You are here:

Antique Safes/Old Safe Identification


I'm wondering if you might be able to help me finally get some info on our old safe.  When I goggled the name on the front, about the only thing that comes up is a response that you wrote on 2/28/11.  Other than that I really haven't been able to find anything about it.  I have attached a photo.  It measures approx. 18W x 29T x 22D and says American Steel Safe Co on the front.  It has a Yale dial, and the handle has what I assume to be a serial number.  The number is in this configuration:
And, oh by the way, its locked and we have no idea what's in it.
Any info you have would help settle some of our curiosity and be greatly appreciated.


All of my research indicates that this particular company was simply a distributor and NOT an actual manufacturer.   Every safe that I have seen was actually made by another company - the same is true with your safe.  

Your safe appears to be from the "SCHWAB Safe Company" (1872-2008).   

There appears to have been possibly two companies which used the name American Steel Safe Co.   The first was in Boston, MA during the 1870's through the early 1880's and the second was in Missouri from 1911 until sometime in the 1920's.   It is this second company that falls in line with your safe.

Based on other similar safes, the lock that I would "expect" to find installed on this safe, would be a Yale OB series lock.   This type lock came in both 3 and 4 wheel locks, though for this type of safe, I would expect it to have the 3 wheel lock.    With a 100 number dial, this gives you the possibility of 1,000,000 possible combinations.

As far as the safe being locked up - in "general", people do not abandon safes with "stuff" locked up inside - EVER!    The only exception to this rule would be deaths in the family, or if it was found in a storage rental unit.   So if you are interested in having the safe open, I would recommend that you do it with the idea that you have an interesting collectible, that you plan on having as a display item.    If you DO find something in side, then that is the bonus.

As you have no combination for this container, you basically have two options.   First, you can try all of the possible combinations until you find the correct one.   Again, assuming that this container only has a 3 wheel lock - dialing 500 combinations every day would only take about 5.5 years to test them all.   If the lock is a 4 wheel lock, this could take 550 years!    Talk about a family project - 6 or 7 generations down the road might still be working on it!

Your second option would be to contact a local SAFE company to have their trained safe technician open the safe, recover the combination and show you how to use it.    
NOTE:   I NEVER recommend using locksmiths for safe work, as the generally do NOT have the training, knowledge or tools to work on safes without causing excessive damage or charging exhorbant fees.    Cost to have this container opened and operational WITHOUT doing damage to it or the lock should be around $350 to $500.    As lock parts are fairly scarce, replacements could easily cost an additional $350 to $500, so you DON'T want someone working on the safe who damages the lock!!!

So, Cost of your "curiosity" could be in the $350 to $500 range, or take up to 550 years!

Dialing sequence for the lock (assuming that it is a Yale OB series):

4 times left to the first number,
3 times right to the second number,
2 times left to the third number,
1 time slowly right until the dial stops - if it doesn't stop, chances are it wasn't the correct combo!

Left is counter clockwise, Right is clockwise.   DO NOT count the revolutions of the dial, count the individual number as it arrives at the 12 o'clock index mark.

If you elect to have someone open it, contact a local SAFE company to have their safe technician schedule an appointment.   Discuss the opening procedures with them BEFORE having them work on the safe so that YOU understand WHAT the price will be, About how long it will take, and WHAT to expect after it is repaired.   Anyone that is vague or can't answer your questions is probably NOT someone you want to have work on it.
If you have any questions concerning their proposed methods, pricing etc., feel free to run it by me first.   If you don't have a local safe company, let me know where you are located (zipcode) and I'll see who I might know in your area.

Hope this helps,

Antique Safes

All Answers

Answers by Expert:

Ask Experts


Terry V. Andreasen (Andy)


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.


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

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

The Coffee Table Guide to Antique Safes

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

©2017 All rights reserved.