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Antique Safes/Safe-Marvin's patent may 1865


QUESTION: Hi Terry,  we are probably going to be moving and probably going to sell our safe.  It belonged to my husbands great, great aunt and came out of a house in Pennsylvania.   It's in fairly good condition, slight rust on top but could be refinished.  Painting on inside door beautiful.  No keys that I can find but may come across them. Is there anyway for a locksmith to make new ones.  Also on the little inside door is a number, 1390. Is that the combination number.  Lastly, this has always been on the basement floor.  Would it safely sit on a first floor?  WHat do I need to do to get an estimate from you?


My recommendation concerning the locksmith would be to stay away from most of them and use a safe technician from a local safe company.   While most safe techs are also locksmiths, most locksmiths are NOT safe techs.    Many of the "locksmiths" today are little more than trained monkey's, simply drilling and replacing locks.   Many of them do not have the skills that you would assume should be standard, including making keys by hand, etc.

As far as the safe sitting on a "non-concrete" type floor (over a basement), generally the floors will hold the weight of a standard safe WITH a flat bottom.   As your safe is probably sitting on wheels, in stead of the weight being dispursed over a "square footage" area, it would be concentrated on a "square inch" area.    In this case I would recommend some "beefing up" of the floor.
Weight can be spread out by placing (capturing) the wheels in steel U-Channel, or by placing a sheet of 1" plywood under the safe to spread the weight and protect the floor.   If the safe is placed next to a load bearing wall, it would be better than placing it in the center of the room or next to a non-load bearing wall.

No, the 1390 has nothing to do with the combination of the lock.   If you need keys made to the safe, the safe technician should be able to recover or reset the combinaton at the same time.

Obviously moving the safe from the basement to the first floor, may require special equipment.   You can discuss this option with the safe company as well.    Some companies are much better equipt to move safes than other companies, so your options would depend on the companies in your area - what their capabilities are, and what equipment they have available.

I'm not sure what you need an estimate from me for.    

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QUESTION: Hi terry thanks for your quick response. The reason I would like to get an estimate is because I think we would like to sell it. Are there people out there who buy safes, and if so would they also be the ones to move it. We live in a rural area in the upper peninsula of Michigan. There are no experts around here in (safeology), my term.  What do I need to do to get an estimate. Thanks so much. It's snowing right now. Unbelievable!!


SNOWING??????   What the heck happened to global warming?   That's one thing I like about where I live in California, if I want to see snow, its only about 3 hours away, in the comfort of my car!  :)

I would be happy to look at your safe to appraise it for you.   You are correct there are only a couple antique safe appraisers in the US.

Yes, there are people interested in buying safes, the PROBLEM is that this is a unique commodity, which means that the hardest part is getting "buyers" and "sellers" together.   Unfortunately there is no single source place for you to sell and them to buy.   Bottom line - advertise, advertise, advertise.    Ebay, Craigslist, wantads, flyers, etc.   Letting antique dealers or auctions, etc. are all ways of getting people to look at the safe.   Note:   Dealers and auctions usually take a percentage for helping to sell your safe, though this is a great way of having someone help you sell it.
Generally Safe companies are not interested in older safes, as they are in the business of selling Fire protective containers and burglary resistive equipment.    Safes over 50 years old DO NOT meet any current standards for fire or burglary.

Next item is "TIME"!   Once you establish a value, you need to have three prices in mind - your asking price, the price you would like, and the minimum you would comfortably let the safe go for, and not feel remorse.   Similarly a buyer who does his homework should have his offer price, the price he would like to get it for and the maximum amount that he would comfortably spend and not feel remorse.   If there are a number of similar safes for sale in your area, obviously this would be a buyers market, where they could get the safe they wanted for the price they want.   Similarly if you want to receive pretty close to top dollar for your safe, YOU have to be willing to hold on to it, until you find a buyer who is willing to spend that amount.   Somewhere in between the buyers "low" price, and your "high" asking price is a number that you (the seller), and the buyer can agree upon.   Regardless of any appraisal value - THIS would be the CURRENT value of the safe!    By having it appraised, YOU at least have an educated idea of where this should be.    Nothing worse than to sell a safe and turn around to find out that the buyer flipped it for 10 times that amount.    I saw exactly that at a recent auction where the collector had been buying safes for several years for low ball prices because people wanted to get rid of them, only to turn around and make 3 to 5 times that amount on every safe.

As for the people who might buy your safe - ALSO - moving your safe - chances are no they don't.   Unless they have special equipment, they would also need a safe company who has the capabilities to move it.   Most people thing of 300 to 500 lbs as "heavy", and they have no concept of what 1500 to 2000 lbs actually is.   For safe people, under 1500 lbs is usually considered light weight, 1500 to 3000 medium weight 3000 to 6000 heavy weight, and 6000 to 10,000 lbs as super heavy.   Over 10,000 lbs really does take special equipment and trucks to move.

Ok, back to your safe.   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 online, internet 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.

Ok, I've given you a lot to think about, and a homework assignment (all the photos), since its snowing and you have nothing better to do, get the camera out.

Antique Safes

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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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