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Antique Safes/Small Victor Safes - level of protection



I am interested in acquiring an Antique safe.  In reading your profile and various posts you mention "...providing consumer awareness for the current fire and burglary standards that they should be using to protect their valuables" and that antique safes are not really to be used for expensive valuables, etc.

Realizing tools, techniques, and metallurgy have changed greatly in the last century, could you comment on the level of protection say a 100 years small Victor Safe (the ones just over 2 feet tall) provide?  I would imagine they would protect items like birth certificates, passports, small amounts of jewelry better than the moderately priced safes you see commercially at "big b ox" stores, etc.  I assume an older safe is adequate for protecting against smash and grab low end criminal that was not targeting the house or specific items methodically.

I would think it a deterrent in any way.

I'll likely acquire one regardless, as they are so cool! ;-)

Thanks so much for your insight and expertise!



Hi Woody,

Let me start off by asking - does your small Victor safe have wheels on it?   If so, then you just answered your own question.   If you can roll it away, then so can a thief.   Regardless of how hard it may seem to open, if the thief can take it to another location to open, then time isn't an issue.

While you are partially correct in that EVEN an antique safe may provide some protection from the smash and grab, low end criminal, it isn't that simple, and I'll try to keep focused on ONLY the small Victor safe that you are interested in.

Safes are built with two very different thoughts in mind - #1 fire resistance, to keep HEAT out of the safe, and #2 Burglary resistance, to keep PEOPLE out of a safe.

Prior to about 1914 the only way a fire resistive safe was actually tested was when your home burned down.   If it survived then "YEAH", it worked.   There were lots of customers with safes who were VERY disappointed when they found out their product didn't do its job.   Between 1914 and the early 1920's two agencies began testing safes to ensure that they at least met a "STANDARD" for the type of protection they indicated.
Similarly Burglary resistive safes began being tested in the late 1920's to meet standards for keeping people out of safes, or burglary resistance.    Burglary resistance included smash & grab type, in and out, low end criminals.

In general the BEST a fire resistive safe could get was a "Tamper Resistance" rating, which meant about 5 minutes of smash & grab resistance.     What this meant and considered is that smash & grab criminals usually don't come prepared with more than a few tools, mainly to gain entry to your home.   If they find your safe and aren't able to gain entry fairly quickly they will look in your garage and tool area to find larger tools.

While they may not spend more than 15 min to 1/2 hour in your home, generally this is all the time they need to gain access to most fire resistive safes.

As far as your imagination goes - the older fire safes - PRE 1960 DO NOT provide adequate protection from either fire, burglary or even low tech, smash & grab, low end criminals.    Unfortunately we see plenty of similar cases on a much too frequent basis where someone assumes that all safes are equal in construction.   Much to their chagrin we hear the stories of how their heirlooms, cash stash, pass ports, jewelry and guns are now no longer their property and that the cops have little hope of recovering them.

Would I try to discourage you from acquiring your little Victor safe???    Heck no, I think it is a great little acquisition - WITH the caveat that you realize it does not meet ANY current standards for burglary or fire and ONLY use it as a display safe or maybe a place to keep some after dinner Cognac or a Liqueurs and a couple glasses for special occasions.    Enjoy your little safe.

I guess the nearest parallel would be your asking me why you can't buy a Model A Ford and enter it in one of the NASCAR events???   While I'm sure that you could, I also think the end results more than speak for themselves.

If you need a safe for your valuables, buy a real safe that DOES meet current burglary and fire resistive standards and it should either be heavy enough (over 750 lbs) so that it doesn't walk away, or it should be securely bolted down to concrete!

Last word on Deterrence:    A deterrence is me meeting my 16 year old daughters date at the front door with a 45 strapped to my hip, explaining to him that THIS is my daughter, I EXPECT you to respect and take care of her.    Your little safe is simply a challenge to someone who doesn't respect you or your stuff and/or wants it more than you do!

Now go buy your little Victor safe and some really nice Cognac to keep in it!   :)  

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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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