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Antique Safes/H.H.M. safe with tear gas


I have just gotten a HHM safe that is a double door approx dimensions of 66" x 36" x30" deep with non-deteriorating tear gas on the inside behind the combination wheel and handle. I have the combination but have not tried it, the doors are open but not sure of the tear gas. It has Labarge Safe Co. St. Louis, Mo. on the doors. It appears that on the inside of the tear gas canister there is a trigger that touches the inside of the door. How can I disable the tear gas? Also do you have any Idea what it might be worth. It has a 1 hr fire rating and a burglary rating also. It came out of an old jewelry store.
thanks for your help


WARNING:   Tear gas is illegal for ownership in most states (including Federal laws) without the proper license.   In addition having it attached to the safe constitutes "booby-trapping" which is also a felony in most states.   Check your local laws to see where you stand legally.

DANGER:   Most of the Tear gas devices used a CN or CS type gas, both of these can be EXTREMLY dangerous in confined areas, and can be deadly to anyone with any kind of breathing problems.   If the vials are broken and the gas released, inside of a home or business, it may take several weeks to clear out enough to reenter.

You basically have a couple options
1.  You can contact your police or fire department, who will respond with the HAZMAT and Bomb squads to remove it and dispose of it.   Hopefully you understand how dangerous this stuff is if they over respond to this degree.
You may be charged with both possession of a controlled device and with booby-trapping, and/or liable for all costs associated with the police, fire department, HAZMAT and Bomb squad involvement in removal of the device (associated costs).

2.  Have a safe technician from a local safe company remove the device for disposal.   They can usually turn it in without ANY of the above problems.

3.  Removal and disposal as a DIY project.    I NEVER recommend this approach, as if you accidently break a vial, the associated agencies listed above WILL respond, and the outcome will be quite a bit less pleasant.
If you elect to remove it and dispose of it, break the vials in a remote, open area where the chemicals can disipate with no harm.  ensure that no one is down wind where they might be affected.
Again, if you elect the DIY project, you also take on ALL responsibilities associated with the safe handling of these chemicals.

as far as the value of the container, I would be more than happy to look at the safe to see what you have.   As HHM was acquired by Diebold in 1959 and subsequently closed down in the early 1960's it would be over 50 years old, at a minimum.  Safes over 50 years old do NOT meet any standard for fire or burglary.

chances are your safe is ONLY a fire resistive safe (not current standard).   If so, it is NOT a burglary resistive container.   If the label indicates a "T-20 Burglary rating", this is NOT an actual burglary rating, it means "TAMPER RESISTANT - 20 minutes).   Regardless of the fact that it came out of a Jewelry store, most of these older companies were too cheap to actually buy real burglary safes, and simply got the beefiest looking fire safes they could find.

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:

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.

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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

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