Everyone’s inner rogue is inspired by something about the intimidating appearance of an antique safe. In spite of the fact that very few people are now utilizing stethoscopes and daring demeanors to break into bank safes, these once-useful storage facilities have now turned into cherished collectibles.
The value of an antique safe relies on its design, rarity, and condition but the major trouble is determining when an old safe was made. Finding the manufacturer is the first step. Then, you should look for any unique or exceptional features that differentiate it stand out from other models and are indicative of a certain era.
It’s time to evaluate the safes’ value at this point. In most scenarios, seeking expert assistance is your best option. Remember that some of the older ones were booby-trapped to deter thieves. Therefore, attempting to unlock it on your own is not advised.
We have included the 15 most valuable antique safes in this guide. This will also assist you in identifying and determining a value of your vintage antique safes.
Table of Contents
History of Antique Safes
Important papers and treasures were frequently difficult for ancient people to keep out of the fire. They made the decision to create a protective gadget for that purpose after multiple failed efforts.
Julius Caesar, for instance, stored his important documents in iron boxes before deciding that the material was a powerful heat conductor and thus ineffective as a fire-resistant material.
Later, many feudal lords secured their documents in vaults that were particularly constructed below earth. Merchants favored iron-banded wood chests in the fifteenth century. In the 1830s, the first iron safes entered the market.
In that year, Jesse Delano used a combination of material like alum, lime, clay, mica, and plumbago to cover the interior walls of safes.
Other antique safe manufactures employed a variety of materials as insulators, including:
- Stone or wood
- Mica or asbestos
- Chalk, clay, or alum
- Brick, cement, or plaster
- Vacated space
Midway through the 1820s, solid oak cabinets imported from Europe were the first safes utilized in the US. Iron hoops were used to secure them, although this security was merely symbolic rather than functional.
Hobnail safes, which were created in the late 1820s, were one of the first safe kinds used in America. They were made with wooden bases by producers including Magaud de Charf, CJ Gayler, and Jesse Delano. Then, they used to large-head, frequently gigantic cast-iron nails to fasten the hardwood structure with iron sheets.
Because semi-damp wood offered greater fire protection, some manufacturers bathed the wood in salt water before applying an iron layer.
In 1830, Thomas Milner built a fireproof safe out of sheet iron and tin plate. The hardwood, alum, and sawdust bottom was covered with that layer to prevent conductivity.
The Great Fire of New York in 1835 demonstrated that this combination was insufficient, despite the fact that it partially protected the safes. To determine the safest amounts of protection, systematic testing was first used in 1917. They demonstrated the falsity of the majority of outdated fire safety notions.
People demanded fireproof safes, but the majority of manufacturers focused on making safes that were burglary resistant. The John Scott Safe Co. obtained a patent for the use of asbestos and was one of the first companies to start making fireproof safes between 1834 and 1835.
Their safes are uncommon on the market now because the company only operated for two years. A collector recently priced one at $8,500.
Famous fireproofed safes manufactured between 1830s and 1840s:
- Silas C. Herring
- Benjamin G. Wilder
- Daniel Fitzgerald
- Rich, Roff, and Stearns
- Enos Wilder
- Benjamin Sherwood
Different Antique Safe Styles
Safes were made by manufacturers in a variety of styles, dimensions, and styles. The most well-known models on the list include:
Asbestos Antique Safes
In the middle of the 1830s, John Scott was the first safe producer to use asbestos as a fire-resistant material.
He applied plaster of Paris on the internal wall of the wooden safes after mixing asbestos with it. Asbestos was covered by an outer steel plate, making it impossible to determine which ancient safes contained the substance.
Antique Cannonball Bank Safes
These enormous, spherical cannonball-shaped safes were created by the Mosler Safe Co. Due to their design, they were not practical for homes, but banks found them to be a great addition.
Banks could show consumers where their deposits were held, and they seemed to be secure. For enterprises, the company also created scaled-down versions.
Both a large cannonball safe for business usage and a smaller one for personal use were produced. It is common to refer to the enormous commercial cannonball safes used in banks as having a ball on a box configuration. The majority of cannonball safes had intricate hand jewelry that shone like diamonds on the interior and outside.
Antique Hobnail Safes
Early in the nineteenth century, these steel-covered antique fire safes built of wood were created. Safes were made to be more fire-resistant by soaking the wooden component in salt water. This specific safe concept was created by John Scott, and it worked effectively during the New Orleans fire.
These safes provided burglary protection in addition to fire protection for the contents by entangling steel strips. They had large round-headed spikes that held them to the wooden base.
Victorian Parlor Safes
A piece of furniture, the Victorian parlor safe was normally placed in one of the rooms. As a result, it was lovely, elaborate, frequently plated with gold, and carefully adorned.
To make their items as enticing as possible, manufacturers employed delicate paintwork, rosewood drawers, and numerous inlaid motifs.
These safes, which were common in the late 19th and early 20th centuries, were peculiar in that their exteriors were made of wood yet they were forged from steel.
These days, this style is popular, and plenty of people have them renovated. They frequently enhance the original design by adding cocktail bars, humidors, and minibars. Even when modified, they maintain features like:
- Heraldic motifs
- Embossed markings and a coat of arms
- Emblems and decorative nameplates
- Locking mechanisms and hidden storage
Antique Wall Safes
These helpful and widely used wall safes were made to be built into a wall. Usually, folks would conceal their safes beneath drapes or paintings. The majority of vintage versions have a handle but no keyhole.
Data or Fire Safes
There was often thicker insulation on these safer floor types. The bolting down method was advised by the manufacturers for increased security. Since hinges can be hidden or installed inside, you can determine any model’s age by looking at them.
15 Most Valuable Antique Safes
Although costs for antique safes are difficult to estimate, the majority will run you a few thousand dollars. Checking the item’s initial retail price is essential. You should anticipate that objects in exceptional condition might be worth several times their initial price because they are extremely desirable and uncommon.
In general, the models that cost the most when they were new will be the costly. You may choose the model that suits your interests and budget after finding a number of dealers on a few reliable websites.
Italian Iron Floor Safe sold for $124,500
This completely functional 19th-century Italian floor safe from Genoa is distinguished by its size, security, and superb craftsmanship. The intriguing safe, which weighs hundreds of pounds and is surrounded by heavy iron plates, has one of the most complex locking systems ever created.
To effectively unlock the external door, one must carefully adjust the concealed panels covering the three keyholes. It may be opened to reveal a roomy interior for storing priceless goods as well as a second concealed compartment with a special key. The base’s concealed drawer, where the keys and special lock pick can be kept, is the last secret compartment.
Belgian Iron Floor Safe sold for $48,500
This Belgian cast-iron safe is a significant forerunner of the contemporary combination lock. Modern concealed lock technology and a four-letter combination code are both used to secure the 19th-century safe. The middle door is unlocked by a secret key, exposing four letter dials. The safe’s key must then be used to open it and gain access to the valuables kept inside only when the right code has been entered.
BAUM SAFE & LOCK CO. BLACK IRON SAFE value $100 – $200
Cincinnati, Ohio’s J. Baum Safe & Lock Co. made an antique floor safe. It could be interesting to do some study to learn how long the M. Lynch Co. operated in Bangor, Maine. Still’s main door is decorated with stunning artwork. Lake with swans. The safe is 36″ tall, 25″ wide, and 25″ deep. It is moveable. It exhibits aging-related wear and loss from patina.
Pennsylvania Hanging Pie Safe in Green Paint, ca. 1850–1880 value $4,900
Pennsylvania hanging pie safe with opposing fans and a circular medallion in first-surface green paint, ca. 1850–1880
With beautifully perforated tins that feature a variety of colorful geometric designs, this Pennsylvania hanging pie safe dates to the 1850s through the 1870s. The single door is made of wood and poplar and has circular medallions placed within opposing and overlapping fans as its only decoration. Narrow tin panels with a recurrent circular pattern surround it on all sides.
Large Napoleon III Steel Safe value for $8,900
This exceptional safe, made by the French manufacturer “Petit Jean,” has been meticulously refurbished and is now in flawless operating order. The wood has been cleaned up and a dark walnut wax applied, while the steel has been stripped down to a gun metal patina.
Both the star key system and a functional four-tumbler combination lock are included on the safe. A locked jewelry box with its original key is located within.
19th Century Wien Armored Cabinet, Safe value $6,828.06
1969 Wien Safe, functional, armored cabinet with an interior framework made of solid wood and panels welded from steel. Steel and wood were utilized, and both are in good shape.
19th Century Antique Spanish Iron Safe value $5,500
Gorgeous early 1800s Spanish iron safe. The safe was constructed in Valencia, as seen in the images, and the lock is still completely operational. The lock was opened using a brand-new key. The safe has two compartments: a closed area on top that is internally divided into three pieces, and a big compartment on the bottom that can hold more but doesn’t have a key.
Antique Cary Safe Co. Buffalo NY Late 1800’s value $2,900.00
It’s amazing for its age! There has very minimal wear overall and on all the finials. Almost all of the black paint is left on the front inner door panel used to display the mechanics and concrete. Because the coating is present everywhere, even below the door, you can tell the wood finish is original even after removing the inside door panel.
Macneale & Urban Antique Safe value $2000
When Mr. Ireland left the Morris and Ireland Safe Company, which had operated from 1870 until 1890, E C Morris established the E C Morris and Company Safe Manufacturing Company. With a plant in Readville, Massachusetts, Mr. Morris gathered funds and established the E C Morris Safe Company in 1893.
The Treasurer and General Manager was Mr. Morris. In 1896, the business went out of business. After many orders for his arrest for fraud and embezzlement were issued, Mr. Morris vanished in January 1897.
Antique Pie Safe or Jelly Cupboard Combo value $3,295
A safe from the 19th century with its original stained surface. Durability and stability of this lovely pie safe has been verified. The original tins and the cupboard are in excellent shape. There is nothing duplicated.
Morris-Ireland Floor Safe value $300 – $500
This vintage safe is fantastic and has a functional combination lock. With the exception of the visible faded and oxidized paint finish, everything is in excellent shape. Just some little paint repair is required. The words MORRIS & IRELAND, BOSTON are written on the safe’s door.
19thc Original Robin Egg Blue Pie Safe value $3,495
Original painted Robin egg blue from the 19th century. Two door, four-layer shelf pie safe. Stunning craftsmanship including a crown top mold. Wear commensurate with usage and age. Very good used condition.
BAUM: METAL SAFE value $300 – $500
This valuable antique safe has a finished interior and wheels. Its condition includes paint and finishes throughout have chips; not combined.
Victor Safe & Lock Co. Small Black Safe value $400 – $600
It was last patented in 1893. It seems to have the original finish and artwork, all of which are in good shape with very minor scratches and scuffs. A locked compartment, three wood drawers, and an instruction page are all located within. You may install any combination you like because the front entrance is open.
Antique safe combination lock GUARDIAN LIFE INS CO value $618.00
Antique safe combination lock GUARDIAN LIFE INS CO is in good condition and available at the auction sites.
How can I Date My Antique Safe?
You could be curious about the age of the dust-bunny collector if you had a relative who left you an ancient safe in her will. The majority of antique safes only date from the 19th century and later if you live in America. However, there are a few features you may look for to help you determine the era in which your safe was manufactured.
Check out the Labels
Find the safe’s production date by looking for latent labeling or engraved labels that indicate the date the safe was constructed. Check the exterior of the safe and the interior paneling to see what you can discover.
Determine the manufacturer
Determine the manufacturer by looking for information about the company’s name within the safe. Occasionally, these companies provide guidelines you may use to cross-reference your safe with.
Determine the safe’s locking mechanism
Determine the safe’s locking mechanism because the first safes were secured with locks and keys. As a result, a safe that seems to be quite ancient and can only be opened with a physical key is often older than a safe with a rolling combination mechanism.
Observe the safe’s appearance
Take a close look at the safe’s design to observe what colors were utilized, whether the labeling has any out-of-date typography, and whether there are any recognizable accent markings. For instance, some safes’ exteriors with their fine line work and painted piping may date from the 1920s or 1930s.
Identification of Antique Safe
Before purchasing one of these safe models, always exercise caution and conduct some research. The safe’s body should be examined first in order to determine more about the maker and the age of the particular model.
The next step is to evaluate its state, accuracy, and any necessary repairs. Always contrast pricing with those of online models that are comparable. Be aware that a variety of elements influence the value of antique safes, and hence, you can check out the following things in order to identify your vintage safe.
Safes in good condition that don’t require a difficult mechanical refurbishment will cost extra. Even if broken safes are worth money, operating safes will be more in demand and more expensive.
As is to be anticipated, tall, hefty antique safes are difficult to sell since they are difficult to carry and store. Always choose a smaller wall or desktop safe; they are more practical.
Comparing larger and smaller safes
Due to their difficulty in shipping and large storage requirements, massive, tall antique safes don’t seem to attract as many purchasers. Therefore, go for the smallest desktop or wall safes you can locate whether you’re looking for a speedy response as a vendor or a lower-priced item as a buyer.
Because there are so many modern safes on the market, there aren’t many individuals competing to buy an antique safe. Instead, the safe market is often extremely specialized.
Where to Buy and Sell these Antique Safes?
Searching online is your best option if you need to find one immediately. Consider the following sites:
- e-Bay– The Antique Safes of your dreams can be easily found on eBay, one of the greatest sites to find beautiful Antique collectibles. It’s also ideal if you’re considering selling because they provide a very user-friendly e-commerce feature and can reach a sizable global audience.
- Ruby Lane– Since their auction stream is sourced via more conventional methods, Ruby Lane is, it must be said, a little more constrained in the number of antique Safes that are offered at once. It’s a good idea to constantly checking their inventory, though, as they are one of the biggest online auction houses, to see if they have what you’re searching for posted.
- Etsy– Since people frequently discover these different Vintage Safes in their grandparents’ homes across the nation, internet marketplaces like Etsy are among the greatest places to find a ton of these pieces on sale.
- Other Auction sites – you can also buy and sell your antique pieces at various auction sites such as liveauctioneers and invaluable
Antique safes are a great addition to the house of any antique collector. They give you a place to keep your valuables while also evoking a feeling of drama and excitement as you speculate about the location of the things your safe formerly protected.
The best course of action is to consult an expert before making a safe purchase. Most people aren’t aware of the fact that some of them can be really precious and old. Models with elaborate gold writing or fashionable decoration should catch your attention since they are signs of an antique.
We hope you’ve enjoyed reading about 19 most valuable antique safes to hit the market recently. For a price, you can find anything you’re looking for, including rare prototypes, restored vintage models, and original condition items.
And if you still have your own antique safe at home, look after it! It could be incredibly worthy.