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John Tann Reliance Safe
John Tann Reliance Saf  

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serial number  
I just bought a john tann reliance safe and was wondering what year it was built and weather it is better left in its original condition or doing it up. The serial number is 14337. It has 2 internal lockable drawers. Any other information you are able to give me would be appreciated.
Thank you in advance Bobby

Hello Bobby,

Thank you for your question and the pictures.

The serial number indicates that it was made in 1889 and obviously a safe of this age would not offer any protection against modern burglars, so it should not be used to secure significant sums of cash or valuables.  

This form of obsolete construction is referred to as '4 corner bent' as the top, bottom and two sides were formed from a single sheet of mild steel bent 4 times.  A sepaarate plate was screwed or riveted onto the back and the door hung at the front.  The body is filled with sand and sawdust as a primitive form of fire protection but this loose mix will all now all be compacted at the bottom of the safe leaving large voids through which heat would be conducted.

These old safes no longer have a security function but they do make interesting curios and personally I like to see them refurbished in their original colours.  It you search eBay for antique safes you are bound to find a few for sales, some in original colours and some tarted up somewhat.  It is worth seeing what they fetch - ignore the 'buy now' prices they always ask way too much and very seldom sell.

I hope you find this useful.  If so, please take a moment to rate this answer.

Many thanks,

Mike Palmer FSyI
Mike Palmer Consultancy

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Mike Palmer


I earn my living identifying safes and suggesting cash limits for risk advisors and insurance surveyors in the UK. I'm am pleased to comment on safes manufactured in the UK or Mainland Europe but I am unable to accept questions regarding safes made in the USA or elsewhere.


I have been in the UK safe industry for 40 years and have one of the largest archive databases of old safe literature and serial numbers in the country. I started with Chubb in 1960 and became Assistant Manager of their Bank Security Division before moving on to become the Insurance Liaison Manager with the John Tann Group. I became Sales & Marketing Director for Guardian Safes Limited before semi-retiring. I am a Fellow of the Security Institute and ex-Chairman of Eurosafe UK, a trade body representing the interests of UK safe makers and distributors. I now work as a part time consultant.

I am an advisor to the Safe Committee of the Association of Insurance Surveyors, a Fellow of the Security Institute and founding Chairman of Eurosafe UK.

I have had literally scores of articles published in various security trade publications. So far this year I have had 24 features published in various journals including Keyways, Professional Security, Pawnbroker and Safe India. I have published one book, Peckham Boy, the life and times of the world's greatest safe cracker.

No relevant educational credentials.

Awards and Honors
In 1997 I was awarded the annual shield by the Association of Insurance Surveyors for "..outstanding services to crime prevention"

Past/Present Clients
I have represented or been an agent for the John Tann Group (Stratford, Ratner, Dreadnought and Tann safes); Churchill Safes, Chubb Safe Co Ltd, SLS Safes, SMP Safes, Dudley Safes and several others

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