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Antique Safes/carters safe


can you tell me what date and place of manufacture,what key type and approx value,is there asbestos inside?regards

Hello Michael,

Thank you for your enquiry and the pictures send to my personal email address.  

Carter was just one of scores of small safe manufacturers that burgeoned in the late Victorian era.  Their main concern was the protection of ledgers from loss by fire and burglary resistance was secondary.  This type of safe is referred to as 'square cornered'.  Powerful metal presses had not yet been invented so separate sheets of mild steel were screwed or more commonly, riveted to an angle-iron frame.  This created sharp 90 degree corners, hence the name.

The gap between the inner and outer bodies was usually filled with sand, sawdust and possibly some alum crystals.  This was a primitive fire resistant compound but it quickly became compacted or leaked through the seams so it was very ineffective.  Asbestos was never used in British made safes of this period, so there is no cause for concern.

This type of constructon was commonplace from the mid 1800's to circa 1890, so your safe is certain to be at least 125 years old and probably a little more.

The Royal Coat of Arms was spurious - they had no right to display this - only Chubb and Milner had the Royal Warrant.  All the items fixed to the door are of brass and would polish up very well.

As you can imagine, these safes are very easy to force open so they should not be used to secure cash, valuables or important documents.  In the UK there are thousands of these old square cornered safes so they have very little value - around 140 at best.  Presumabley they are rarer where you are based and likely to be worth more.  

There are those who like to refurbish these antique safes to a very high standard and then sell them at auction.  If carefully refurbished and repainted they make very attractive Victorian artifacts and are a good place to keep wines and spirits.

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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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