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Antique Safes/Herring Patent Champion Safe


QUESTION: I'm moving in to a leased space that has a Herring Patent Champion safe in it.  No one appears to know the combination or anything about it.  Apparently I'm the only curious one ;)
It's a model with 2 doors and 2 dials and handles - I'm not sure if they are all the same in this regard.
It seems like one door is open in the locked position.  What options do I have (if any) to get the combinations and use the safe?

ANSWER: Wicked Vix (?)

In general double door safes have an active door and an inactive one.   The majority of the times "IF" the inactive door has a dial, it is not for a real lock, usually just set up to fool would be burglars so they don't know which lock to attack.

Hopefully the door which is locked open is the active door, which would make it fairly easy for a trained safe technician to recover the combinations and get it operational.

If the safe tech has access to the back of the locked shut safe door by means of the open door, they should also be able to get it open.

Once the safe is fully open, any and all combinations can be recovered, the locks serviced and the safe made operational.

Bottom line while you may want and/or try this as a DIY project to save money, you will need a trained safe technician who is familiar with antique safes, and especially the Herring locks.

Unfortunately Colorado is one of those states where there aren't a lot of trained safe technicians available, and I never recommend using locksmiths for safe work, for the same reasons that I don't recommend this as a DIY project.

Let me know where you are located (zipcode), and I'll see if I might have any recommendations in your area.

This safe IS an antique, with records of the first use of the term "Herring Patent Champion Safe" going back at least as far as 1853.    Safes using this logo were manufactured until 1892.   So anyone working on this safe, needs to give it the respect that it deserves while opening and repairing it.    Anyone that indicates that damage to it may occur during opening or repairing, may want to be avoided.

Hope this helps,

---------- FOLLOW-UP ----------

QUESTION: Vix... and I'm wicked ;)

80104 is the zip where the safe is located.  As soon as I move in, I can take some hi res images of it if you are interested at all.  It is currently behind a stack of product belonging to the current leasee.  From what I can see of the front of the safe, it appears to be in fairly good condition - most of the "decoration" on the front seems to be in good condition and I was able to move the open door relatively easily as far as the shelving stacked in front of it would allow.  The building is historic (I think I was told 150 yrs) so I'm going to take a guess that the safe was probably installed new in that building.  I understand it was a jeweler's at one point in history.  I noticed the right hand dial center knob (I've clearly NO clue as the the proper terminology) is a slightly gold color while the left knob is more silver and consistent with the rest of the dial it "sits in".    If there isn't a proper person in Colorado who could do this...   what might be involved in a DIY project ?  (granted that you don't recommend it).  The owner has no interest in doing anything with the safe and doesn't care if the combination(s) recovered or not.   My interest is in using the safe, but primarily to restore it to some level of former glory.    Thanks for your rapid response - I appreciate it :)


Unfortunately, I don't know of anyone in Colorado who specializes in Antique Safes, that I would recommend - so I would recommend proceeding with caution.   The closest company that I would recommend for service would be:

J & R Safe and Security, Inc.
7857 Scarborough Drive
Colorado Springs, CO 80920-7117

Closer to you would be the following company, however I have no personal knowledge of their capabilities.   They have a nice looking facility and have been around for quite a few years, so it might be worth your time discussing the project (face to face) with them.

Acoma Locksmith Service
421 Perry St
Castle Rock, CO  80104

as far as discussing or training for DIY projects - if you don't already possess the skills and have a good mechanical back ground, then I don't recommend it.   Probably 15 to 20 percent of my work is cleaning up and repairing DIY projects on safes.   While they don't appear difficult, even the majority of trained locksmiths don't have the skills for this type of work.   While I'm not opposed to answering very specific questions, I simply don't have the time to work - long distance - on DIY projects.   The best I can offer is to direct you to someone in your area.   Obviously no one is going to work for free, but depending on the project and the safe tech, you may be able to entice them into assisting you.

Also, if you don't have the artistic (painting) or wood working skills, you can possibly interest the art department at a local college to assist or take the safe on as a restoration project.     Taking the safe on as a DIY project, doesn't necessarily mean that YOU have to do all the work - remember the story of Tom Sawyer painting the white picket fence???

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.   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.  

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Terry V. Andreasen (Andy)


Safe and Vault related Questions; Antique Safe Repair and Restoration; With over 40 years in the Safe & Vault industry, if I can't answer your question I know where to get the answer. Current Project: Restoration of two Tilton & McFarland Safes from the 1860'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.


40 years in the Safe & Vault Industry. 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. 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

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 - 2013 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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