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Antique Safes/Trouble with picking which ISM safe I should purchase


QUESTION: Out of these 10 "ism safes" can you rank Best, Value and Least Secure for Burgulary....

1 for best 10 for least desirable

Cash Vault SL-2 TL-30 (2nd series)

CashVault TL-30 (1st series)

Spartan  TL-30

Jewelgard Mk3 TL-30

Jewelgard MK II TL-30

Ultravault TL-30x6 (1st Series)

Ultravault TL-30x6 (2nd Series)

Empire (MVP) FX Series / UL TL-30x6

Empire (MVP) Quantum / UL TL-30

ISM Bullion (UL TL-30)


Well first off, you are mixing apples and oranges in your attempt to "grade" these safes.   You can't mix standard TL-30 safes with TL-30x6 label and have a fair comparison.   while TL-30 safes have a standard that they must meet, the majority of the testing is done on the DOOR only, and NOT the body.    Any x6 category safes, must meet the standard on ALL 6 sides equally.   All TL-30 safes are tested equally and must pass the test equally.   While there may be items that make one safe more secure than another these items are NOT taken into consideration during the "standardized testing".

What you are asking me to do, is to give you a "SUBJECTIVE" evaluation based on MY likes and dislikes, which may or may not match up to the "SUBJECTIVE" evaluation by any other professional Safe technician in the country.

If you are looking for an evaluation based on the UL Label, then I rate ALL of the TL-30's equally, and similarly rate ALL of the TL-30x6's equally.

Wilson Safe Company in Philadelphia, is the current importer of ISM safes, so you may want to contact them directly for more info on each safe.   1-800-345-8053

TL-30 category

Cash Vault SL-2 TL-30 (2nd series)   (Obsolete - not currently manufactured and no parts available)

CashVault TL-30 (1st series)   (Obsolete - not currently manufactured and no parts available)

Spartan  TL-30       (I believe that UL may have pulled the authorization for use of the TL-30 label on this brand, due to inconsistent manufacturing, and subsequent safes not meeting the standards of the models submitted for testing - I'll have to verify this for you though!)

Jewelgard Mk3 TL-30   (Obsolete - not currently manufactured and no parts are available)

Jewelgard MK II TL-30  (Obsolete - not currently manufactured and no parts available)

Empire (MVP) Quantum / UL TL-30    (private label - NOT manufactured by Empire - I have not seen this safe personally and so cannot comment on it).

ISM Bullion (UL TL-30)    (Current manufacture by ISM)

TL-30x6 category

Ultravault TL-30x6 (1st Series)  (older model - not currently manufactured and no parts available).

Ultravault TL-30x6 (2nd Series)   (older model - not currently manufactured - limited parts available.  Current model has locks on horizontal line, not vertical line.

Empire (MVP) FX Series / UL TL-30x6 (private label - not manufactured by Empire - I have not seen this safe personally and so cannot comment on it).

Of the models that you have specified, I would probably go with the following:

TL-30 category
#1  ISM Bullion
#2  Empire Quantum
with all the other TL-30's coming in a close third.

TL-30x6 category
#1  Current model Ultravault
#2  2nd Series Ultravault
#3  Empire (MVP) FX series
#4  1st Series Ultravault

Note:   If you are picking between the categories then:
#1  TL-30x6   -   any safe
#2  TL-30's

Hope this helps out, unfortunately as I hope I've been able to illustrate it is not as simple as simply listing a 1-10 listing.   There are simply toooooo many variables, and as you have not given me any other of your pre-requisite requirements to limit the selection process, I've narrowed it down to "MY" subjective listing.

Value is also very subjective depending on what YOU consider value.   If you are looking for cheap, then you can get plenty of cheap safes at Costco, Home Depot or any of the major box stores.   If you consider "VALUE" as coming home or to your business and discovering a burglary, and after destroying your safe, they still have not been able to get into it, then you would select a safe that would provide you with this level of protection - REGARDLESS of what it cost you.

[an error occurred while processing this directive]---------- FOLLOW-UP ----------

QUESTION: 1) I forgot to ask about 3 other models of safes I was looking at! Where would you fit these 3 safes between the ism and empire safes I just mentioned?

Fichet-Bauche = Chatel TL-30x6
Fichet-Bauche = Biltmore TL-30
John Tann Regency TL-30

2) Also, is there a "safe model you like" that I didn't mention thats better than the ones I mention and a better value?


While I do like the Fichet-Bauche and John Tann safes, getting replacement parts is near impossible in the US, which makes any repairs extremely expensive.   For this reason alone, I would not recommend these safes.

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

QUESTION: you forgot to answer my last question :)

Is there a safe model  that YOU like that I didn't mention thats' BETTER than the ones I mention and a better VALUE in the range of safes I requested?


No actually I did answer it.

I have no favorites.   If the question is similar to the unlimited number of monkeys, unlimited number of typewriters and unlimited amount of paper question, pertaining to having one of them actually, type a novel,  then yes, if I had an unlimited budget, I probably would make a decision, but it probably wouldn't be the same as you would make.

Personally I would build a class 1 vault in the bunker in my home.   I might have several safes inside of the vault, but they would be TRTL 30x6 ratings, and even these would be beefed up.   I would probably also make some modifications to the bolt work.

while I do have some favorites mine don't necessarily fall along the lines that I would recommend to someone else.   As I have a collection of 13 safes already, I look for features that the average safe may not have, but I also don't have some of the worries, like obsolescence or lack of parts.   I have a machine shop in my garage and can make parts I can't find.

unfortunately, I don't have unlimited resources and my wife hasn't let me build the bunker or the vault.   But its coming!   LOL.

So actually I did answer your question.   You just didn't read between the lines.

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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

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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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