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Antique Safes/History and value ?


Milners Safe
Milners Safe  

We have had a Milners Safe in the family for some time and have often queried its background   see attached photo

The dementions are 670mmD x 750mmW x 1425mm H

We have two keys and the lock fuctions perfectly

Any info would be great



Hello Bradley,

Milner's was one of the world's most prolific safe makers.  The company was founded by Thomas Milner, a tinsmith who, having served his apprentiship in his fatherís factory, began making safes in Sheffield at the turn of the 19th century.  In 1830 he moved to Liverpool and established Thomas Miner & Son in partnership with his son, William.  In 1874 the name was changed to Milner's Safe Company and continued under this name until the amalgamation with Chatwood in 1956 to become Chatwood-Milner.  They were in turn acquired by Chubb in the late 1960's.

This safe will date back to the late 1890's or early 1900's and by 1920 would have been considered obsolete.  You will notice the number 212 on the brass plate.  212 degrees F is the boiling point of water.  The body is filled with a mixture of sand, sawdust and alum crystals.  When alum is heated it converts most of its bulk to moisture, damping down the sand and sawdust.  The interior temperature of the safe will not exceed 212F until all the moisture is driven off.  Paper documents remain undamaged at this temperature but over the years the fill will have compacted leaving large voids in through which heat would now be quickly transferred.

The safe is particularly vulnerable to attack through the rear panel and therefore is not suitable for the storeage of cash or valuables.

In the UK these ancient safes have very little value and dealers in refurbished safes would have little interest and usually scrap them.  However, there are collectors who like to refurbish them to a high standard and sell them on as antiques.  I have no idea what values would be like in Australia but it would be worth keeping an eye on eBay were Victorian safes are alwasy being sold.  You can get a feel for prices if you watch for a few days.

I hope you find this useful.


Mike Palmer FSyI
Mike Palmer Consultancy  

Antique Safes

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Mike Palmer


I earn my living identifying safes and suggesting cash limits for risk advisors and insurance surveyors in the UK. I'm am pleased to comment on safes manufactured in the UK or Mainland Europe but I am unable to accept questions regarding safes made in the USA or elsewhere.


I have been in the UK safe industry for 40 years and have one of the largest archive databases of old safe literature and serial numbers in the country. I started with Chubb in 1960 and became Assistant Manager of their Bank Security Division before moving on to become the Insurance Liaison Manager with the John Tann Group. I became Sales & Marketing Director for Guardian Safes Limited before semi-retiring. I am a Fellow of the Security Institute and ex-Chairman of Eurosafe UK, a trade body representing the interests of UK safe makers and distributors. I now work as a part time consultant.

I am an advisor to the Safe Committee of the Association of Insurance Surveyors, a Fellow of the Security Institute and founding Chairman of Eurosafe UK.

I have had literally scores of articles published in various security trade publications. So far this year I have had 24 features published in various journals including Keyways, Professional Security, Pawnbroker and Safe India. I have published one book, Peckham Boy, the life and times of the world's greatest safe cracker.

No relevant educational credentials.

Awards and Honors
In 1997 I was awarded the annual shield by the Association of Insurance Surveyors for "..outstanding services to crime prevention"

Past/Present Clients
I have represented or been an agent for the John Tann Group (Stratford, Ratner, Dreadnought and Tann safes); Churchill Safes, Chubb Safe Co Ltd, SLS Safes, SMP Safes, Dudley Safes and several others

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