Based on Is it possible to export a GPG subkey's public component? I got familiar with:

gpg --keyid-format long --with-fingerprint --list-key {e-mail}
gpg --export --armor --output public-key.asc 633DBBC0! # for ssb1


gpg --export-options export-minimal {key-id}

I also found the following which I added to my gpg.conf.

list-options show-unusable-subkeys

In the context of a Yubikey, I sometimes need to transfer public key components to a new key ring on a new system in order to decrypt an old file. For some reason gpg --card-status is not enough to get the ball rolling. Gpg will keep reporting that no key exist to decrypt the file. After importing the public key component, it works. I read somewhere on Stack that "the yubikey has not enough data on it to recontruct the public key component." (Might add source later).

However, I don't want to export all old subkeys (hence keyid!), only a select few and I don't want to export any signatures (hence export-minimal).

So this is what I tried, but did not result in a desired result:

gpg --armor --export --export-options export-minimal {subkeyid1}! {subkeyid2!}
gpg --armor --export --export-options export-minimal {subkeyid1}!
gpg --armor --export --export-options export-minimal {subkeyid2}!

If I pick one {subkeyx}!, the output is the same. The combination of export-minimal and pointing to a subkey is not working as far as I can tell. I don't know of any switch I can put in front of keyid, do you?

Then I tried the following and merged them later:

gpg --armor --export --output file1.asc {subkeyid1}!
gpg --armor --export --output file2.asc {subkeyid2}!

But these public key components contain unwanted signatures (and their primary key public part and uid which is acceptable).

I used gpg --armor --export {subkeyid2}! | gpg for reading the output. If I do this with unexpired subkeys, I get an expected result of keys, but if I do this with expired subkeys, the subkey is not listed.

The question: So, how do I export two expired subkeys's public key components without any signatures?

(Sidenote; meta question; alternative route):

One beauty of a yubikey is facilitating the portability of private key material. I don't want to use a public keyserver for the public key material. If anyone has any ideas what can facilitate the public key portability, I am all ears.

gpg --card-status delivers:

General key info..: sub {rsaX/eccX}/{keyid} {date} {name} {address}
sec# {rsaX/eccX}/{keyid} {created date} {expires date}
ssb> {rsaX/eccX}/{subkeyid1} {created date} {expires date}
card-no: {nr}
ssb> {rsaX/eccX}/{subkeyid2} {created date} {expires date}
card-no: {nr}

And as we now from gpg -k and gpg -K. 'sub' means public subkey; 'ssb' means private subkey and the '>' indicator means material is on smartcard. So this all seems to confirm the public material is not on the card.

Could I put public keys on a backup slot on the Yubikey? How do you get a copy out later?

1 Answer 1


While not explicitly stated, apparently --export-minimal drops expired subkeys, which make sense.

The option you need is probably self-sigs-only. However, that is a filter only for import. We would need to use an intermediate keyring for that

TEMPORARY_KEYRING=`mktemp -d --tmpdir`
gpg --armor --export keyid | GNUPGHOME="$TEMPORARY_KEYRING" gpg --import --import-options self-sigs-only

# We can check it imported what you wanted with
GNUPGHOME="$TEMPORARY_KEYRING" gpg --list-keys --list-options show-unusable-subkeys

# Then you simply export it
GNUPGHOME="$TEMPORARY_KEYRING" gpg --armor --export

Other options include:

  • Faking the current time:
faketime 'time-when-subkey-was-valid' gpg --armor --export --export-options export-minimal subkeyid
  • Manually fetching the required pieces
gpg --export keyid | gpgsplit

# Manually inspect the created files and remove all the .sig not from your own master key
# Generate the new key file with just the bits you want
cat 00* > mykey.gpg

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