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Antique Safes/Milners Safe


QUESTION: dear mike, i live in austria. i have a milners safe and have lost the keys. it's really difficult to find a specialist in Austria for this sort. no locksmith is able to open it without damage. is there any possibility to order a second key from somewhere in england? can send a photo, can't send a registration number because i can't see one. maybe on the backside....can't move it, too large.

thanks a lot, regards from austria

ANSWER: Hello Doris,

Thank you for your question.  

If I understand correctly, the safe is locked and you have no keys.  Firstly, this safe is certainly over 120 years old so the lock will not be particularly difficult to pick by an experienced safe engineer/locksmith and you can find the nearest specialist to you by visiting the Master Locksmiths of Australia website at However, sometimes locks refuse to be picked and it is a relatively simple matter to drill them open.  It usually requires just one hole which can be plugged afterwards.

Regarding duplicate keys; no registers are ever kept of safe keys, they are always cut to pattern, i.e. they need a key to copy from.  Although it may not be impossible to cut from a picture, this would be very difficult and I have never heard of it being done.  However, once the safe is open and the lock is available, it should be possible to cut new keys.

However, a warning note.  Safes of this extreme age should not be used to secure cash, valuables or important documents and the cost of opening the safe and cutting new keys is likely to be more than the safe is worth.

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Mike Palmer FSyI
Mike Palmer Consultancy

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

QUESTION: hello mike,
thank you for your answer.
i live in austria, not in australia. only one locksmith (and i asked many of them) told me he is able to open the safe with one little hole. he costs about 600,-- (without a new lock)
i thought maybe there's a cheaper possibility to open it.
can you tell me the approximate value of the safe?

Firstly, my apologies for sending you to the other side of the world.

600 euros to drill open an ancient Milner safe is far too much.  Perhaps you could ask the following company for advice.  They are members of Eurosafe, the association of European safe makers:

VSO Verband der Sicherheitsunternehmen Osterreichs
Porzellangasse 37, 1090 Wien
Tel: 01 319 4132

They should be able to recommend a company that could drill this safe open and fit a new lock.

I have no experience of second hand safe prices in Austria, but here in the UK they usually fetch around 140 for a safe that is unlocked and has at least one key.  So you can see that paying 600 euros to have it opened is unviable.

Good luck,

Mike Palmer FSyI
Mike Palmer Consultancy

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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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