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Antique Safes/lost key for John Tann safe


I have a problem for which I hope I can find a resolution that doesn't destroy the safe. I've got an older John Tann safe that I have inherited. It seems to be a high quality great safe but we have no keys and it is locked. Is there any recourse that doesn't involve destruction of the safe?
Thank you.

Hello Mike,

Thank you for your question.

When a safe is locked out and there are no keys, there are only two solutions.  The first is to pick the lock.  If the Tann safe is old this could be possible.  However, if it is a reasonable quality this may not be an option and it would need to be drilled.

A skilled safe engineer should be able to drill it open with one, or maybe two holes.  Once the safe is open they will change the lock and secure the holes with special hardened plugs, and the safe is as good as new.

If you contact the Association of Locksmiths of America ( should be able to advise you of your nearest locksmiths with safe engineering facilities.  However, if the safe is of a high quality this could be expensive so you may need to shop around for estimated costs.

No pictures were attached so I have no idea of the age or quality of your safe.  If you have a picture and would like to send it to I should be able to tell you a little more.

If you have found this answer useful, please take a moment to rate it.

Best regards,

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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