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Antique Safes/Marvin Safe Company - How to open?


Hello,  I have an old Marvin Safe Company Safe.  I has an Imperial Lock on it.  Or it at least says "Imperial" on the dial.  We had a locksmith repair the lock mechanisms around 20 years ago (because they were apart) We had not used it since then, but would like to now.  We have the combination written down, but we cant get it to work. It did work when he had fixed it.  The directions we have are:
4x Right to #1
3x Left to #2
2x Right to #3
Turn left till dial stops around 3 or 4, then turn right 3 or 4 points, then turn left until dial clicks. Turn handle and open.  

We tried this, and variations of it many times.  We never got the dial to stop at 3 or 4. It would always go past... So what we want to know is if this is the proper opening method for this lock? or if they miswrote something.


Hi Tim,

There are ONLY three reasons a safe lock will open, in order they are:

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

Lets start out with some basics - Lefts and rights - this is the biggest confusing part of dialing any lock.    When turning the dial many people get confused by the actual operation and direction the numbers SEEM to be going.    Left is counter clockwise (the numbers get bigger, and Right is clockwise, the numbers get smaller.   So turning the dial from 10-20 would be left, but turning the dial from 20-10 would be right

I've seen Marvin Safes with locks which operate both LRLR and RLRL, so for the moment we are going to assume that your instructions are correct.   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 - between 0-10.

When dialing, it does not matter where you start, what you are interested in is the actual number.   For instance if your first number is 50, you would turn the dial clockwise (right) stopping the FOURTH time the number 50 arrives at the 12 o'clock index mark.    Or Right to 50 once, 50 twice, 50 three times, stopping the FOURTH time the number 50 arrives at the index mark.
Similarly dial the other two numbers, and then left until the dial stops.    If it still won't open, then you are either continuing to make a dialing error, or your numbers are not correct.

If it didn't open then you can also try reversing directions or LRLR instead of RLRL to see if that will work.   Also try adding and subtracting one or two numbers to each number of your combination.

If it still won't open, then it is time to contact a safe technician from a local safe company.     Hopefully you will get someone who IS familiar with Marvin Safes.

Hope this helps, let me know if you need further help.  

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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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