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Antique Safes/J Grove, Birmingham Vintage Safe



Hi Mike,
I recently bought a safe with a nameplate that reads "Manufactured by J Grove, Birmingham". I cannot seem to find out anything about this safe, most information is on J. Grove and Son.
I was told that this is not a very secure safe because it is east to break into it. I wanted to use it to safe guard my jewelry.  It has two draws inside that lock with a key which I have. The main door has a brass key.
I was wondering the value and should I have it restored? Will it loss any value if I have it painted?
I would appreciate any information about this safe.
Thank you for your help in this matter.

Hello Lisette,

Thank you for your question and the pictures.  J Grove was one of a host of small Black Country safe makers that burgeoned in the late Victorian period.  The construction of your safe is known as 'square cornered' as the two sides, top and bottom are made from single mild steel sheets rivetted to an angle-iron frame giving them that sharp, square cornered look.  The body is filled with sand and sawdust, a primitive fire proofing.

These safes were designed to protected ledgers from loss by fire more than burglary and were already considered obsolete by 1890.  Sadly they have little value today as they are not recommended to secure cash, valuables or important documents and underwriters seldom wish to insure their contents.

If carefully refurbished they can make interesting curios and are often used as drinks cupboards but these safe are easily forced open in minutes.  Unfortunately, even scrap dealers reject them as the sand and sawdust makes such a mess of their yards.  

If you search for 'antique safes' on ebay you may see examples of refurbished safes of this type and also get some idea of what they fetch at auction.

I hope you find this useful,


Michael Palmer FSyI
Mike Palmer Consultancy

Antique Safes

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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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