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Antique Safes/Safe in the house i moved into


QUESTION: Hi Terry, i recently bought a house and there is a huge safe in one of the rooms and i even have the combo for it but i cant get it to work at all.  The previous owners had the door open on the safe when we moved in, so i know that its the correct combo, but once i shut the door and tried the combo they left behind, i cannot get it to work for the life of me.  The only thing i know about the brand of the safe is that it has a capital letter G in the center of the dial.  I can send you a picture of it if needed.  The safe appears very old and is about 6ft tall and 3.5-4ft wide.  It has an underwriters laboratories label on it and a unit number on that tag.


I'm going to need much better photos to actually ID the safe.    

Based on the photo that you provided - it appears to be a Schwab safe, with a Gary dial.   The dial isn't much help in IDing the safe, as it could have been replaced at some point.

I would be more than happy to look at your safe to id it, but it needs to be open

You didn't include the combination that you are using so I can't try to interpret it.

many times old owners pass combinations along the way that they understand it and NOT necessarily the way the lock works.

get me the numbers exactly as written so that I can try to help you.

Once you get the safe open, if you still need it ID'd, then you can get the photos that I'll need.

In order to answer questions, identify, evaluate or appraise the “current condition” of your safe, I'm going to need photos.  They should include full exterior and interior.  Detail photos (close-ups) 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 use a “jpeg” format, not a bitmap (bmp) image.   Also, I don’t like “website” photo dumps.   While it may be an easy place for you to store them, retrieving photos which allow me to zoom in to look at details, takes a lot of extra time.   Please send the requested photos directly to me.

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.

---------- FOLLOW-UP ----------

QUESTION: Hi terry, thanks so much for the response.  The code is: 39, 37, 63, 39.  I can see that there is a schwab logo that was painted over at some point. If you know the sequence that is necessary to open the safe that would awesome!

Hi Dan,

Schwab used a couple of different locks, but the dialing sequences are similar, though one is LRLR and the other is RLRL.    The majority of the locks used were Yale locks dialing as follows:

4 times right to the first number, 39
3 times left to the second number, 37
2 times right to the third number, 63
1 time left - to the last number (39) or until the dial stops.

note:   left is counter clockwise, right is clockwise.   Do not count the turns of the dial, count the individual number as it arrives at the 12 o'clock index mark.

If the RLRL above doesn't work, then test the LRLR as above.

Looking at the numbers that you have, this isn't what I would use as a good combination.   If you still can't get it to open, then you probably need to have it checked out by a safe tech.

Hope this helps,  

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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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