You are here:

Antique Safes/Inherited safe and it's locked.



I inherited a safe that had a "coded" combination taped to the safe door.  I can find no markings on the safe.  There are years of metallic paint build-up so any writing is covered.  There are no placards or badges that I can find.  The safe has a single dial lock. 0-99 on the dial face.   I've attached a photo of the safe.  The coded combination was typed out on a slip of paper from a manual typewriter I'm sure.  Here's the combination.

Rt R times to PR
Lf A times to CC
Rt H times to OH
Lf to PM

Any insight or information about the safe is greatly appreciated.  
Mark W

Hi Mark,

The safe appears to be a Mosler Square Body, Screw door, Bankers Safe.   In their day, these were the high security safes.   These safes basically had "TWO" locking mechanisms - the internal time lock which would have run down years ago, so UNLESS it is damaged or rusted in the locked position, I would expect it to be unlocked.   The time lock was the "overnight" lock.
The second lock was more of a day lock - this would be the mechanical combination lock.   It provided a means to secure the container, but they could open it at any time by dialing the combination.   This lock would keep the door from rotating or "unscrewing".

The lock that I would expect to find on this safe could either be a three wheel or four wheel lock as you have three "numbers", normally I would have you dial it as if it were a 4 wheel lock, assuming the first two wheels were on the same number - the problem is that even the dialing sequence is "CODED".   Without having the "DECODING" information, you are going to have some work cut out for you, HOWEVER we do have some info that we can use.    The normal dialing sequence for a four wheel lock would be:

5 times left to the first number,
4 times right to the second number,
3 times left to the third number,
2 times right to the fourth number,
1 time left until the dial stops  which should be around 10

"IF" the lock is a four wheel lock but the first two wheels are set on the same number, the dialing sequence would be:
5 times right to the first number,
3 times left to the second number,
2 times right to the third number,
1 time left until the dial stops.  which should be around 10

"IF" the lock is a true three wheel lock, then the dialing sequence would be:
4 times right to the first number,
3 times left to the second number,
2 times right to the third number,
1 time left until the dial stops. which should be around 10

Based on the coded combination that you have, we can eliminate the first sequence above and concentrate on the second and third with the known information that

A = 3, and  H = 2
and that "PM" may = around 10, also
R either = 5 or 4

So in the combination we can assume that
"PR" = __ 5/4
"CC" = __ __
"OH" = __ 2

So we have limited PR and OH down to 9 possibilities each.   note:  with the 5/4, you can possibly dial a 1/2 number between them and be close enough.   If you want to use BOTH 5 and 4 then this would still give you 18 possible numbers for the first number.

So, PR would be  14/15,  24/25, 34/35,  44/45, 54/55, 64/65,  74/75,  84/85,  94/95
and OH would be  12,  22,  32,  42,  52,  62,  72,  82,  92

We can also assume that "CC" is going to be some matching pair as in:   11, 22, 33, 44, 55, 66, 77, 88, 99   again, only 9 possibilities.

so doing some basic math, we have about 729 possible combinations.   If you want to test dial both the  x4 and x5 numbers, this would double this to 1458 possible combinations.

1.   Incorrect dialing sequence, operator errors
2.   Incorrect combination, wrong numbers
3.   mechanical problems.

I've provided the correct dialing sequences for the lock that I would expect to find on this safe, which matches with both the second and third dialing sequence AND the possible combination that you have - so if an error is made, it is one that you are introducing into the sequence.
Left is counter clockwise and right is clockwise.   DO NOT count the revolutions of the dial, count the individual number as it arrives at the 12 o'clock index mark.

Wrong numbers,   There are no guarantees that the numbers or "CODE" that you have is correct, which means on the three wheel lock there are 1,000,000 possible combinations and on the four wheel lock there are 100,000,000 possible combinations.

Mechanical problems - assuming that this container has not been opened in years, it could have rust and neglect issues which can keep it from opening.    Even if you manage to get the combination to work, the door may be rusted.   As this was an extremely tight fitting door, ANY amount of rust could freeze it in place.  

Well hopefully I've provided you with enough info to get started on your puzzle.   Let me know if it works, and send me more photos when it is open so we can finish IDing it.

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, unless they are very clear and of sufficient resolution.   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.  

Antique Safes

All Answers

Answers by Expert:

Ask Experts


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

©2016 All rights reserved.