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Antique Safes/Restoration of Tann's defiance safe



Outside painted over
Outside painted over  
Hi, I recently purchased a Tann's Defiance safe approx 900mm height,600 deep 600 wide. It has been re painted. I'm wanting to restore it but don't know the original colours. It does have a number of boarders and flourishes in the corners. Have you any information as to what the likely factory colours and patterns are? I will try and up load photos but the inside colour is a forest green. I don't know if that would be the outside colour also.

Hi Danny,

Thanks for your question.

The first thing you need to know is that this is not a genuine Tann safe.  John Tann was the world's first safe maker and together with Chubb and Milner, were the three dominant safe manufacturers for many years.  Tann safes were made in their Reliance Safe Works and many other manufacturers tried to leech off their reputation - in this case by calling themselves Tann Defiance Safes.  Eventually John Tann developed their Anchor logo and their brochures used to carry the warning, 'None Genuine with out this Trade Mark' and pictured a number of imitations including yours.

This one looks like a four corner bent Tann Defiance dating back to 1890-1910.  The exterior would almost certainly have matched in interior complete with all the fancy line work.  I have a very extensive archive of genuine John Tann safes but of course they are in monochrome so there is no indication of colour.  My best suggestion is that you regularly visit eBay and search details on 'antique safes.' Occasionally you will see one pictured that still has its original finish - it may not be a Tann Defiance but it will give you some idea of the Victorian's love for fancy line work.


Mike 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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