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Antique Safes/herring hall safe


I have a herring hall marvin safe sn 183820 it was in my fathers basement when he passed. he didn't have the combo it was in the house when he bought it 40 yrs ago. how do I get it open without damaging it? the data plate says 183820 underwriters group 1 relocking device. the dial has an S an G on it. the safe is not a secret of any kind it does not matter if the whole world knows I have it or how to open it. if I don't want to damage it but in the end if I can't open it without damaging this antique I will use my orbital head cutter on it. thank you


The serial number on the UL label, is for the "LABEL" and not the safe.   As Herring-Hall-Marvin made safes from 1892 until they were acquired by Diebold in 1959 and subsequently closed down between 1962-64, your safe could possibly be an antique, a collectible, office equipment or anything else that they may have made.

As far as opening it up without damage, as the company has been out of business for over 50 years, it would be kind of difficult to contact them to find out what the original combination might have been.   Manufacturers also never published or released this information for obvious security and liability reasons.   This basically leaves you with two options, you can either try all of the 1,000,000 possible combinations that the lock may have, or you can have a safe technician from a local safe company open it and recover the combination.

As far as using your equipment to open it up, while it may feel good at the time, the end result would be a ruined safe which kind of defeats your goal of opening it without damage, so I'm not sure why you mentioned it.

Note:   I never recommend using locksmiths for safe work, as they generally do not have the training, knowledge or tools to work on safes without causing excessive damage or charging excessive fees.

Cost to have your safe opened and the combination recovered without ruining it, would be around $350 to $500, and should take a trained safe tech around 1 to 3 hours.   Afterwards the safe should be totally useable.    Note:   If parts are already damaged or broken, replacement parts may be necessary to bring it back to a functional condition.    

If you don't have a local safe company, let me know where you and/or the safe are located (zipcode) and I'll see who I know in your area.

If you elect to try all of the 1,000,000 possible combinations, if you try 500 each day, it would only take about 5.5 years to test them all.   the dialing sequence would be:

4 times left to the first number,
3 times right to the second number,
2 times left to the third number,
1 time right until the dial stops (should be around 90).

Left is counter clockwise, Right is clockwise.   DO NOT count the revolutions of the dial, count the individual number as it arrives at the 12 o'clock index mark   For instance if the first number is 50, you would turn the dial counter clockwise (left), stopping the fourth time the number 50 arrives at the index mark.

Hope this helps,

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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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