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Antique Safes/Dating Query



Patent plate
Patent plate  
Dear Sir

I am hoping you might be able to help with dating a stron-room door.

It is a J. Tann Reliance Patent (see attached images). Our client is unable to locate any serial number, might you know where these are usually located? As yet, I have been unable to inspect the item myself.

Many thanks

Guy Arnall

Hello Guy,

Thank you for your question and for the pictures.  The round brass bolt-thrower handle gives it away as a late Victorian door.  It was probably made before 1880 and if you can find a serial number I should be able to date it more precisely.  The number is usually stamped on the end of one of the moving bolts.

John Tann is generally accepted as the world's first safe maker and for many years all their safes and strongroom doors were made at their Reliance Safe Works. Sadly, just a few years ago, the company was purchased by a Swedish conglomerate, their factories closed and all staff laid off.

If you find the serial number, please come back to me.  If you found the answer useful, please take a moment to rate it.


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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