Locksmithing/Buying a safe?


I have the opportunity to buy an old Cary Safe. It is very similar to several you have answered questions about. It is missing one wheel, the locking mech. is locked open and the door will not shut all the way(locking bolts are in the out position). There is no know combination for it. Of course it needs to be painted and the internal wood cabinet is torn up. there is no key for the internal lock. Here is my question...How much (In general) would it cost to repair to working order? I'm seeing asking prices of 800 to 1250 for restored safes, but weighing the cost of purchase and restoration. I would like to restore it and use it. I appericate your time and knowledge. Thank you, Todd


Unfortunately, I'm not going to be able to answer most of your questions for a several reasons, but I'll do my best.

Safe restorations, and associated costs, are dependent on a number of factors.   I'm not sure where you got the number of $800-$1250 for restored safes, but you are really light depending on your approach.   The majority of the "listings" that I've seen are extremely misleading to lying about the safe.   In fact many of the so called "restored" safes have simply been wiped down with something like "Pledge" to make it look nice, and then called restored!   Safes which have NOT been restored, but are in good working condition, easily go for your "$800-$1250).

Option 1:    The DIY approach - based on equipment, material and YOUR capabilities.

Option 2:    The professional restoration - depending on the condition and how much restoration is required, you could easily be in the $2500 to $10,000 range.

paint jobs can easily run $1500 to $5000 by themselves, depending on the quality, art work and detail.
Cabinetry can easily run $500 to $3000 depending on the size of the safe, wood used, and customization of the cabinets.
Mechanical portions, re-plating, and any repairs could run $500 to $3000 depending on damage, items which need to be repaired or replaced, machine shop time, and type of material to be plated.   For instance a bankers safe will have much more nickel plating than a standard safe.

You asked about repairs, however without seeing the safe, and damaged areas, I have no idea what it would cost to repair it.

Cary safes were made from 1878 until about 1929, so restoration will depend on what you have, how old it is, what condition the safe is in, what features it has, etc. etc. etc.

Obviously if you are able to perform a DIY restoration for the majority of the items, you can substantially save yourself some money.   Any items that you have to sub-out, will cost the majority of the project.    There are also some options available to save money in these areas.  For instance you can try to talk a local college art department into taking on your safe as a restoration project - if they aren't interested, they might have some talented art students willing to work on it for some $$$'s.

So as you can see, there really is NO "in general" "cost", as a restoration depends on the current condition, and how much restoration you intend to do.   The last two Cary safes we have done, have run between $3000 to $4000, and didn't include any interior cabinetry work.

As I haven't seen your safe, I currently can't evaluate its value or current condition, so I can't advise you on purchasing it.   But this does bring me to my next question - you mentioned that you plan on "restoring it AND using it".   As this container will not meet ANY current standards for fire or burglary, I'm not sure what you plan on using it for, but I would recommend NOT having ANY overnight storage of cash, jewelry or valuable documents.

I would be more than happy to look at the safe to answer any specific questions that you might have about it, however I WILL need photos.

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.   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:  andy@securitysafeusa.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.  


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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 AllExperts.com

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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