In 1946, the year's production count still included the famous "Lightning Bug" derived J-36 military speed key built by Vibroplex. (Other firms, including Lionel, made J-36s, too.) All told, the company made over 4200 bugs that year, but only a fraction of that number were Blue Racers -- and only a fraction of those were all-chrome "De Luxe" models like my recent purchase.
In fact, from 1943 to '45, you couldn't even get a De Luxe with a chromed base: as a war measure, Vibroplex used battleship gray paint instead. It wasn't only Technicolor red that went to war.
By '46, chrome was back:And how! This is an early version of the De Luxe, with a conventional-looking upper pivot screw and jam nut, but that's a jeweled bearing and there another one for the lower pivot. The cord and wedge, properly tied off at the binding posts, is a nice touch and marks this key as likely to have been originally owned by a professional telegrapher -- the wedge allows the key the "plug in" to the employer-provided straight key (screwed down to the operating table) without making any modifications or disconnecting any wires. (Landline telegraphy is a series system: unhook any part of it and the whole line is out of service; so they tended to frown on it.)
The owner took care to mark the carrying case......Which isn't the official Vibroplex version, but a cut-down cheese box from a well-known cheesemonger!*
Price? $150, a fair deal for a key of this age, condition and with the cord and wedge.
* At last, a chance to use the word in a non-pejorative sense!