Antique Safe Prices & Values: "How Much Is It Worth?"
Copyright 2009 by Ken Dunckel
Safe and Vault Opening and Repairs
San Francisco Bay Area and Northern California
Antique Safe Values
Rather than attempting to be a "Blue Book" of old safe values, this blog entry is aimed more at giving readers some realistic perspective about that old safe they might be thinking of selling.
The most often-asked question about old safes is "how much is it worth?"
If it's really old, a safe company representative will usually say something to the effect of "nothing," or "not much."
Remember, the safe company is in business. From a business/commercial standpoint, the safe company has to approach the question with this thought in mind:
"Can we resell this safe at a profit, after the expense of moving, loading, hauling, unloading, servicing, cleaning, and storing it?"
The second consideration is if a safe is very old, it might not have fire and/or burglary resistance ratings and certification labels that many insurers require before granting coverage to the contents.
Despite the foregoing, some old safes do have value as:
working pieces of history
examples of art in industry
fire protection (much has been said but not much proven about the so-called fact that big heavy (intact) old fire safes won't protect contents against fire because of their age)
protection against burglary -- there are still some very old safes that will stop burglars (and even a lot of legitimate safe technicians) in their tracks
Suppose I told you your old safe is worth $2,500.00. However, that's only to the right buyer. Most people aren't interested in big heavy old safes, but there are still plenty of people who like antiques of all kinds. The problem is finding one who likes and wants your old safe enough to spend money, time, and effort acquiring it and hauling it away.
It's usually not the local safe dealer. Many dealers will only give callers a haulaway price. They've all been approached by an owner who thinks he or she is being clever by telling the safe dealer, "if you can haul it, you can have it." We in the safe business know this is usually someone who has already heard price quotes for taking it away and wants it done for free.
With all that said, there's still hope if you have an old safe to sell. You just have to do it locally and privately, via advertisements (Craig's List for one) or word of mouth. Typically if you can find a safe dealer who will take it on consignment for sale, the dealer will often subtract charges for the hauling and moving from your end of the sale price. That is, unless you can deliver it to the dealer.
Is It In Working Condition?
Does the safe you want to sell or get rid of work? In other words, do you know the combination numbers and turns, and can you demonstrate the safe's operation to a prospective buyer?
If the safe you have is locked and can't be opened, you have nothing to sell.
Commonly heard: "Oh, I'll just scrap it."
First, there's the cost of getting that old safe to the scrap yard or landfill.
If the safe is locked and unusable, you might have a problem at the landfill or scrap yard if you can't open it for inspection.
There are rules and policies in place these days with respect to how your locked safe will be received at the scrap yard or landfill. Landfill and scrap yard operators need to ensure that you're not getting rid of anything toxic to the environment or otherwise illegal.
Old or antique safes with the best chance of selling are those still in good condition*, with paint intact and working keys and combinations. The more ornate the better. It's hard to gauge value, however.
* "good condition" means the following:
the dial turns easily, without sticking or binding
the combination and keys (if any key locked compartments) are available and working
the bolts on the safe door operate smoothly when the handle is turned
the door(s) open and close smoothly with no binding
no rusting or outer damage is apparent
the safe is (relatively) easily accessible for someone who needs to move it out
Not every used safe meets all of the above criteria. However, some basic service by a competent safe technician can often restore smooth operation to an old safe.