I have always admired fine craftsmanship. Even before I earned my Novice license in 1975, I collected keys. My collection at its high point had about two dozen keys and a sounder. Except for the three keys and the sounder, below, I had to sell my collection, and the rest of my gear to pay for my education. What is pictured below is what I have left.
I collected keys I wanted to use rather than to collect an example of everything made. I am not interested in discussing "value." I love great craftsmanship. I am not out to make a buck.
Above is my Novice station. This is the only surviving photo that has a picture of my first key, the Philmore J-30 Straight Key. This was not a great key. It was mass produced. It was actually cheaply made. You could not adjust this key and have it stay that way. It would go out of adjustment in mid-QSO.
I could not do anything about the how poorly the Philmore J-38 was made. But I did make a real fine base for it. I got a piece of scrap mahogony. At school he had some wood workign tools at electric shop so I cut a based for the J-38. I finely sanded the base for months ad finished it. I guess the base was the only thing I could do to compensate for the key.
I prefer a paddle over a bug. Do not ask me why. Why is not important to me in this case. To me a key is a very personal tool. One wears it in and adjusts it just so. It sort of like worn shoes. We have a unique wear pattern. Yes, I hate it when someone adjusts my keys, even more sho when I get my car back from the mechanic and they had altered my car stereo presets. From trial and error I determined that I am a paddle or straight key operator and that is that.
I read in the newspaper that the woman Julia Roberts played and won an Oscar for, Erin Brockvich, in real life was such a cloth horse, she changed her cloths 4-5 times a day. Well, I am that way with keys. It is not uncommon for me to change keys a few times during a QSO.