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Antique Safes/Miller Safe & Iron Works safe

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QUESTION: Hi,

I'm working with a museum collection, and we have a Miller Safe & Iron Works safe, from I'm guessing somewhere around the turn of the century (which is a wild guestimate). It's unlocked, thankfully, though I can't figure out if it's working or not, since it doesn't seem to lock (at least not by just spinning the knobs). It has a plate that says it's fitted with a Sargent and Greenleaf #4 timelock, but what's under the lock plates doesn't fit the pictures I've found of that kind of lock.

It's painted, and it's actually kind of gorgeous, but I have no information on it beyond that it was donated to our museum in the 1980's.

ANSWER: Jean,

Basic History:
Miller Safe & Iron Works, Baltimore, MD (1870-1915).   Sucessor to the L.H. Miller - Baltimore Fire Proof Safe Company, Baltimore, MD (1859-1889) (appears to have overlapping dates between the two companies, though I'm unsure when the name change "actually" occured).
L. (Luke) H. Miller, began working for his father in the 1850's in Providence, Rhode Island, learning the safe making trade, under the name E.F. Miller & Son's.  He left Rhode Island in the late 1850's to move to Baltimore, where he began his own company.

The safe in the photo that you have provided appears to be what we would term a "bankers" type safe, which was made out of much thicker steel plate, than the standard "fire resistive, cast iron" type safes which were the standard at the time.  Your safe does appear to be later 1800's, but I would need much better photos to come up with any conclusions.

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.   Also, please don’t use on line photo drops as most of these also don’t allow me to easily access the photos for examination.   Send the pics directly to me, while this may be more work for you, it will make my job easier.

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.



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.   Also, please don’t use on line photo drops as most of these also don’t allow me to easily access the photos for examination.   Send the pics directly to me, while this may be more work for you, it will make my job easier.

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.


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

QUESTION: I've sent the photos. They're from our point-and-shoot, I can bring an actual good camera in tomorrow.

The only information we have on the safe is a photo of it being moved out of an unidentified modern bank vault sometime in the 1980's, going by the clothes people are wearing. There was a bank in our city which started in 1891, and was later merged with another bank in 1958, becoming a branch of a chain in 1960. It's possible it was tied to that bank, somehow, but we don't have that information.


We don't need a formal evaluation or appraisal, we're just hoping to find out some basic information so we can use it for something a little more educational than its current use as a really impressive and imobile table.

It's unlocked, thankfully, but we can't tell if the lock actually works at all. Spinning the knobs spins the disks inside the locks, but the bars have never moved. We might just be doing it entirely wrong.


Thank you so much!

Answer
Jean,

The locks have to be unlocked (both) for the bars (bolt work) to retract.   I would recommend having it serviced and the combinations recovered if you plan on closing the door.   I was surprised to see that the time lock is missing and a cover has been installed over what appears to be a "dressed up plank".   However if the safe is just for display, I guess it would be alright.

I'm still looking through old photos, as I don't recall this company having made any bankers type safes, so I'm wondering if it wasn't made by another company and simply relabeled by Miller.

I will still need all of the requested photos, so that I can accurately ID the safe, regardless of if you need an evaluation.

Hope you have a great New Years weekend.

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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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