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Antique Safes/J Tann Safe info request


J Tann Safe
J Tann Safe  

J Tann Safe Brass
J Tann Safe Brass  

Long shot but you may be able to help me, I have acquired a J Tann Safe which I estimate to be circa 1860's due to the address on the brass which surrounds the key hole and was imported into Australia by Brush & MacDonnell.

My problem is I don't have a key! I am located near Sydney, NSW Australia and would like to know, is it possible to get a key cut and do you by some slim chance know someone down here that is able to do so.


Hello Phil,

Thanks for your enquiry and the pictures of your old John Tann Safe.  Edward Tann is recognised as having formed the world's first safe company in 1795.  The business transferred to his grandson John in 1845, so your estimate of the age is probably quite right.

From the pictures you sent, it seems that it was not secured by a standard lever lock but is possibly a Cotterrill lock.  This may pose a problem so they may not be able to cut a new key and may suggest changing the lock to something more conventional.

You don't say if the safe is locked or unlocked.  The Master Locksmiths Association of Australia ( be able to recommend an experienced safe engineer in your area.  However as interesting as this safe is, it is not suitable for the security of cash, valuables or documents because of its extreme age, so it will have little value, probably less than the safe is worth.  If it locked it will cost considerably more to pick or drill it open and then restore it.  However, it is an interesting piece of late Victorian history and will scrub up well and make a magnificent wine cupboard.

Good luck,

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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