How to collect antique safes

Written by ira mency
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Collecting antique safes can be a fun and challenging past time. Safes of yesteryear can range from small lockbox safes to larger rolling home safes to ornate Victorian safes. Most are made from cast iron and can weigh up to useveral hundred pounds. The most challenging aspects include finding places to store them and identifying people who can help you acquire them.

Skill level:

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Things you need

  • Phone directory
  • Library and/or Internet access
  • Notebook (pocket size)
  • Pen

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    Antique Safe Collecting 101

  1. 1

    Research and take notes. Whenever starting a collection, it's best to research the topic at hand. The library is a great place to start. Not only do they have antiques and collectibles guides, but you may find something of interest in turn-of-the-century design books or historical banking archives.

    The Internet is also a wealth of information and a great place to familiarise yourself with how people obtain antique safes. You can find current collectors who display their safe collection online, as well as forums to talk about rare safes. Take notes and keep track of the different styles of safes and which ones are of significant value.

    A pocket sized notebook can be your best companion, to take with you while searching for that special piece so you can consult your notes.

  2. 2

    Search for your first item in your local area. Check antique stores, malls, and consignment shops by visiting them or calling and inquiring about any safes for sale. Larger antique malls should be personally scoured. If you happen to find a safe that piques your interest, consult your notes to see if it's worth the asking price. If it is something you would consider buying for less, leave a note for the antique dealer at the front desk, asking if they will work any deals with you. If it's something you are just not interested in, leave a note anyway in case the dealer has any other safes for sale.

  3. 3

    Search online auction or sale sites. Keep in mind the cost to ship a heavy safe would outweigh its value. However, you may find safes advertised near you marked "Local Pick Up Only."

    If you search sites like eBay or Craigslist, either within your own city or cities within 60 miles, you may find these items waiting to be had.

  4. 4

    Find and contact the "clean out guys" in your local phone directory. These people specialise in basement, garage, or attic clean-outs and often have ample access to old safes. Normally they aren't interested in trying to find a buyer for such a heavy, bulky item. Unless they have the room to house such an object, they often scrap the metal for cash. Offering to pay a price better than scrap and do your own removal may just score you a great safe for a great price.

  5. 5

    Build your collection and prosper. The key to a good collection is to keep the valuables and sell off the less desirable ones. Reinvesting your profits will keep it a fun and affordable hobby.

Tips and warnings

  • If you have an opportunity to pick up a badly damaged safe for free, you may wish to take it on as a repair project.
  • Safes in the United States date back to 1820 and contain significant historical value. Some are extremely rare, while others are only worth their weight in scrap. Generally speaking, the more ornate, the more desirable.
  • Research your safe thoroughly and learn to look for signs of restoration. Although proper restoration may be a significant key to the value, a shoddy restoration work with non-authentic parts may make the safe worth a fraction of what you are paying.

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