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Antique Safes/Strongbox


QUESTION: To whom it may concern: Here are a few pictures of a antique strongbox I have. Inside it says engraved on the lock set " Adams Express Co.". I E-mailed the Adams Co. and they were in the express business from 1854 to 1929. If you could, I would like to know, When it was made, Who made it, And aprox. value. Thanks, Jimmy

ANSWER: Jimmy,

I would be happy to look at your chest to see if I can determine the actual maker.   I will need much better photos though.  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 key hole, handles, hinges, artwork, locks, bolt work and any special details or damage.   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 donít 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 donít send me ďcell phoneĒ photos.   Also, please donít use on line photo drops as most of these also donít 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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QUESTION: Hello Andy thank you for your quick response. After E-Mailing you, I found a similar strong box online. I do believe that it is a railroad strong box. It didn't have a date on it, sold 4 around $500. Thanks again. Jimmy


Safe companies didn't make containers like this "SPECIFICALLY" for the railroads, and in general the railroads didn't use them.   There were several express agencies that used similar containers, and did ship by the railroad, however, if you don't have documentation, then it didn't happen!!!
Don't compare your container to something else, and think that it is the same thing.   For instance just because you have own a Cadillac, does not mean that it is the same as the Cadillac that Elvis owned, or even in the same ball park, value wise.

In general, strongboxes used by express agencies and/or railroads to move valuables, were much heavier, with thicker steel, and used cross locking bolt work, with the lock.   Yours does not have these features.
Lots of companies used similar containers for payrolls, etc.  Up until the 1940's or 50's payroll checks were not a standard item.   Most companies had pay lines, and employees were paid in cash.   So containers like this could have been owned by anyone.    Don't start trying to wish a story up, as appraisers will simply tear it apart, with the bottom line value of your container suffering.    If you don't have documentation, then it is simply an old strong box at this point.

Value wise - I agree that $400 to $600 is a fair price for it.   Just keep the discussion about the box to what you know and/or can prove.

While I have some ideas on the manufacturer, I will need to see all of the requested photos to try to ID it.

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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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