You are here:

Antique Safes/serial numbers?


john tann safe
john tann safe  
I have recently aquired a john tann safe, it is relatively old and has been passed through generations of a jewellers, they have had it in the family since 1963 however have no knowledge of the safes whereabouts or any information before it came into the families possession. I was simply wondering whether there was anyway of finding out a more accurate date of when it was made or its original manafacture area. There is several layers of paint on the safe itself and the only information i can make out is a 'tag' over the key hole which states;
Newgate street
Other than that i have no further information, any help would be greatly appreciated
Many thanks sarah.

Hello Sarah,

This is a very nice looking John Tann safe.    while it may have been owned by "generations of jewelers" this is NOT a jewelers safe and it is NOT a burglary resistive container.

While it may have provided a small measure of burglary protection 150 years ago, it was designed as a fire resistive container.

There is a good website that has some great info about this manufacturer that I would recommend your reading.

unfortunately serial numbers were not as important in those days as they were later on.   if you had a problem, the manufacturer would simply take care of the problem.    Manufacturers had pride in the work that they did and in their products.    Warranties were not necessary because of the makers sense of pride.

If they used serial numbers (and many did), it was simply to account for the numbers that were made, and/or to have a reference of how a particular safe might have been made.

As far as "accurate dates of manufacture", the best we can do is to ball park it based on known information.    In this case By 1888 the Tann City office had moved to 11 Newgate Street, and by 1900 the factory had also moved to St.Stephen's Road, Old Ford.  With the construction of the Old Bailey on the site of Newgate Prison, the offices had to move again in 1912, but only across the street to number 117.

So based on this info, your safe would have been constructed some time between 1888 to 1912.

I'm not sure what other info that you are looking for, but hopefully the web page will give you some great info about the manufacturer.

Hopefully this helps.  

Antique Safes

All Answers

Answers by Expert:

Ask Experts


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

©2017 All rights reserved.