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Antique Safes/Safe Identification


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Hi Andy!

After numerous searches for an answer, and so many hits coming back to your posts, I thought I might ask you.

I bought this safe recently. It had the back plate of the door off and the lock assembly out so it could be latched. It appears to be the original paint. But no identifying marks. The previous owner had someone line the inner walls.

I had a local safe expert who seemed very knowledgeable come out and attempt to set the combination but he said the driver was too worn, but he was able to set all three wheels for one number.  He said part of the driver that would have identified the ship date was broken and missing from inside the lock. You will be able to see this in up close pics I took.

So I would like to ask you 2 things:

1.  Would you be able to identify the manufacturer and approximate time frame this was manufactured?  I was told it was an Atlanta Railroad safe at one time. The safe guy that came out said it was Herring-Hall-Marvin and guessed 1890's.

2.  Does the information about the lock wear/damage make sense? He was able to set it to operate with 4 left turns to the number then right to open. But he said in order to get that one particular number to work the wheels had to all be set on a number about 40 away. Any possibility the original functionality could be restored?

Thank you so much for your thoughts!  I took several hi-res photos that I can email. What is your fee for a formal appraisal?

- Mike

Hi Mike,

I would be more than happy to look at your safe, but will need much better photos.

As far as the info your "local safe expert" gave you, some of his info reminds of the old adage about "blinding them with your brilliance or baffling them with your BS"!

There is no (and never was) any info on the lock that would indicate a "shipping date"

As far as the 1890's date - I don't speculate, I base my info on what I can actually prove about your safe - I try not to guess.     I currently own 3 HHM's and have a fairly good data base of photos to compare yours to, to come up with a "most likely age" for your safe.

As for the speculation of it having been owned by the Atlanta Railroad, without documentation, you simply have a "story".    While interesting, it adds no historical significance or value to the container.

In addition to the photos requested (below), please include any photos of the supposed lock damage.   I have been working on safes for around 43 years now, and I have only rarely seen a lock which was damaged to where it wasn't repairable, except in a burglary or botched opening by a "wannabe" safe tech!!!     I would be happy to look at the lock, however without having it my "hot little hands", I can't fully answer the question about restoring it to full functionality.  

Presently I wouldn't worry about a "Formal Evaluation".    Lets take a look at what you have first and go from there.

In order to answer questions, identify, evaluate or appraise the “current condition” of your safe, I'm going to need photos.  They should include full exterior and interior.  Detail photos (close-ups) 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 use a “jpeg” format, not a bitmap (bmp) image.   Also, I don’t like “website” photo dumps.   While it may be an easy place for you to store them, retrieving photos which allow me to zoom in to look at details, takes a lot of extra time.   Please send the requested photos directly to me.

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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