Spotting a fake safe plate

This entry contributed by and R.A. Beck, 2007

With the lack of available reference material, safe plate collectors can readily be fooled into buying fakes. This can be easily understood, due to the lack of available information that would provide guidance, especially for beginners. Here are just a few things to watch out for:

  1. Carefully examine the quality of casting; if it has poor definition or a lot of bubbles cast into it then this might indicate the possibility of fake. Different ways exist of making moulds and casting, but the original plates were often made using an expensive mould that copiers would rarely pay for.
  2. Then look at the original holes that allow the plate to be screwed onto the safe; have they been visibly filled before making the copy mould? To make a cast off the original plate, fakers make a mould. If made from the exact original then the fixing holes would not cast well - it would end up being two ragged holes. So the holes on the original are filled with lead or other filler whilst the mould is made. Then new fixing holes and perhaps countersinks have to be put back into the plate after manufacture to look original. But, if the original holes are not well disguised they will show up on the fake plate; see photos:

  3. On the back of this plate the filled holes and the new ones are shown.

    A lot to be seen here! Colour, Filled hole, Definition, etc.

  4. Do the fixing holes show signs of any screws having been used through them, as would have occurred with the fixing of an original plate to its safe?
  5. Also excess brass from the casting process may be just roughly ground off.

  6. The suspect safe plate

    Clear evidence here of the rough edges having been ground off

  7. The colour of the metal can be a give-away too (aside from the patina and dirt), as a cheaper mix of brass with less copper in it melts at a lower temperature and is thus easier to work with.

The more of these things you see, the less likely the plate is to be original. I also have seen a number of copies so would automatically be suspicious of certain plates.

This forms a brief note on this subject prepared with the very helpful assistance of Tom Gordon. It is reproduced from The Lock Collector journal, Issue No. 12. Please contact us and comment on any more you have seen, or can offer further advice on this subject.

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