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Old Safe
Old Safe  
Hi Andy,
The lore behind this safe says that it's been on this block since 1909. The landlord gave the safe to my boss. No one knows the combination or what's inside. I found you through an old blog called Mike's Old Safe by a guy that managed to open a safe from the same company with some advice from you and others. I was wondering if you knew what the model was, and if it would be safe to apply some WD-40 to the lock like Mike did on his. The front of the safe says "Herring-Hall-Marvin Safe Co. Hamilton OH". Closer to the bottom of the vault door it says "Gookin Bank & Office Equipment Co./ Southern Distributors"
Mar U.

Hi Mar,

First off, let me say that you have a neat looking old HHM safe.

I'm not sure why you need help identifying the safe, as the name of the manufacturer is prominently displayed on the front.   "Herring-Hall-Marvin Safe Company".   The name on the bottom, "Gookin Bank & Office Equipment Company" was as noted, simply a distributor or sales agent for HHM.   HHM was in business from 1892 until they were acquired out of Bankruptcy in 1959 by Diebold, and subsequently shut down during the early 1960's.

As far as using "WD-40" on the lock - WD-40 is NOT a lubricant and has no place in locks.    Whatever Mike did, if he used WD-40 on the lock, then I would discount the majority of his claims as he knew nothing about lock servicing.    Question;   If the safe is locked up, how and why are you trying to lubricate it???

Next item, after reviewing the website in question:    YOU are trying to mix apples and oranges.   Just because someone mentions something in a post doesn't mean that it is going to apply to anything that you have.    In this case the writer had various comments about numerous safes and the HHM in one of his photos is from the late 1950's, where as yours is most likely from the early 1900's.     YOU are trying to compare an old Model T Ford, to a Ford T-bird.   While they may be made by the same company, there is nothing remotely similar.

The safe in the photo you provided might have one of two locks installed, one being a three wheel lock and the other being a four wheel lock.    With a 100 number dial, this gives you a potential of between 1,000,000 and 100,000,000 potential test combinations.   At a minimum, dialing 500 every day, it could take you up to 5.5 years to test the combinations on the three wheel lock.

First recommendation, would be to contact a safe technician from a local safe company - NOT a locksmith, or someone using WD-40 on locks, to have the safe opened and the combination recovered or reset.    Afterwards you can do any necessary restoration work.
If you don't have a local safe company, then let me know where you are located (zip code) and I'll see who I might know in your area.

Don't get me wrong, I'm not trying to be mean here, I'm trying to get you on the right track to get your safe opened so that you can have it evaluated and/or have restoration work done to it.

Once you get it open, if you would like me to look at it to evaluate it for you, I would be more than happy to.

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, unless they are very clear and of sufficient resolution.   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:

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 40 years in the Safe & Vault industry, if I can't answer your question I know where to get the answer. Current Project: Restoration of two Tilton & McFarland safes from the 1860'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.


40 years in the Safe & Vault Industry. 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

SafeCrackers International and the National Antique Safe Association

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 - 2014 - 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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