Antique Safes/Antique J Baum Safe
I bought this safe from a friend of mine. It belonged to their grandmother but unfortunately they never thought to ask the history of it before she passed away. I kinda wanted to keep it as decoration in my house but I would like to know more about it's value. How much is it worth? Will the value go up or stay generally the same? Also, how do I change the combination to something I would be able to use it as? There are numbers on the handle but those can't be the combo.. Is there any way to fix it up without changing its worth?
First off, I think it is great that you are trying to rescue this forlorn looking little safe. Unfortunately as the grandmother passed away, the history starts with her, so just start your documentation that way - Ownership: Grandma, Friend, You, as well as, as much of a time line as possible.
Basic history of the J. Baum Safe Company:
Jacob Baum was the son of Leo Baum, an immigrant from Germany, and founder of the J. Baum Safe & Lock Company. The J. Baum Lock & Safe Company was organized May 26th 1916 to succeed the Baum Safe Company and to incorporate and honor his name, after his death, Dec. 17th 1915.
Jacob Baum became partners with John C. Warth in about 1870 as Warth-Baum Safe & Lock Company, successors to the Warth Safe & Vault Company. The Baum Safe Company began in 1893 when Mr. Warth decided to retire. Jacob Baum bought out all of Warth's interests in the company in 1903.
Even though the name didn't "officially" become "J. Baum Safe & Lock Company" until January 2016, this name was in use at least as early as 1904, when Baum was awarded a "Grand Prize" at the 1904 Louisiana Purchase Exposition in St. Louis Missouri, for their overall exhibit at the exposition.
Restoration: Unlike many other items, most people are ONLY going to have one antique safe to display - as a collection would be MORE than one, they aren't really "collecting" safes. So the question would be - would you actually display a rusting hulk of metal in your home, or something that friends really "wow" about, and want to look at. Restoration takes on many tones from simply cleaning the surface to full blown new paint and new interiors.
That being said there are a few instances where restoration might lower the value. If a safe has particular "documented" historical relevance, then it might be better left alone. Some safes had beautiful hand painted murals, some of which we have been able to tie to well known painters - while the rest of the safe can be restored the painting should either be left alone or restored by someone who specializes in this.
Similarly the cabinetry should be taken care of. If it is in relatively good condition, then simply cleaning and performing maintenance on it might be sufficient, however if the wood is rotting and falling apart, then tearing it out and replacing it with beautiful, period like, new cabinetry would be in order.
Restoration is NOT a cheap job, and if done correctly may cost $$$'s. However a properly restored safe is very desirable and can obtain significant value. Obviously the end value or appraised value depends on the job that is done.
The combinations were not designed to be changed, or easily changed on these safes. The lock should be serviced and the combination recovered or reset (if possible) by a trained safe technician. I would NOT recommend that you plan on using it as anything other than a display item, however that shouldn't preclude you from opening, closing and/or locking the safe.
I would be more than happy to look at your safe to try to answer your questions (please be specific), and/or to evaluate it. Don't ask how much I think it will be worth after you fix it up, as my wife broke my crystal ball about the same time she killed my money tree. If you want it re-evaluated after you restore it, I would be happy to look at it again.
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: email@example.com
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.