Antique Diebold safes are one of the oldest brands of high-quality materials available today. They’ve been around since the 17th century and gained popularity during the 1871 Great Chicago Fire.
Today, an antique Diebold safe is worth about $500 – $1,000 on retail sites like eBay due to scarcity and other factors. Despite its continued existence in this century, Diebold Nixdorf now has diversified interests.
If you’re here, you want information on antique Diebold Safe models, identifications, and valuation. Keep scrolling to get all the answers you seek.
Table of Contents
Antique Diebold Safe History
Let’s start from the beginning to understand the impact of antique Diebold safes in history and why they’re worth collecting. The company started as Diebold Bahmann Safe Company in 1859 in Cincinnati, Ohio.
Then, it changed its name to Diebold Safe & Lock Co. since its sole service was manufacturing safes, locks, and locksmiths. Besides their sturdy and aesthetically pleasing features, these safes were robbery-proof due to their makeup. You’ll learn more about this under-identification.
The company gained more popularity during the 1871 Great Chicago Fire because its safes survived the catastrophe.
During the post-fire count, firefighters discovered that 878 Diebold safes were untouched, including their contents. You already know everyone who could afford it ordered a Diebold safe for themselves immediately after.
Diebold Safe Lock & Co. got many orders and needed a bigger space to accommodate its growing workload. So, the business moved its location to Canton, and in three years, a global financial service company Wells Fargo hired Diebold to make a record-size vault.
In 1875, the company delivered a 27 ft (W), 32 ft. (L), and 12 ft. (H) vault to Wells Fargo. That shifted its customer base to financial companies and commercial banks. By 1921, Diebold sold another record-making safe bank vault to Detroit National Bank.
It continued its safe and lock venture until the 1960s when Diebold diversified to Computer Security and Automated Teller Machines. Diebold is responsible for many firsts, including the iris recognition system on ATMs.
The company also worked with organizations bigger than Wells Fargo, such as the U.S. National Archives in Washington D.C. and The Smithsonian. By the 21st century, Diebold ventured into election systems and defense.
Diebold now operates under Diebold Nixdorf following an acquisition between 2014 – 2017. With such an impressive history, there’s no reason Diebold safes should be worth less money, talk less of a high-quality antique.
Now, it’s time to learn how to identify an authentic antique Diebold safe, especially the rare ones possibly worth a fortune.
Diebold Safe Identification
Physical features are the best ways to identify items like Diebold safes since they’re unique. So, here are ways to identify authentic Diebold safes
The Diebold Safe Material
Antique Diebold safes are notorious for their fireproof and anti-theft features. Here’s why and how to use it as a means of identification.
Plaster of Paris (POP)/Mortar
Diebold coated its safes with Plaster of Paris (POP) or mortar to dispel water vapor, thus stopping the fire from consuming the metal. They’re also less thermal conductive as they insulate the heat instead of spreading it.
Although mortar isn’t as strong as POP, it’s a good alternative because it is a mixture of fire-resistant materials – clay, cement, sand, and lime.
Since there’s no recorded Diebold safe with asbestos for fireproofing, that should be a red flag when collecting.
Sometimes, Diebold used zinc and manganese Franklinite or a mixture of alkali, clay, and alum on the steel safes.
The company reinforced its fillings with steel rods fused on all sides.
Exterior & Interior
Antique Diebold safes have wrought iron made of heavy boilerplates on the exterior, while the inner walls are lined with hard steel.
The Diebold Safe’s Age
Antique Diebold safes were made from 1859, the company’s registration date, till 1922, the 100-year mark (100 years make an antique). You can also decipher the age of your Diebold safe by unique features based on models and eras or the old-fashioned maker’s mark.
For eras, the 1870s used a famous Triple Time Lock system, and twenty years later, the company launched its manganese steel doors. They were TNT-proof making them the best anti-theft brand in the country.
The Maker’s Mark
Antique Diebold safes carried maker’s marks on their exterior through embossment. This mark included the company’s name and logo at the production time, and that’s why you need your history knowledge.
Use the name changes from 1859 to the date to determine when the product was made. Additionally, use the location to track the production plant like you know, Cincinnati, OH, was the original factory location before Canton in 1874.
If you’re lucky, your antique Diebold safe will carry a patent mark, including the company’s name and the model’s patent number.
See below for Diebold Safe Models and their identification.
The Diebold Safe Model
Diebold safes have different models for its vast customer range, from personal use compact-sized safes to grand vaults at commercial establishments. Below is a detailed description of the most popular antique and vintage Diebold safes made between 1859 and 1950.
The Diebold Cannonball
With a name like Cannonball, you should already know about this model’s looks. If not, let’s make it clear.
It was one of the first models made by the company before the 20th century and was popular with banks. Not only did it have physical features that evoked feelings of safety in customers.
They were also highly functional, with a 3,600-pounds body shaped like a cannonball. Cannonballs had triple time lock security meaning the timer is set to a particular time upon opening the combination code. One timer opened the vault, while the others were backups.
The Cannonball safe had hand painted gold hues outside and hand-jeweling inside, giving it the appearance of a diamond-encrusted piece.
The Diebold Commercial
The Commercial came in the mid-20th century when the company had already become the leading maker of safes in America. It’s a combination of some of its popular antique models hence its suitability for business and residential use.
The safe weighs 1350 lbs with one-inch solid steel and an extra ½-inch on the door, with an S&G (Sargent and Greenleaf) Dial Lock. The S&G locksmiths have been in business longer than the Diebold company and have a good working relationship.
Diebold Electric Rekordesk Safe
Like the CommercialCommercial, the Electric Rekordesk safe is also a vintage invention. It came with the expansion of the finance and banking industry into electronic devices alongside Automated Teller Machines.
It ensured a more secure means of saving money since it used electronic codes and locks. Three buttons controlled the opening and closing of the safe, although it still employed minimal manual effort when turning the lock.
This safe desk was as fire-resistant as the rest of the Diebold fold, thanks to its insulated linings and exterior. The sales line said, “Assures 24-hours protection for Vertical Card Record Systems.”
The Electric Rekordesk had a desk-like shape and occupied about 1½ floor space in standard-sized rooms. Despite having an electric lock, Diebold added a manual bypass for emergencies.
The Diebold Commander
Corporate files in offices were the safest in the Diebold Commander safe. Diebold made it fire-resistant and heat-resistant to protect paper documents from heat damage. There are four vertical compartments inside the safe at ascending heights.
Like the other Diebold models, the Commander has many sub-models, including the famous No. 42. They all have nine uneven-sized compartments to fit in as many documents as possible, from A4 papers to small cheques and tickets.
The Diebold Cashgard Chest
The Cashgard Chest model is a vintage collection designed like a small box hence its name. They were primarily made for home use, unlike the bank vaults, which popularized the brand. A classic Cashgard chest has a two-tone colorway, including a white inner lining.
Its proportions also differ from the vaults like Cannonball, which were designed for large and sensitive information. A Cashgard chest has 1-inch-thick steel walls with an extra ½ -inch on the door.
Despite being a personal use safe, Diebold Cashgard chests had good security with a reinforced lock mechanism. Its steel walls and doors were drill-resistant while its edges extended to 3-inches more than the former.
By 1937, Diebold made a catalog for the Cashgard Chest as it designed several variations you can distinguish with their model numbers. Of all the sub-models, No. 1180 and 1181 were the most sought-after.
These Chests had unique additional features making them the preferred safes for small business owners other than private individuals. Inside, you’d see two compartments – one for storing small papers such as receipts and the other for saving money.
On the Cashgard Chest’s top, there’s a small opening to access the receipts compartment without opening the safe, making transactions easy.
While both No. 1180 and 1181 had these dual compartments, the former was smaller at 19-inches high, while the latter was 25-inches high.
Antique Diebold Safe Model Numbers
Using Diebold safe model numbers to track its authenticity is a pro tip. You can either look up the recorded numbers on the company’s updated website, Diebold Nixdorf, or consult e-forums like Lockpicking. The third option is to check the short information below.
Antique Diebold safe model numbers are a combination of six to eight digits. You need them for unlocking your safe if it gets jammed, and as a 100-year-old piece, it’s a high chance of happening.
Unfortunately, there’s no unified record of antique Diebold safe model numbers. You have to figure it out through inference and probabilities if it’s no longer on your safe. Where can I find it?
Anywhere. The model numbers can be embossed on any part of the safe, from the door handles to the top of the dial rings, compartments, splint key, inner walls, outer back, or bottom. Note, though, that the dial ring placement started in the 1980s, so that’s not vintage or antique.
Watch this video to see how to open a Diebold Safe.
Which Antique Diebold Safe is Worth Money?
A short list of valuable antique Diebold safes in history includes;
- A Granite Gold Mine Safemade in 1895, Canton, OH, on display in El Pomar Carriage Museum, Colorado Springs.
- A custom-made Granite Safe ondisplay at the Minneapolis Wells Fargo History Museum, Minnesota.
Antique Diebold Safe Valuation
With all your information on identifying an antique Diebold Safe, the next step is learning to distinguish the valuable models from the basic junk.
“How do you know which antique Diebold safe is worth money?” If you’re buying an antique or vintage Diebold safe, it’s best to spend your money on something worth it; a new model is also best. Follow the rules.
Some questions need answering in the affirmative before you drop a bag on an antique Diebold safe –
- Is it in Good Condition?
- How Old is It?
- Does it Have Important Provenance?
- Is it an accessible model?
- What’s the Size?
Now, let’s answer these questions with reasons they’re essential to valuation.
Is it in Good Condition?
Unless you’re buying the antique Diebold safe, to say you own one, aesthetics and functionality matter. Which one matters more is a question of preference. If you’re more inclined to the functionality, then a little patina on the exterior and interior isn’t depreciating.
However, the antique Diebold safe should have little to no blemishes if you care about all factors. Or at least nothing too big you can’t refurbish. However, note that upgrading or making changes depreciates its antique value.
Check the lock, the hinges, and all sides of the antique Diebold safe and ensure they’re intact.
How Old is it?
As you’ve learned earlier, age isn’t just a number with antique Diebold safes. Firstly, it must be at least a hundred years to qualify as an antique piece. Then, this directly connects to the next question, “Is it an accessible Model?” since older types are less-likely still exist.
It affects editions availability such that specific models were made in different eras and, as such, carried more value than others despite technological advancements.
Does it have important Provenance?
What’s Provenance? It means the origin and chain of custody, primarily for second-hand sales. Check the history to find out the previous owners. You never can tell; your antique Diebold safe might’ve belonged to a notable historical figure.
Some popular Diebold safes with important Provenance include the grand Vault for Wells Fargo, any pieces that survived the Great Chicago Fire, and other limited-edition or custom-made pieces.
In this regard, age doesn’t factor in, and a vintage Diebold safe may be more valuable than an antique piece based on Provenance.
Is it an Accessible Model?
As the last two questions explained, age and unique models make for valuable antique Diebold safes. The rarer a model is, the higher its demand in the market. For instance, only one Wells Fargo record-making vault was made in the 1870s. It’s basic economics.
Other models carry their Provenance and worth, but it’ll never be the custom-made design with specific proportions and materials. Models in this category include museum pieces now retired as historical items. If the custodians ever release any of them, you’d pay a fortune.
How Large is it?
On the flip side of rare models lie unique sizes and custom-made proportions. Some antique Diebold safes were part of commercial models made in bulk, but they all came in different sizes, as you’ve learned in the identification segment.
Each size is worth more than the other based on popularity. Some popular dimensions per model include Diebold Commander No. 42 & 44, Cashgard No. 1180 and 1181, and No. 1161, 1162 & 1165, which all have the same internal structure but different external sizes.
The Cashgard No. 116x series were the smallest models made by Diebold as burglary-proof because they could fit into hidden compartments in walls, blocks, and floors.
Antique Diebold safes are ideal for collectors interested in function and aesthetics since they’re as beautiful as they’re secure. Depending on your purpose, there’s a wide range of models to choose from, and with this guard, you’re less likely to make costly mistakes.
An average new safe is worth $60 to $100, while antique Diebold safes cost at least five times the highest value. Do due diligence when collecting it.
- Identify that it’s real
- Evaluate its worth
- Hire an appraiser to be sure
Frequently Asked Questions
Q: Where can I Buy or Sell an Antique Diebold Safe?
Antique Diebold safes are available for sale on the internet via retail sites like eBay. As a seller, you can appraise your item before offering it. Use an auction house like Sotheby’s if you think it’s worth a lot of money. You may even find one in an antique store.
Q: What does an Old Diebold Safe Weigh?
It depends on the model and size, but a Cannonball is supposedly the heaviest commercial Diebold safe and weighs about 3,600 pounds.
Q: Are Antique Safes Collectible?
Yes, as long as people have valuables to secure, safes are always in demand, and when people want extra security, they go for antique safes. They have old mechanisms that aren’t easy to burgle hence the appeal.