The 1997 AWA Conference and Key Collecting

Each September the Antique Wireless Association holds its annual conference in Rochester, New York. The AWA is an organization devoted to the study of the history of pioneer electrical communiation including wireless, radio, television, and of course TELEGRAPH ! Members of the AWA not only study the history of communication, they collect its artifacts. In fact, the main attraction of the conference is its flea markets and auctions. Of interest to key collectors is the "Key and Telegraph" meeting in which several presentations are given on the history of telegraph instruments. This is usually an hour and a half long session. The presenters typically bring slides. Here is a summary of the last three conference presentations (this is from memory, so please send me a note if I forgot anything).
1994
Larry Nutting- Early telegraph key patents
Tom Perera- Adventures in Key Collecting
Joe Jacobs- The Bunnell Company

1995
Tom French- Military Keys
Gil Schleman- Bugs (what did you expect)
Roger Reinke- Pocket sets
Bill Holly- Telegraphic Ephemera

1996
Tom Perera- European Key Collecting Adventures, The Smithsonian, Underwater Telegraphic Archeology
Tom French- Keyer Paddles and Electronic Keyers
Pete Malvasi- Early Radio and Wireless Keys

Preliminary Agenda for the 1997 "Key and Telegraph" Session

Tom French- Bugs Pete Malvasi- Bunnell's Instruments Greg Raven- Introduction to Landline Morse
Read a summary of the 1996 Conference

The "Key and Telegraph" session is reason enough for the serious key collector to attend the AWA conference. But what other features will interest the key collector ?

The Fleamarket and Auction-- Realistic Expectations

Many key collectors attend the AWA meet hoping to find that rare key or bug. Well, I am here to tell you not to get overly enthusiastic. The competition is FIERCE. Pretty much every serious key collector in the country will be there sweeping the fleamarket before the sun comes up. Probably a few from Europe are lurking about as well. I don't recall seeing a single decent bug in the three days of the fleamarket. That does not mean they were not there; it simply means they were probably snapped up before I arrived on the scene. Think of it as a feeding frenzy of sharks with a limited food supply. The general auction usually has a few choice telegraph items. Unless you have deep pockets, you can forget about winning any of the choice items. Winning bids tend to be far in excess of what you would pay at a hamfest or antique flea market. It is still worthwhile to attend though, as the bidding process is quite entertaining.


Bruce Kelley operates the big spark transmitter in the AWA Museum.

What Else is There to Interest the Key Collector ?

You can visit the AWA museum which has an outstanding collection of keys. If you are real lucky, you will get an opportunity to visit the annex and see the Lou Moreau key collection. You will see lots of keys you can not afford in the flea market. At least you can learn something about them. Also, some people bring their collections to the flea market. One collection is virtually a portable museum, and it contains many fascinating keys and telegraph instruments. It is an opportunity to discuss key collecting with some of the best known authorities on key collecting in the country. If you like to talk about keys and collecting with fellow collectors, this is the place to do it.

Visit the AWA !

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