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Antique Safes/Antique safe never opened

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Question
Andy, we live in Fort Worth, Texas. I have a safe that came in my 1925 house when I bought it. We're restoring the house and bringing the safe into the living area...it's been in the basement since the house was built. It's Hall's and I've researched the company to know what the possessive means. The date I've identified on the hinge is February 25, 1873. The interior has never been opened and the dial is rusted shut. Do you know of anyone in this area I can contact to safely get it opened without damaging this treasure? Grateful for any information you could offer.

Answer
Hi Emily,

I'll start off with the "possessive" use of "Hall's" - I'm not sure what you are indicating but it has nothing to do with the manufacturer.   There were two "Hall's" safe companies, while literally they were related, due to a sale of the first, and following Supreme court ruling on a litigation between the Successor company (Herring-Hall-Marvin) and the new company began by the son's of the original company (Hall's Safe Company) - the ruling was that while the son's had sold ALL rights to the original company "IT'S" name, and any references, they had NOT given up the right to the use of THEIR name.
Second item - the "date" issue.   Manufacturers NEVER placed the date on their safes.   As warrantee issues did NOT become a problem until after WWII, having a manufacturing date was never a concern, in fact many of the companies didn't even use serial numbers.   Warranty problems were generally handled on the spot by sales agents or distributors.   These types of issues are relatively new coming late in the 20th century with the advent of "Ambulance Chasing attorneys", and relatively lazy people looking to sue anyone and everyone hoping for an easy payday.

As many times it is difficult (even for us) to narrow down manufacturers and or manufacturing dates, until the safe is open, and we have access to everything, my first advice is DO NOT jump to any conclusions about what you have and/or when it was made.

My first recommendation (as you did not include any photos, is to have you send some to me, so that I can see what you actually have.   Unfortunately, as I mentioned final ID, and/or figuring out when it was made, may not be possible until after it is opened and we have access to the interior.

As for offering a company in your area, I have two possibilities, but I would expect you to discuss the project with them to determine what they are going to charge, various methods of opening the safe, and what condition it will be in afterwards.    I never recommend using locksmiths for safe work, as they generally DO NOT have the training, knowledge or tools to work on safes without causing excessive damage.   I've got two nice safes in the shop right now, that I'm trying to restore damage caused by "want-a-be" safe techs, who I'm sure told their customers that THEY were experts!!!

Who ever you get should be able to give you a TOTAL price up front, not some vague "hourly" price for this, and a price for that.   While it may SEEM cheaper than a flat rate fee, they have no incentive to do a professional job, and the longer it takes the more money they make.
Next item would be parts - as parts are not going to be available for replacement, damage to the dial, dial ring, handle, lock or bolt work should NOT be an option.   While drilling IS a totally acceptable method of opening safes, if done correctly it will not damage anything and the usually single very small hole is easily repairable.

Manipulation is another alternative, however it is never a guarantee and you may not have any trained safe techs in your area.   If you elect this method, you will be paying for the service and NOT the result.   Pretty much any mechanical lock can be manipulated open, given time and circumstances, but while this is a damage free method of opening the safe - again it is not always successful.
"IF" the dial is rusted shut, as you have indicated, then manipulation will probably be off the table.

I have two options for companies, for you to check out.  The first is one of the largest safe companies west of the Mississippi, they should be able to assist you in getting the safe open, if they can't they may know of someone local that they would recommend.

Rolland Safe & Lock Company
3140 Towerwood Dr,
Dallas, TX 75234
(972) 243-3711

the second is the Safe & Vault Technicians Association which is in your back yard.   While this association does not offer services, they may also be able to point to someone local in your area that they might recommend.

Safe and Vault Technicians Association
3500 Easy St.
Dallas, TX 75247
214-819-9733
800-532-2562 - Toll Free

If they happen to have a class going on at a time that is convenient to you and them, they might be interested in opening your safe as part of the class.   While this might save you some money, any repairs or extra work would be through a third party, and this also might mean moving the safe to their location to have it opened.   This will result in coordinating the movement of the container and any opening and repairing and of course returning the safe to you, which may involve using a third party like Rolland to coordinate.

Ok, I've given you several options to work from, now its up to you to start making phone calls to discuss options, pricing and what you should expect.   If you have any questions about proposals or pricing, feel free to run it by me before having anyone do the work.

hope this helps,  

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Terry V. Andreasen (Andy)

Expertise

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.

Experience

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

Organizations
Safecrackers International and the National Antique Safe Association Safe & Vault Technicians Association

Publications
The Coffee Table Guide to Antique Safes AllExperts.com

Education/Credentials
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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