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Antique Safes/Old Mosler safe unlocks but door won't open


An old Mosler safe was in my home when I bought it in 1986. There is a number on the door handle: 289911.

I have opened and closed the safe infrequently since then. Yesterday I closed the door, but now I can't open it, even after dialing in the combination. The combination dial seems normal, but the latch handle seems locked.

Is this a known problem?

I would appreciate any ideas.

Vin Morgan

Hello, Vin Morgan,

there are only three reasons that a safe lock will not unlock - in order they are:

1.  Operator errors, incorrect dialing sequence,
2.  Incorrect combination, wrong numbers,
3.  Mechanical problems.

in general mechanical problems or issues, which appears to be what you have, are not something that can be diagnosed remotely - they are "hands on" issues.

Chances are as this is an older safe, it has never had any regular maintenance, so the problem could be anything from a broken component to a loose nut.     Your question would be similar to calling an auto mechanic and saying "my car doesn't start"!    While there are some common sense questions that he could ask about gas, lights and keys - without actually seeing the car and diagnosing the problem he isn't going to be much help.

My recommendation is for you to contact a local safe company - NOT a locksmith, to have their trained safe technician check your safe out, to determine what the problem actually is.    Hopefully it is something simple which can be easily fixed.

As your safe was built sometime around 1920ish,  while it isn't an antique yet, it is not that far away, so any work done on the safe should be done keeping this in mind.    Parts are obsolete and not readily available, so you need a safe technician that can work on your safe without destroying it in the process.

If you don't have a local safe company to contact   (yellow pages under safes & vaults)    then let me know where you are located (zipcode) and I'll see whom I might know in your area.

Hope this helps,

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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