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Hobbs And Hart

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Hobbs And Hart

Postby egidius » Wed Apr 15, 2015 1:25 am

old safe  

I've been trying to find out how to get into an old safe I bought at an estate sale, but no luck so far. On the outside there is a plaque that has Hobbs and Hart manufacturers and patentees. The safe is about 25" X 27" X 30" with 3 key holes, a small object I think had to hold the device for pulling in the bolts on the door and a small brass handle that looks like a screen door handle. No one at the estate sale knew anything about keys and the lady that owned the stuff has dementia and didn't even know they had a safe. I don't have any keys or any other information from the safe. I did write to someone I thought was with Hobbs company but was with Key Elements Locksmiths. He said the it looked like the safe was an old steel strong box. I know Hobbs made the locks but I have no idea who made the safe. I don't have any pictures of the inside as I haven't been able to get into it. I hope you can help.

I've been looking on the internet for a box that looks like this and have found some that look like it but none of them have the 3 key holes. I can send you pictures to your email address.
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Hobbs And Hart

Postby Dehaan » Thu Apr 16, 2015 12:13 am


The original maker of the safe, Alfred C. Hobbs as an interesting story, which will enhance the value of the safe, so I recommend that you do some research and print a nice copy to go along with the chest.

These containers were built in Leyton, England.

Alfred Charles Hobbs, born 7 Oct. 1812 Boston,Massachusets, died 6 Nov. 1891.  was known as the "Yankee Lock Picker".  He learned lock making while working for several lock and safe companies during the mid 1800's.  During the 1840's he visited nearly every section of the US, picking locks and selling his wares.  During this period, rival lock and safe makers were continually issuing challenges, and Mister Hobbs was kept busy accepting them.  He eventually went to London where several lock makers had locks that were supposedly UNPICKABLE.  His exploits in London are what really boosted his fame.

He eventually utilized his fame by starting a lock factory in England, but found English business methods to slow, so he returned to the US, bringing some of the highest awards and honors for engineers.

The Company he started in 1851 was originally known as Hobbs, Ashley and Fortescue.  When Hobbs returned to America in 1860 he sold the business to a John Mathias Hart, with the stipulation that his name should ALWAYS head the company, so it became Hobbs, Hart & Company in 1860.  The company was acquired by Chubb Safe & Lock in the mid 1950's.

Sorry but other than his name, Mr. Hobbs had nothing to do with this company or your safe, and it could easily have been made 30-40 years after he left England.

Safes similar to yours were made during the late 1800's up into the early 1900's.  Unfortunately the majority of safes made during this time were all virtually identical, with the only major differences being the locks installed, the handles and the name plaques.  Because of this these safes generally have a fairly low value in the UK, bringing about 150-200 British Pounds($240-$320 US dollars).  Luckily in the US they do tend to be worth slightly more depending on the condition.

As far as opening the safe, you WILL need to find a safe technician willing to work on the safe for you - very few exist.  Most have no ideas about the lock or the safes, and don't really care to learn.  If you just want it opened, they will be more than happy to oblige you, however the safe may suffer drastically.

Getting the safe opened is only 1/2 the problem, getting keys made is the other half.  Hand making keys to this safe could take 15-30 hours each, so depending on how intricate the keys are, you could easily be looking at $1500 to $3000 per key to have them made(figuring $100 per hour as a labor rate).  Obviously without seeing the safe I'm throwing out some numbers, but I am familiar with the amount of time it takes to make the keys as I have made similar keys for numerous safes including a Delano Hobnail safe, and 1830's Evans safe, and numerous English and European safes of similar construction.

I'm not sure what you are considering doing with the container, but the cost to have it opened AND keys made will FAR out weigh the value of the safe.

I'm more than happy to discuss the project with you if you are serious, and plan on shipping it to me to work on, but if you are simply price shopping, I have to warn you that while many may be interested in taking the project on, you need to be very upfront with the prices they charge AND what you expect in return.
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