Antique Safes: San Francisco Tea Company

Antique safes can be interesting and fun, and they offer a little glimpse into our history.  They also make great conversation pieces in the home or office.  Unfortunately, the exteriors of many have been painted over, like the Mosler Brahnamn which is the subject of this post.


A customer got this old safe from an abandoned building.  The combination was unknown so it needed to be opened.  While the original outside paint in covered up, the interior is still very cool. In about 1885 the San Francisco Tea Company must have paid top dollar for this safe with all the extra decorations.  Check out the great paintings inside.  In particular, look at the well-dressed Indian chief.  Doesn’t he look rather European for a Native American?

Nice antiques are getting hard to find, and going up in price.  If you are seriously interested in getting an antique safe, email us with information on the size you want as well as price range.

Antique Safe — the Ultimate Breweriana

“Breweriana” is what collectors of beer-related stuff, call that beer-related stuff they collect.  Usually those items consist of bottles, signs, bottle openers, tap handles, etc.  This beautiful antique J. Baum safe is from 1908 and was owned by Furniture City Brewing Company.  Not one collector in a hundred would have an old brewer’s safe.


Furniture City Brewing was one of the last independent brewers here in Grand Rapids.  As far as I can tell they were in business from 1905 to 1919.  Old pictures show that their building was a big four story structure.  There are still a few Furniture City bottles around, but nothing else that I could find.  Incidentally, Grand Rapids was a big beer town a hundred years ago, and the phenomenal growth in our modern local brewers has earned us the title of “Beer City USA” two years in a row.


This antique safe is a perfect size at 32.5”h x 21.5”w x 20”d.  It would make a great end table, TV stand or holder of other breweriana.  On a scale of 1 to 10 it would get about a 9.5 because its original paint is very interesting and in unusually great condition.  The interior is also very nice showing only minor wear.  It also came with four very old money pouches bank bags which may have held the brewery’s “beer money”.

There are no immediate plans for this Furniture City Brewing safe.  It will be on display at our shop for a few months.  I will entertain serious offers from interested buyers.

Small Antique Safes

Small antique safes with good original paint and ornate graphics are very hard to find.  This beautiful little Victor, standing only 20.5″ high by 14″ wide, is a gem.  The red emblem on the inside door panel is uncommon, but not rare.  It lists all of Victor’s patents which were used on the safe.  The most recent patent shown is 1889, so the safe was probably built before 1895.


Elaborate graphics and hand painted outdoor scenes on such a small safe are rare.  Rarer still is that the original paint is still intact.  The pictures shown here are not as sharp as I would like, because the safe was sold before we could even clean it.  If you have a small antique that you no longer want, or if you would like to buy one, please contact us at Hoogerhyde Safe.

Antique Pedestal Safes

You can currently see two antique pedestal safes, circa 1870, by Marvin Safe Company in our shop.  The smaller has been completely restored and the larger is all original.  These are sometimes called Brothel or Boudoir Safes because they were frequently used in bordellos.  Pedestal safes were very expensive when new (they still are as antiques), and made in small numbers by about four companies.  Many were certainly tipped over and broken, making them very rare now.  These two are in my personal collection but I am willing to sell the smaller unit for $7500.  If you are looking for a truly special piece for you home, splurge on a rare antique safe.

Antique safes and fire resistance

Most antique safes were intended to be fire resistant safes — they were filled with concrete or some other material for that purpose. This is what makes the walls so thick and what makes the safes so heavy. But in the “old days” there was no standardized testing program, so it was all just a guess. Some years ago we even found a note from a manufacturer glued to the bottom of a drawer inside a safe.  The note said that the fire resistance of safes was an inexact science, and that if this safe ever went through a fire it’s condition should be reported back to the manufacturer to help them gauge effectiveness of their fire insulation.

Two months ago a customer brought in an antique Alpine brand safe.  Her house was completely destroyed by fire.  Pictures of the burned house showed that the only spot where rubble stood more than 2 feet tall, was the place where the safe rested underneath charred remains.  When our technician opened the safe (they rarely work after going through a fire) it was found to be completely full of papers, none of which were burned.  It’s impossible to predict, but not all antiques would have held up as well as this Alpine.  The woman was thrilled to recover all her documents, and she kept the safe even though it was no longer useable.