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Antique Safes/Marvin Safe info


Combination lock knob inscription
Combination lock knob  
Hello, Andy.  The Humane Society of Greenwood (SC) has a Marvin safe of unknown provenance.  I am a volunteer researching it on HSOG's behalf to see if it has any value, if its original owner can/should be traced, and to see if it might be sold/auctioned to benefit the Humane Society.  The safe is in bad shape.  I think the best image to send here is a cell phone picture of the lock knob, showing the patent dates.  I have other cell phone images, but can get much better quality photos if you think it is worth pursuing.
Thank you for any assistance/information you can provide.
Kate Adan

Hi Kate,

There is no such thing as "unknown provenance"!   It either has a history or it doesn't!   There isn't anything in between.

Manufacturers never kept or released ANY information concerning their safes and/or who they were sold to for obvious security and liability reasons.   There are no records to check to see who an owner might have been.   

If you can't track down some of its history through previous owners, then basically the history starts with the Humane Society of Greenwood, SC.

As far as selling the safe there are a number of methods, however, the majority require you to store the safe somewhere until a buyer is found.   This could take days, weeks or years, so if you are planning on money to benefit the Humane Society, then it would probably behoove you to try something a little quicker.

Auctions are a good way of moving an item, however if the auction is not well publicized, you definitely will NOT have buyers available that are willing and/or expecting to bid on the safe.    Meaning that it will potentially go for below market value.    A well publicized auction can easily get dozens of collectors to bid against each other, possibly driving the value up.

Down side of using an antique dealer or an auction to sell the safe, is that they both usually have pretty stiff commissions for their services - generally in the 30% (or higher) range.

Condition is also going to be very important.   Safes are NOT like paintings, and safes which are in their current state or condition will be valued far less than a similar safe which has been restored.    Most people are only going to have one or two antique safes, and they want something that they can show off, or display.   A rusting hulk is NOT what they are looking for.    Oh, and rust also isn't "patina".    Any oxidation including patina is NOT a desirable condition regardless of what idiot yuppie collectors would indicate, most of which are just illustrating their ignorance over what patina actually is.   With the exception of brass or bronze statues or copper roofs on an old building, where the greenish oxidation IS desirable.

While I can provide you with some basic information concerning the manufacturer of the safe, and possibly narrow down its age range, I can't give you any historical info about previous owners.   As mentioned, records simply don't exist.

As far as the patent dates on the dial are concerned - these are simply references to the date the patent was issued and NOT when the lock or safe was manufactured.   What they do tell us is that the safe could NOT have been manufactured before a patent was issued.    As the last date is "July 18, 1882", we know that the safe would have been manufactured between this date and the "May 4, 1892" merger date, between the Herring Safe Company, Hall's Safe & Lock Company and the Marvin Safe Company.
While this does give us a 10 year period to address, we have at least narrowed it down to that short period.

I would be more than happy to look at the safe for you and/or to answer specific questions as best I'm able.

Note:   You didn't mention whether or not the safe is open or locked shut, and/or does the Humane Society have a working combination.    If it is locked shut, then currently you have a negative value - that being the cost to have it opened and repaired and the combination recovered.    Once it is open, then we can evaluate it.

In order to answer specific questions, identify, evaluate or appraise your safe, I'm going to need photos.  They should include full exterior and interior.  Detail photos should include pictures of the dial, handles, hinges, artwork, locks, bolt work, castors, cabinetry and any special details or damage.  Note:  You may have to remove the back panel on the door to gain access to the lock & bolt work – I will need these pics.
If you have a particular detail that you have a question about, I will need a photo of it along with your question.

I will also need to see any documentation that you have in regards to your safe.  If your safe has a unique historical perspective, you should be able to document this with letters, newspaper articles or photos, if not it is simply a story and will have no bearing on the value of your safe.

Please use as high a resolution as possible so that I can examine details of your safe.  Pictures which are low resolution, out of focus, or from a distance don’t help when we try to evaluate the container.  Note:  with higher resolution, you may only be able to send 2-4 pictures per email, depending on the size of the file, I have a 12mb limit per email.  If photos are larger than 2mb each, you may only be able to send 2 or 3 photos per email, requiring several emails.

Please don’t send me “cell phone” photos, unless they are very clear and of sufficient resolution.   Also, please don’t use online, internet photo drops as most of these also don’t allow me to easily access the photos for examination.   Send the pics directly to me, while this may be more work for you, it will make my job easier.

Please send all of the requested photos to:

Note:  As I am in the field several days each week, covering a huge service area, I may not get back to your photos immediately, but I will respond as soon as I get an opportunity.  Due to field work, emails may tend to get backed up which means I may not answer them immediately.

Our informal evaluation is at no charge, however if you feel you need a formal evaluation or appraisal for insurance, estate sales, donations for tax write offs, or to establish it as an antique, there is an administrative fee for this service.

Again as mentioned above, in general most cell phones simply do not take good quality photos.   If I can't zoom in to look at details because the photo is out of focus or the resolution is too small, then the picture isn't of any use.

Hopefully 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

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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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