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Antique Safes/Antique English safe?


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Hi Mike,

I have just acquired an antique safe and the name plate says "The Hercules Manufacturing Co", that I am assuming is from the late 1890's - early 1900's. I was originally wanting to just restore the exterior paint work and have it as a decorative item in my house, but before I touch it, I wanted to make sure that the paint on it now isn't original. I have searched for a few days to try and find out the year of manufacture (approx), and what the original colours would have been. I have had no success with finding anything that has this style of handle with a key lock. Any assistance with year of manufacture, and the manufacturer themselves would be greatly appreciated. Tom from this site said that he thinks it may a copy of Ratner, but I was hoping for a little bit more information if possible? I have taken the back plate off the door, but cannot find any sort of serial number. I know it's hard to say, but any sort of guide on price would also be gretly appreciated.

Apologies for the quality of the photo's, but that was the best i could do.


Hello Tim,

Thank you for your question and the pictures.  Hercules was one of a host of small safe makers that sprang up in the late Victorian era.  As far as I am aware, no records of their existence survive so I can't say when they were founded or when they ceased trading and of course, no register of serial numbers is available.

However, this type of construction is known as '4 corner bent' as a single sheet of mild steel was bent four times to form the top, two sides and base of the body.  A back plate was riveted or screwed on at the back and an inner lining added.  The cavity between the inner and outer body would probably have been filled with sand and sawdust, a primitive form of fire resister.
The lock and bolt-work would be formed inside a 'pan' which was then bolted on to the steel door plate.

This type of construction was most popular between 1890 and 1910 but I can't date it any more precisely.  These safes were very vulnerable at the rear where the back plate was easily ripped away.  They were also easily opened using a small charge of black gunpowder which would strip the threads off the bolts and force the door open.

These are almost certainly the original colours and the safe looks to be in very good condition for its age.  However, safes of this vintage should not be used to secure cash, valuables or important records.

If you find this information useful, perhaps you could take a moment to rate it.


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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