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Antique Safes/help identify age and combination

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QUESTION: i have a mosler safe handle number 123096 patent dates on knob are 9-7-1880, 10-2-1880, 7-19-1880, 3-4-1884, 3-11-1884, measures 26 inches deep, 32 inches wide, total height including wheels is approx. 54 inches i am trying to establish an approx. date of manufacture, and how to obtain the combination, any help you could give would be greatly appreciated.

ANSWER: Don,

The dates on the safe are "patent dates" and have nothing to do with a manufacturing date other than you know it couldn't have been before the latest date - in this case 3-11-1884.

Based on the serial number, your safe would have been built between 1895-1897, so it is an antique safe (over 100 years old).

As Mosler has been out of business now, for almost 12 years, contacting them to do a search of their records is pretty much out of the question.  Also as manufacturers NEVER publish records of serial numbers or combinations, for obvious security and liability reasons, this info is not available.

This leaves you with two options.   You can try all of the possibly over 1,000,000 combinations or you can have a safe technician from a local safe company open the safe and recover the combination for you.   If the safe is already open, this will be an easy task for him.
NOTE:   I never recommend using locksmiths for safe work, as they generally don't have the training, knowledge or tools to work on safes without causing excessive damage.

If you don't have a local safe company, let me know where you are located (zipcode), and I'll see who I know in your area.

---------- FOLLOW-UP ----------

QUESTION: Andy Thanks for helping me date this safe. I have started leaning cthis safe, And much to my suprise under old black spray paint I found much of the gold lettering and stripeing.I also found A beautiful hand painted landscape scene in remarkable condition especally to be as old as it is and to have been covered in black spray paint.I dont know if this makes this safe any more valuable or rarer but is sure makes it more beautiful.I purchased it from an estate auction and only paid $150.00 so I certainly dont think I went wrong. The guy I purhased it from said he had opened it years ago but had forgot the ombonation.He gave me the numbers and said one number he was 100% sure it was right and another number that he was 99% sure of and two other numbers he thought was right. I know a guy that is a locksmith that is going to look at it and says if the numbers are close to correct he thinks he can open it.He said if not he would have to drill 1 1/4 hole. I would rather not it be Molested would there be any other way to do this without having a hole drilled in it. I know he has done a good bit of safe work but hes not a safe expert. Any more information you could give as to the art and the opening of this safe would be greatly appreciated. Thanks Don Thomas.

Answer
Don,

If you watch the Antiques Roadshow, and/or shows like Pawn Stars, it never ceases to amaze me when someone has something old, the "rare" word always seems to come out.   As Mosler made close to 1/2 million safes between 1874 to 1945, there is hardly a "rare" Mosler safe.   While your safe may be "unique" and/or desireable, it is not rare.

As to the pin stripping, lettering and art work, yes restoration WILL improve its value.   How much will be determined by the restoration work.   As far as its current value, I would be happy to look at it after you have it opened.   Locked up, it basically has a negative value.

WARNING:   I NEVER recommend using locksmiths for safe work as they generally DO NOT have the training, knowledge or correct tools to work on safes without causing excessive damage.   Anyone that would indicate that they MIGHT have to drill a 1-1/4" hole DEFINITILY falls into the category of not knowing what they are doing, REGARDLESS of how much safe work they indicate they have done.  As your safe IS an antique, doing any damage to the safe (like drilling a 1-1/4" hole), damaging the lock or bolt work in any manner WILL cause significant damage to the value of the safe.
While drilling a safe is a perfectly acceptable way of opening a safe - IF DONE CORRECTLY - it is also a way to ruin the safe, if done INCORRECTLY!!!!   If one of my apprenticies drilled a hole large than 3/8" to open a safe, I would be kicking their butts.   Generally when we drill it is with a 1/8" to 1/4" hole.
RECOMMENDATION:   Find a Safe Technician from a local safe company, NOT a locksmith.

Once the safe is opened, I would be happy to take a look at your safe.  In order to answer specific questions, identify, evaluate or appraise your safe, I'm going to need photos.  They should include full exterior and interior.  Detail photos should include pictures of the dial, handles, hinges, artwork, locks, bolt work, castors, cabinetry and any special details or damage.  Note:  You may have to remove the back panel on the door to gain access to the lock & bolt work – I will need these pics.
    
If you have a particular detail that you have a question about, I will need a photo of it along with your question.

I will also need to see any documentation that you have in regards to your safe.  If your safe has a unique historical perspective, you should be able to document this with letters, newspaper articles or photos, if not it is simply a story and will have no bearing on the value of your safe.

Please use as high a resolution as possible so that I can examine details of your safe.  Pictures which are low resolution, out of focus, or from a distance don’t help when we try to evaluate the container.  Note:  with higher resolution, you may only be able to send 2-4 pictures per email, depending on the size of the file, I have a 10mb limit per email.  If photos are larger than 2mb each, you may only be able to send 2 or 3 photos per email, requiring several emails.  Please don’t send me “cell phone” photos.

Please send all of the requested photos to:  andy@securitysafeusa.com

Note:  As I am in the field several days each week, covering a huge service area, I may not get back to your photos immediately, but I will respond as soon as I get an opportunity.  Due to field work, emails may tend to get backed up which means I may not answer them immediately.

Our informal evaluation is at no charge, however if you feel you need a formal evaluation or appraisal for insurance, estate sales, donations for tax write offs, or to establish it as an antique, there is an administrative fee for this service.  

Antique Safes

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Terry V. Andreasen (Andy)

Expertise

Safe and Vault related Questions; Antique Safe Repair and Restoration; With over 44 years in the Safe & Vault industry, if I can't answer your question I know where to get the answer. Current Project: Restoration of an Ely Norris Cannonball Safe from the early 1900's. Will answer Safe & Vault related questions concerning age, value, restoration, moving, opening & repairing, parts, operation and history. Note: It is not my intention to teach you to open safes or to provide information which may aid in the unlawful opening of a safe. I will not give out drill points or information which I deem inappropriate.

Experience

44 years in the Safe & Vault Industry. Owner and Service Manager for one of the largest Safe & Vault companies on the West Coast. Graduate of Lockmasters Safe Lock Servicing, Safe lock Manipulation and Safe Deposit Lock Courses. Graduate of Locksmith Institute. Author of "The Coffee Table Guide to Antique Safes". Certified Instructor for the California Locksmith Association teaching Basic and Advanced Lock Servicing, Basic Safe opening and Repairing. Factory Trained by AMSEC, LORD Safes, LeFebure, Mosler, KabaMas, LaGard and Sargent & Greenleaf

Organizations
Safecrackers International and the National Antique Safe Association Safe & Vault Technicians Association

Publications
The Coffee Table Guide to Antique Safes AllExperts.com

Education/Credentials
Graduate of Locksmith Institute 1972 Graduate Lockmasters Safe Lock Servicing 1974 Graduate Lockmasters Safe Lock Manipulation 1975 Graduate Lockmasters Safe Deposit Lock Servicing 1985 Instructor Certified - California Locksmith Association - 1985 Factory trained by AMSEC, MAJOR, STAR, Johnson-Pacific, Kaba-MAS, Allied-Gary, ISM, Lord, Brown Safe, EXL, Mosler, Diebold.

Awards and Honors
2009 - 2015 Listed in AllExperts top 50 Experts. All Experts Categories - Safes & Security Containers, Locksmithing, Antique Safes. Retired US Army Chief Warrant Officer (CW4), with 39 years of total service. With numerous awards from Vietnam, Desert Storm and Operation Iraqi Freedom. US Navy - 1971-1981 US Army Reserve 1984-2013 US Army Retired

Past/Present Clients
US Secret Service, FBI, BATF, Local Law enforcment agencies, Diebold, Hamilton Pacific, Red Hawk Int., Chubb International, Bank of America, Wells Fargo Bank, Mechanics Bank, El Dorado Savings Bank, many Credit unions and smaller banks. McDonalds, Togos, BurgerKing, TacoBell, Carls Jr. FoodMaxx, SaveMart, Lucky's, Albertson's, Raley's, Safeway, NobHill, Bell Markets, PW Markets. Great America, Century Theatres, Cinemark Theatres, UA Cinemas, and many homeowners and small businesses. Provide warranty service for lock and safe manufactures. Service area is Northern California - Fresno to Oregon, including western Nevada

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