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Antique Safes/wilder's patent safe


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QUESTION: I found a Wilder's patent salamander S.C. Herring maker safe from 139 Water St N.York iunder my stairwell when i remodeled a room and was wondering the range of value it may have. It is 24 in wide 21 in deep and 35 in tall.

Than you

ANSWER: Charles, normally I would say $1000 minimum for any Wilder safe.  It is open and looks to be at least in fair condition if not better.  Do you have a working key?  This does matter.  However yours is one of the earliest ones I've seen.  The canted wheels were seen on many of the earlier hobnail safes of the 1820-30's, and had disappeared by the 1850's.  So your safe is probably right around 1845, and because of that, it has a greater value, especially to a serious collector. Of course from these pictures, it is impossible to really determine condition, but even if it has serious hidden rust problems, which are typical on these safes, I think $2500-$3000 is not, at all, out of the question.   Doug

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

QUESTION: Thanks Doug!

I have not located a key and was wondering how significantly it changes the safe's value as I am seriously  considering having a locksmith makung me a new one.

Thanks again!

If that safe is built like I think it is, the lock will be buried in insulation and that really complicates making a key.  On the other hand, fitting a key without removing the lock is extremely difficult and very few locksmiths would even consider a job like that.  Even fewer would be successful.  To make matters worse, a cobbled together key, doesn't add all that much value, at least in my mind.  Only a decent looking one would really add value, but that alone is expensive, even with the lock in hand. I do that type of work and it could run $1000 if the lock is buried.  That safe is purely a conversation piece and should not be used, so having a key made... maybe not.  Doug  

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Doug MacQueen


This unusual and highly innovative safe from the later 1800's is a Corliss. William, the much younger brother of George Corliss of steam engine fame, spent several years perfecting this design and it was first displayed at the 1876 Philadelphia U.S. Centennial Exhibition. I do extensive patent research helping me in the study of antique U.S. safes and safe locks. Repairs and part making for antique U.S. safes of the early to mid 1800's, both key and combination. Also the study of early round door chest designs up to and including cannonball safes of the early 1900's.


40 years in the lock and safe trade with a stint in bank service work. Openings, repairs and moving of safes of all types.

Charter member Safe and Vault Technicians Association SAVTA, National Safemans Association NSO, National Antique Safe Association NASA. No longer current.

SAVTA monthly magazine

CMS (Certified Master Safecracker- NSO) and CPS (Certified Professional Safe Technician - SAVTA)

Awards and Honors
2nd place national combination manipulation contest 1986 and now in 2016 1st place

Past/Present Clients

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