this is a nice bug for you QRS operators. From the looks of the feet, paddle and knob, it has had little use.

This comes with the original box, which is in only fair condition.

Another view.
Box.
Box label.

SOLD


#613BGL ... 1964 military Champion.

This Signal Corps J-36 is a 1964 Champion, serial number 239217 with a D7 nameplate. It is from the same military contract as the key below, with the same bottom stamped numbers. This would be classified as a Signal Corps J-36.

This bug has a cracked thumb paddle. One foot and the pendulum dot contact are missing (parts are available from the Vibroplex Company). It is priced accordingly.
Bottom, mil stamp and missing foot.
Missing dot contact.
Paddle.

SOLD


#1213CGR ... 1964 military Champion.

This is the bug ordered and used by the military in the mid-1960s. It is a 1964 Champion, serial number 239228 with a D7 nameplate. The military part number stamped on the bottom is 1N 5805-312-2750; the contract number is N126-10052A (see the Vibroplex Collector's Guide, page 73). Vibroplex provided bugs to the Navy and to the Signal Corps after WWII; I believe this is a Signal Corps key, so would be classified as a J-36. While the military versions such as this are scarce, the only difference between the stock Champion model and the military verision is the stamp on the bottom.

This key is in excellent condition, perhaps never used: It still has the lever and upper pivot screw protective rubbers as shipped from the factory.
Another view.
Showing shipping rubbers.
Bottom mil stamp.

SOLD


#414MRY ... 1965 Champion.

This Champion may never have seen use -- the rubber shipping pads are still on the lever (see second photo). It has a D7 nameplate and 241790 serial number, dating it to 1965. The chrome needs polishing, there is a small chip or scrape on the right forward edge (second photo), and a pressure impression in the gray finish at the front left (main photo; it may not show well). These are minor flaws and overall this is a very nice collectible Champion.

Right side, showing chip.

$145.00 (S&H = $12.00)


#413BRH ... 1968 Champion.

A decent gray-based Champion that need only cleaning of the base. The D7 nameplate and 257xxx serial number date it to 1968. It is all original and in good condition -- the front right corner of the base is has a few imperfections (see second photo).

Another view.

$139.00


#1213DRG ... Unusual 1976 Champion.

This gray-based Champion has a D7 nameplate and 378870 serial number, dating it to 1976. Note the location of the nameplate; it is the only one placed like that on a Champion that I can recall. Also note that the hot wire terminal is the one closest to the damper; again, an unusual position.

It is all original and in good condition -- but it needs cleaning, especially of the chrome parts (note where I have cleaned a spot on the upper pivot plate). It works well, though it would operate more consistently if you clean the dash contacts. If you collect factory oddities, you should consider this one.

$149.00


#697-284 ... 1979 Left-handed Champion.
This is an early Maine Vibroplex. It has the short-lived beige base, and the late D7 nameplate (388xxx serial number) glued to the base. Peter Garsoe, the new owner of the Company, used up the last of the New York plates before making new (D8 style) plates. And this is a rare left-handed Champion! It is in excellent condition, and has never been used since leaving the factory.

Another view.

SOLD


PADDLES


#514BGL ... 1982 Maine Iambic.

This Iambic (two-lever) paddle has a 42905 serial number on a D8 nameplate, indicating it was made in Maine in the early 1980s. It is a standard model with the factory upgraded jeweled-bearing pivots, and has a light gray painted base.

This paddle is in excellent condition needing only a light cleaning of the chrome parts to make it look brand new.

Nameplate.

$112.00


#114CLG ... 1966 Vibrokeyer.

Despite the beige painted base, this appears to be an early Deluxe: It has the jeweled bearings and the ground pigtal to the main lever. The serial number is 245476 on a type D7 nameplate.

There are a few small chips in the base finish, the red button ("jewel") is missing from the top of the pivot frame, and the knob and paddle are no the originals. This is a good single-lever paddle for those who do not like the iambic type

Another view.

SOLD


ACCESSORIES AND PARTS ... cases, cord and wedge, anything else.


#VARISPEED1009 ... Vari-Speed adapter.

Here is an infinitely variable speed adapter for the Vibroplex round-pendulum bugs (Original, Blue Racer, etc). I believe this one was offered by Vibroplex some time ago, though they do not offer them today. Slip this on the pendulum, clamp it in place by the small allen-head screw, and place the weight on its arm. By adjusting the arm back or forth you can vary the speed of your bug a lot more than with the weight on the pendulum.

Offered is the vari-speed only, not the weight or bug shown. Excellent condition.

Another view.

SOLD


VIBROPLEX BUG CASES

Bug cases can be as scarce and collectible as the bugs themselves. They have varied in size, construction, lock and key, and handle style from 1905 to the present. (At right, a 1905 Vibroplex case.) Handles have been a metal loop (1905), leather, and plastic.

Lock types have been basic clasps (1905, see right), fancy center-pin or barrel key locks (1915, see below), simple pre-WWII center-pin (barrel key) locks (click here), and post-WWII flat key locks. The flat keys can be found in a couple different styles.

This appears to be the second variation of the case: It has a metal loop handle (although slightly different in design than the one above - possibly a cost-saving change), but the major change is the center-pin lock (for a barrel key). The lock on tis case is stamped Eagle Lock Co.

These early cases have large, exposed hinges, as compared to the smaller, semi-hidden hinges on later cases. Also, the inside of these cases is not finished with felt like later ones.

A note on the hinges: First, there were two large hinges attached to the back of the case with the wings exposed, and three screws in each wing. The second had similar hinges but the wings were attached with two rivets. Third was one 2-1/2" long hinge, attached to the edges of the case and top with three screws on each wing. Finally, two 1" wide hinges were used, with the wings attached to the exterior of the case and top but covered by the finish material.

This large bug carrying was obtained by Fabio, IK0IXI, in 2012. It contained a nickel-plated Original dating to 1915 (B4 plate). It has an Eagle center-pin lock, which takes a barrel key. Scarce, but nothing too unusual so far... But note the latch: You have to push the bottom button to the right so that the latch can be opened. Little tabs on either side block the latch until the lower button is pushed.

Another view of this lock.

I found this on the internet... It came with a 1940 Original Standard model Vibroplex. Another unusual case lock. Click on the photo for a larger view.

The 1915 and 1940 case latches above are suspect, because they are attached by screws. All other original case locks (sometimes called a "locking catch" by the manufacturer) are normally riveted to the case. But if they are replacements, they likely represent an owner's attempt to protect his key with a better lock of the era.

What looks like a half-mortise lock was seen on a 1924 case; the case also had the single 2-1/2" hinge. Another view. This may have been a brief experiment by Vibroplex, abandoned due to the cost of the lock or expense of installation. I have included it in the list below.

This is an interesting top-lid case found with a 1940 Vibroplex. It has a leather handle and barrel-key lock. I do not know if it was sold by Vibroplex.

In addition to the handle and lock, the cases differ in the interior treatment. The chronology below includes what I have seen in this regard.

VIBROPLEX CASE CHRONOLOGY Based on cases I have seen, this is the design sequence of the end-opening cases, used for over half a century. Years are based on the serial number of the key found in the case; I have included only those cases which appear to be original to the key found within.
This list is a work in progress. The sequential numbers are not "case type" numbers since they are subject to change as I update the list and perhaps interlineate other variations found. The list is based on keys found in cases. Since an early bug may be found in a later case, or vice-versa, there may be some overlap or inconsistencies; these will be eliminated when a sufficient number of examples have been examined.

Early cases have hinges with fancy, exposed wings, and a metal loop handle.
1. Metal loop handle, latch closure, two large hinges with exposed wings attached by screws (1905, 1907, 1920; unfinished wood interior) The 1920 latch is upside down, a replacement?
2. Metal loop handle, barrel key lock, two large hinges with exposed wings riveted to case (unfinished wood interior)
Later cases have rectangular hinges with the wing(s) concealed under the case cover, and a leather handle.
3. Leather handle, one 2-1/2" hinge, barrel key lock (1920, 1923, 1926, 1927, 1936 black felt interior, 1944 felt missing)
4. Leather handle, two 1" hinges, barrel key lock (1944, 1945 tan felt interior)
5. Leather handle, two 1" hinges, flat key lock (1946, 1946, 1947 tan interior)
6. Leather handle, two 1" hinges, flat key lock (1948, 1951, 1961, 1963, 1967 green felt interior)
7. Plastic handle, flat key lock (Began 1963? -- The last of the end-opening cases.)
Then followed the modern top-opening case with plastic handle and foam-padded interior......

Some of the various case styles can be seen below.


Be aware of bug case sizes. The large base modern Vibroplex bugs (those with thick conical feet found on bugs with D7 plate, 1966 up) may not fit in vintage cases; the hold-down bars inside the older cases are not high enough to accomodate those keys.
Also, the older cases may not accomodate some very wide bugs. I have found that some WWII era Originals are slightly wider than 3-1/2 inches; a 3-9/16 wide bug is too wide for some cases.
Finally, some older large cases may not accomodate newer bugs due to length: A newer Original with the oval paddle may be 1/8 inch longer than an old Lightning Bug, just a bit too long for some older cases.

If you have a concern, let me know what case you are interested in, and what year and model bug you propose to put in it, and I will try to check the fit.


CASES FOR SALE
USA Shipping of any case is $12.00
Date (if any) of case is usually inferred from a bug found in it.


#114CCB ... Second variation carrying case.

I date this style of bug case (metal loop handle, center-pin lock) to appearing next after the 1905 case -- perhaps around 1907 - 1910. This is similar to the first case but it adds the security of an Eagle Lock Company barrel-key lock, and to prevent tampering the hinges are attached by rivets instead of screws.

There is wear on the front corners and edge; the back shows the greatest damage, and would benefit from repair in that area. Inside, it is missing the wooden restraining strips. See the photos. As with the 1905 case, this second variation is rare.

Hinges
Back view
Another view
Bottom at back
View inside

$125.00


#114MEG ... 1930s large bug carrying case.
Made for the 3-1/2" wide based bugs (Original, Lightning Bug, etc), this case dates to 1936; it has a barrel-key lock, a single wide hinge, and a black interior.

The lower cover corners, and three rear corners, are scuffed to the wood. The leather handle is broken. It has been stenciled on two sides and the back, as seen in the photos. Other than the scuffed corners, the covering is in very good condition, as is the finish on the lock.

Another view

$59.00

#VCASE208TTA ... Large bug carrying case.
Made for the 3-1/2" wide based bugs (Original, Lightning Bug, etc), this case has a tan interior. This case is in very good used condition and includes the key. Note that this has a center-pin lock (uses a barrel key) rather than the later flat-key lock.

There is some wrinkling at the bottom of the interior felt, and the patina on the lock shows its age. The handle is intact and there is no damage to the exterior; it needs only cleaning.

Key and lock

SOLD


#114BLY ... 1951 large bug carrying case.

This case has a green felt interior, flat metal tack-type feet, and a flat-key type lock.

The leather handle shows wear of the black finish; The lock has some rust; a hole is worn in the cover (though not through the inner felt; and the covering is rubbed off of one edge on the back.

Inside
Corner
Rear edge
Bottom

$49.00


CORD and WEDGE


The cord-and-wedge was used by railroad and Western Union telegraphers years ago to connect their personal bug to the company hand key on the operating table. The wedge end would be slipped between the base and connector strip of the hand key. A typical item (shown at right) has the old style cloth covered wires with integral stay-cord which was tied to one of the bug's wire terminals to prevent strain on the wires.

Very early (and occasionally later) Vibroplex C&Ws had no maker identification on them. But most Vibroplex wedges you will find do have the company name and address stamped on one or both brass leafs - as seen in this example. A wedge having an address that matches the nameplate on your key is a nice accessory.

Vibroplex-marked C&Ws we have are listed here. For those with no name, or another brand (especially Western Union) stamped on the leafs, see the main for sale page.

U.S. Shipping of a single cord is $3.50; no added shipping charge if ordered with a key.


#CWV314 ... 833 Broadway cord and wedge.
Both wedge leafs are stamped with the 833 Broadway N.Y. address. While this particular C&W actually dates to 1944, it would be appropriate for a bug with a D5, D6 or D7 (1941 - 1979) nameplate.

833 Broadway cords are scarce. One terminal is missing part (see photo) but they attach to the bug wire terminals fine. Otherwise this cord and wedge is in very good original condition.

Address on wedge
Terminals

SOLD


#114MTY ... 796 Fulton Street, Brooklyn cord and wedge.
Both wedge leafs are stamped with the Fulton Street address. This would go nicely on a bug with the D3 or D4 Fulton Street nameplate (1925 - 1940). Red ferrule, black cloth cord cover. The stay cord is short (1") and the brass leafs need polishing, otherwise this is in very good condition.

$25.00


#CW614BTE ... 796 Fulton Street, Brooklyn cord and wedge.
This dates to 1940 but would be appropriate for a 1925 - 1940 bug. It is in excellent unused condition, address on both leafs, light patina on leafs. (No photo.)

$39.00