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Locksmithing/lost combination on safe


QUESTION: Hi Andy,  I have a Victor Patent safe that was passed down in the family and we do not have the combination.  There is a gold emblem on the front that says "Highest Award-Grand Prize St. Louis 1904."  The number on the lock is 197177.  Is there any way to find the combination for this?

Thanks so much!!

ANSWER: Hi Robin,

The "Highest Award" decal was placed on ALL of their safes between 1905 and 1915.   This award was NOT for an individual safe, it was for their "DISPLAY" at the St. Louis Exposition.

Manufacturers NEVER published any information concerning serial numbers, combinations or ownership for obvious security and liability reasons.   Once a company goes out of business, these records are lost for ever.   In this case, Victor was acquired by the Safe Cabinet Company in 1920, so records have not been available for over 90 years now.

With the serial number 197177, I would expect your safe to have a 100 number dial, and a three wheel lock, which means that you have approximately 1,000,000 possible combinations to test to open the safe.   At 500 per day, it would only take about 5.3 years to test them all.

Your other option would be to have a safe technician from a local safe company open it for you.   Note:   I never recommend using locksmiths for safe work, as they generally don't have the training, knowledge or tools to work on safes without causing excessive damage or charging exhorbant rates.

If you don't have a local safe company, let me know where you are located (zipcode) and I'll see who I might know in your area.

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

QUESTION: We live in a small town in central Illinois where there are no safe companies but are willing to travel.  Our zip code is 61938 and I would say the closest big city is St. Louis, MO.  Thanks so much for your help.


Hi Robin,

I'll give you several choices to discuss your safe with.    Probably the closest company would be:

Barlow Lock & Security, Inc.
1107 South Willow St.
Effingham, IL  62401

I don't personally know this companies level of proficiency or capabilities, but they are probably the closest (about 25 miles), and they do work on safes & vaults.    You can discuss their options and pricing.   Just make sure that YOU understand all the costs up front, and what condition you should expect your safe to be in after they get through.   If you have any questions feel free to run them by me before having them do the work.    Locksmiths that indicate that they know safes, but can't give you a flat price for the total job, usually do so, because they either don't have the experience, training or knowledge.

The next couple of companies are at more of a distance from you, but the same info goes for them.   You can save some of the travel expenses, if you can take the safe to them to have it opened and repaired.

The first company that I would recommend is:

Frank Zykan Safe & Vault     about 120 miles
St. Charles, MO   63301

Next would be:

Fink Lock & Safe Company      about 175 miles
2311 N Western Ave
Chicago, IL  60647

Either of these companies can help you out, but they are further away.   You can discuss your options with them.   They may know of someone closer to you, also.  


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Terry V. Andreasen (Andy)


Safe and Vault related Questions; Antique Safe Repair and Restoration; With over 42 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. 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 Author of "The Coffee Table Guide to Antique Safes".

SafeCrackers International and the National Antique Safe Association Safe & Vault Technicians Association (SAVTA)

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 Expert 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 and Western Nevada)

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