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Antique Safes, Useful General Information

Posted By: Ken Dunckel Safecracker-Boxman <kendunckel@aol.com> (cache-ntc-aa09.proxy.aol.com)
Date: 4/1/5 08:22

Professional safe technicians open both old and new safes for a fee.

If you need the services of one, look in the Yellow Pages under "Safes" first, not "Locksmiths." This is a common mistake.

Some locksmiths are very good at opening safes, but many are not and just do minor safe-related work. Those who dabble often waste a lot of customers' time futzing with stuff they aren't qualified to do. In the worst cases they do unnecessary damage or leave important things undone.

Never pay for an abortive safe opening attempt. The technician who failed very probably shouldn't have tried.

Safe opening is not cheap when done in a professional manner. The alternative is to do it yourself, but do-it-yourselfers mostly work very, very hard and ruin their safes. Safes were and are designed to be hard to open by force.

You could try dialing every possible combination, but if you work out the number of possibilities and do the arithmetic on the time it might take, you'll see that it's quite a bit of time. Also, even if you have the correct numbers of a combination the lock will not open unless the combination is dialed correctly, meaning the correct number of turns and in the correct turning directions.

Last, people often buy old locked safes cheaply (sometimes not so cheaply) thinking it will be just a very small fee to have it opened. Then the proud new owner gets a huge surprise when pricing the opening and repairs.

Word to the wise: Don't buy a used locked safe until after you learn how much it will cost to open it and move it. A locked safe of unknown combination has virtually no value except to the company that will charge to haul it away. Anything else is wishful thinking.

Don't bother telling the safe opener "but I only paid $XX for it" when hearing the price of opening. What you paid is not related to the price of service. Nor is there any rule that says the opening price must never be more than the price of acquisition. If that were true, would I be expected to pay for the privilege of working on a safe that was given to my customer?

Also, professional safe openers don't exchange opening services for "a cut of the contents." Though it can happen, the percentage of safes with contents of any kind that are abandoned by owners is miniscule.

Many owners of locked safes of unknown combinations try to sell them to unwary buyers for "deal" prices after they have heard a price for moving it away or opening it. Don't be foolish -- check all related costs before buying.

Same goes for locked safes at auctions. Usually no the "deal" it seems.

Safe moving companies get endless offers from people who tell them "if you open it you can have it." These are people who have shopped prices and were dismayed at what they learned, want free opening and haulaway service, and think this is a clever way to get both. Unless your old locked safe is highly saleable and isn't a huge moving job, most experienced companies will charge for their services.

Last, do-it-yourself safe moving or even safe moving done by moving companies that are not safe movers (such as Bekins, etc.) are usually scary and risky. Though a big safe looks like a refrigerator, it's usually WAY heavier, as many an experienced pro furniture mover who wasn't initially impressed has learned the hard way. Even a small safe can be extremely heavy.

Hire properly insured, experienced professional safe or equipment movers, or be ready for problems. A friend with a lift gate or a tow truck is not a safe mover. Safemen open lots of safes locked up by moving damage done by amateurs. Ken Dunckel Owner, Safecracker Editor/Publisher Boxman

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