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Antique Safes/Joseph Bates


Hello. I was wondering if you could give me a valuation on Joseph Bates Safe. It is of green original colour with 2 draws inside and opens with a single long silver key. On the outside it has a Joesph Bates and Sons Patent Lock symbol. any help will be much appreciated and if you require further details please let me know. Thanks

Hello Amnn,

Thank you for your enquiry and the pictures of your Joseph Bates safe.

Bates were just one of scores of small safe makers that appeared in the late Victorian era.  Most of these companies disappeared with the outbreak of World War I and I assume this probably happened to Joseph Bates as I can find no reference to them in after the early 1900's.

This type of safe is referred to as 'square cornered' as it is manufactured from separate mild steel plates riveted to an angle-iron frame, creating sharp, 90 degree shoulders, hence the name.

The body is almost certainly filled with sand and sawdust, a primitive form of fire protection to preserve ledgers.  However, over the years this loose fill will have leaked and compacted to form large voids through which heat can be conducted.  As the rivets are easily popped, especially at the back, these late Victorian safes should not be used to secure cash, valuables or important paper records.

As they are of no practical use, they can only be decorative.  Second hand safe dealers usually wont accept them as the sand and sawdust makes such a mess when they are stripped for the metal.  However,there are collectors who purchase these old safes and restore them to a very high standard and sell them on.  You could probably get the best price at auction but you have to transport  it to the auction rooms and bring it back again if it doesn't sell.  Ebay always has a few antique safes for sale and this is probably the best way to estimate its value.  Ignore the 'Buy Now' items as they always ask far too much and then seldom sell.  The average price is around 140 but ensure that the buyer must collect as moving these old safes often costs more than it's worth.

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Kind regards,

Mike Palmer FSyI
Mike Palmer Consultancy
Specialist in Safes since 1970.

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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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