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Antique Safes/Opening an old Hall's Safe and Lock Company Safe


Hall\'s Safe and Lock
Hall's Safe and Lock  
Do you know anybody in Chicago that can open my old safe? Been in my basement for 30 years and I do not have the combination.Serial #12835. Can you tell me the year it was manufactured? Any value with no combination?
Marshall Cordell

Hi Marshall,

This is a beautiful old Hall's Safe & Lock Company safe.   Safes that are locked up basically have a negative value - that being the cost to have them opened and repaired.   Once the safe is opened, and we can look at the TOTAL condition of the safe, we can begin an appraisal.

As far as the serial number and possible age of the safe - Unfortunately, there is some controversy over when Joseph Hall began using serial numbers AND when he began using the name the Hall's Safe & Lock Company.   So we will have to go over some basic history to extrapolate a little.

During the mid 1840's, Joseph Hall was in business making safes with his Father Edward Hall.   Doing business under the name E. Hall & Company.   About 1848, Edward Hall retired and Joseph continued under the name "Joseph L. Hall & Company".   SOMETIME between 1848 and 1867 the business incorporated and the name was officially changed to Hall's Safe & Lock Company, continuing under this name until the company merged with Herring & Marvin to form the Herring-Hall-Marvin Safe Company in 1892.

Serial number dates - unfortunately no records exist to give us exact dates of manufacturer for ANY of the Hall's safes.   In 1872, Joseph Hall made several claims in Newspaper articles and other sources that he had sold over 50,000 safes, and had yet to learn of any of the safes failing due to fire or burglary.   Obviously as noted, these were his claims and were undocumented either to the accuracy of the lack of failures and/or the number of safes sold.   But at a minimum it gives us a "starting point" for figuring serial numbers.  

In 1872, Hall's Safe & Lock Company was producing approximately 15-20 safes each day.   With a 6 day work week, this gives them an average of about 5460 safes per year.

Assuming that the serial numbers started with the 1848 date, and using the 50,000 safes claimed in 1872, this would give us an average of about 2083 safes per year.   Now this is not a realistic number, but we would have to use a manufacturing curve with a smaller quantity per year in the beginning culminating with the average of 5460 safes per year in 1872 to come up with a more accurate estimation, but using the 2083 as a beginning number, again assuming the 1848 starting date, the EARLIEST date your safe could have been made would be 1854, but probably closer to the early 1860's.   Again, this is NOT an accurate number, but it is as close as we can currently get with the information and data that is available.

The closest companies that I might recommend to open your safe would be:

Fink Safe & Lock Company
773-486-2030          Robert McCown
2311 N Western Ave
Chicago, IL  60647

The next closest would be:

Professional Safe & Lock Service
414 327 5625          Jon Soderland
5123 West Howard Avenue
Milwaukee, Wisconsin  53220

If you would like me to look at the safe after it is opened I would be happy to.

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.  

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Terry V. Andreasen (Andy)


Safe and Vault related Questions; Antique Safe Repair and Restoration; With over 44 years in the Safe & Vault industry, if I can't answer your question I know where to get the answer. Current Project: Restoration of an Ely Norris Cannonball Safe from the early 1900'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.


44 years in the Safe & Vault Industry. Owner and 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. Author of "The Coffee Table Guide to Antique Safes". 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 Safe & Vault Technicians Association

The Coffee Table Guide to Antique Safes

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 - 2015 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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