Safes 101: An introduction to protecting your collection.

Hi all! If you’re reading this guide then that means you’ve probably started looking at, and pricing safes for your precious card collection. Some of you might even be ready to purchase a safe, but there’s a problem, there is tons of information out there and a lot of it is tremendously confusing. Fear not! The goal of this guide is to help you understand what safe protection levels are and the factors and costs that involve most safes.

With that, let’s begin:


The first thing you need to establish is what do you need your safe to do? It should be obvious that you need it for protecting cards, but what are you protecting them from? Fire? Flood? UV light? Moisture? Your kids? Somebody else’s kids? The list can go on and on for a multitude of different things, but you have to establish what your realistic concerns are before moving on from here.

A few statistics to consider while you are evaluating your decision:

  • The average heat of a house fire is generally about 1100 degrees.
  • The average room in a house burns for about 20 mins.
  • Most safes do NOT protect against floods (or fire hoses!)
  • There were more flood related damages last year, than fire related damages (source / picture)
  • There is a burglary in the united states every 13 seconds (source)
  • The average burglary lasts between 8 -12 mins.

Now that we have mulled over some statistics, we need to look at a couple of other factors:

  • Where do I plan on putting my safe?
  • Will the door to the safe be able open freely in my selected spot?
  • Will my wanted safe fit through the doors in my house?
  • Do I have the structural integrity to place my safe on a second or third story?
  • If I decide to put my safe on the first floor or basement, is flooding a concern?
  • Is humidity a concern in the environment I’m placing my safe in?
  • Do I live in a neighborhood where break-ins are common?
  • Will I need to move this safe in the future?

Consider understanding your safe’s objectives to be the prep work in owning a safe. The more thought you put into these factors and the more knowledgeable you are about your primary concerns, will ultimately lead you to feeling more secure with your home safe decision.


I was going to leave this section until the end of this guide, but the more I thought about it, the more sense it made to leave this section, well, up front.

In the last section we touched upon a few factors that involved prep work. Now lets talk about the cost of those factors. In some cases we need to look at our safe placement. Most manufactures will give you specs regarding door swing and external size of your safe without issue. However, if you want your safe in an upstairs office, or down in a basement you’ll need to know if your stairs/floors will be able to hold the kind of weight you want to place there. This is generally remedied by a call to either a structural engineer or a lock smith. I generally advise the engineer as the locksmith simply wants your business, however the choice is yours to make. That consultation should probably run you 100 bucks or so.

The next up front cost to consider is shipping. Some manufactures offer shipping for free, others charge a fee. Either way, be aware of the terms of that “free” shipping. Some places that offer “free” shipping will charge you for the use of a lift gate on a truck (it’s absurd but it’s a very common practice now) and you can expect that to run you over $100. Additionally most “free” shipping services only deliver to your curb, or in some cases just to your garage. From that point you are on your own. Make sure you understand the terms of your shipping before buying. For those of you paying for shipping, you can expect to pay a couple of hundred dollars based off the size and weight of the safe you want.

Installation, this is the next charge you’ll see. If you and a buddy want to lift a safe into your home (safely I would hope) by your own means, then go for it. You’ll save a chunk of change in the process too. For most of us though, we’re going to need a professional. Find a reputable locksmith in your area and ask for a quote. If you have stairs, expect to pay extra as the locksmith will likely have to navigate stairs to complete the Installation. The price you are going to pay here for an Installation (which generally includes bolting down your safe) is going to vary again on size and weight, but you can expect to pay at least $500 and probably more.

Get estimates, and understand these costs before you get a safe!

Now this is where it starts to get fun! If you’ve been looking at safes you’ve probably noticed different ratings: Class B, Class C, RSC, TL-15, TL-30 and TL 30X6 these are the most common ratings you’ll see and they each mean something different. Keep in mind these ratings only cover the level of burglary resistance the safe has.

"B" Rate Safe:
A safe with at least a 1/4-inch body and a 1/2-inch door. These safes face no testing and the presence of a locking device on the box gives them the “B” rating. Safes with this rating are usually easy to burglarize as they can be just a few hundred pounds (easy to move with a dolly) and can be opened in just a few moments if bolted down.
"C" Rate Safe:
This is defined as a 1/2-inch thick steel box with a 1-inch thick door with a lock on it. It must have hard plate and a relocking device. As before, no independent tests are given to provide this rating. These also fall in the realm of easy to burglarize.
RSC (Residential Security Container):
This is an Underwriters Laboratory (known as U.L.) security rating. Underwriters Laboratory is the best known of about 500 non-biased independent testing laboratories. The safe must withstand five minutes of rigorous prying, drilling, punching, chiseling, and tampering attacks and must be tested using specific common burglary tools to prevent access to the contents. The tools involved in this testing is a 12 inch screw driver and a hammer not to exceed three pounds.
Since we are on the topic of UL, lets take a quick break here and explain what that is as it’s actually very important. UL does a tremendous amount of independent testing on a variety of things including, you guessed it, safes! When UL gives a rating that means a specific product has passed a series of standardized tests defined by UL. UL testers have access to blue prints of the safes they test and are allowed to disassemble a safe before testing to see how it works and operates. By the time they start to break into a safe they have all the knowledge they need to get into it as quickly as possible. The next several ratings you’ll see will include a number. That number represents the total NET time they have spent opening a safe. Net time refers to the time from when a tool touches a safe from the time it comes off the safe. So don’t think a safe with a TL-15 rating will only take 15 mins to open. Quite the opposite, UL testers generally take hours to actually open the safes they test so do keep that in mind. Fun video of them in action here.

TL-15 Rate: Safes given a U.L.TL-15 rating have all passed standardized tests defined in by UL, using the same tools and usually the same group of testing engineers. The label requires that the safe be constructed of 1-inch solid steel or equivalent. The label means that the safe has been tested for a net working time of 15 minutes using “…common hand tools, drills, punches, hammers, and pressure applying devices”. Net working time means simply “when the tool comes off the safe the clock stops”. There are over 50 different types of attacks that can be used to gain entrance into the safe. Usually they will try only two or three - based on what they know about the product, and they know a lot.

***TL-30 Rate:***The tests given for this rating are essentially the same as the TL-15 tests except for, you guessed it, the net working time. They get 30 minutes and a few more tools to help them gain entrance. Keep in mind these engineers have the manufacturing blue prints and can disassemble the safe being tested before the test begins to see how it works. They know their stuff.

TL-30X6 Rate: The tests for these safes are essentially the same as the TL-30 test except that the safe is tested on all 6 sides, including the floor of the safe. Again, the engineers can disassemble the unit prior to testing and have access to the blueprints to see how the safe is built and how it works.

Do keep in mind there are other ratings other than the ones mentioned here, but these are the ones you should see most commonly. If you don’t see a rating mentioned for a safe, then that probably means it has no rating and should likely be avoided. Keep in mind the above ratings don’t mention fire protection. Fire protection has it’s own rating system.
Fire ratings are evaluated by testing to see if safes withstand varying furnace heat for specific amounts of time. For example, the UL Class 350 1-hour fire rating means that the internal temperature of the safe will not exceed 350°F for at least 1 hour when exposed to external temperatures over 1700 degrees. A safe may have a 1-3 hour time classification. Most of the safes you’ll see online will post what the safe can withstand externally. But do keep in mind that the internal temperature of the safe is still allowed to hit 350 degrees. I don’t know about you, but I don’t think a PSA slab can live in a 350 degree oven for an hour.
So there you go! A very basic outline on safe buying. If you guys have more questions about specifics please let me know by post or private message. There is a LOT more to safe buying but I hope I’ve given you just enough to get you started. Thanks for reading!


Shout out to Silentoaths for asking me to post a general guide! This was actually a lot of fun to put together. I’m 100% here for any questions you guys might have, I’m sure there are a least a few so ask away!

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Quality guide on a subject that is rather important to collecting. If I was at my PC I’d move this topic to the guides section, but I am not so if another mod sees this they can move it.

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Pro tip for storing extra high valuables/digital media/important documents and anything else that you may really not be able to afford being burned.

If you nest a small safe inside a larger one you exponentially increase your overall fire protection rating not just linearly. E.g. a small 30 minute safe as linked put inside a 30 minute safe gives you hours of protection, plenty long enough for most houses to burn completely to the ground. The reasoning behind this is that if we remember from above that the rating of the first safe is the amount of time until the internal temperature of the first safe reaches 350 degrees at a given external temp. So after 30 minutes with a fire outside the large safe the internal temperature of the large safe (and therefore the external temp of the small safe) is just now approaching 350 at 30 minutes. The inside safe is also designed to withstand full temperature for 30 minutes before getting to 350 inside which it will likely never even see temps of anywhere close to there due to the first barrier.

Great guide @silversnorlax204. I was very thankful to have had most of my important docs in a firebox when my apartment burned down back in college. I always pop in to any conversation where safes are discussed and I always recommend everyone have something as pretty much any collection can be protected for the cost of less than a single card from that collection.

It would be a great addition for science to bake a cheap PSA card at various temps including 350. I searched youtube and couldn’t find any temperature tests and couldn’t even find info on what type of plastic the cases are made from. I’m quite sure they’d melt and scorch at 350 F fairly quickly.


What are people’s thoughts on a bank vault ? I’m thinking of storing some of my cards there just to prevent any chance of being robbed

Don’t think that’s quite necessary yet… I think about in the prospective of if I was robbing a house what would I grab? I wouldn’t immediately run towards the Pokémon, I’d grab the tv, video games, jewelry, etc etc. I just don’t think enough people know about the potential value of Pokémon. Plus if I had a first edition charizard PSA 10 or another high end card, I would know that serial code like the back of my hand so if it ever came on the market I would know who to sue/put in jail. It is worth putting an insurance on your cards though so that if that were to happen, or UV damage, or water or whatever else happens to the cards, you could get your money back.

Awesome writeup @silversnorlax204! One thing that could be useful is having a section of “recommended safes” that members (especially those unfamiliar/new to safes) can quickly check out and maybe even buy.


Just got a small safe yesterday (small collection)!

This guide is really helpful for when i look to upgrade. TY!

Working on it…

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I haven’t looked at safes much, at least not since 2008 when I put a floor safe in my storage locker in California. My question is, with that safe I gutted the innards because it was a gun safe and all the spacers and other gun accommodation stuff took up a lot of room in the safe.
Do they make custom innards for floor safes now or at least different layouts?
What is the cost of a highly rated safe now?
Also silversnor, what is your connection to safes?

I love Ketchum’s safe in a safe idea (just for my Charizards lol)

Hey Gary,
They do in fact make custom safes with the layout you want. If you like I can forward along a manufacture I like with great customer service.

Price point on safes is all over the place, depending on course the size and weight. You can expect to spend 2.5k on a small one that is highly ratted. That scale can go over 20k depending on what you want or need.
As for my connection, I’m an avid researcher. I actually have this problem where I tend to hyper focus on a subject for months at a time as I get slightly obsessive. (Not a joke, this actually happens to me). I’ve been looking at and researching safes for the past year (maybe longer) and I’ve learned A LOT along the way. My connection is my research, and my dedication to this hobby, nothing more.

As I type this, I’m actually putting PSA slabs in a cheap toaster oven to better understand what temperature PSA slabs melt at. I’ll probably do a write up on this to follow.

We all have our quirks brother lol. At least yours can benefit a lot of other people;)

That’s the hope!

If anyone chooses to go the Batman route and store their cards in a expensive but awesome kind of way…

I’ve always loved these.


Thanks, I think I’ll do a suggested page as well at some point. I’m going to continue with general testing for the time being.

I just got a small bank vault for my almost complete psa 9 1st edition holos. It is insured and I guess protected better than any vault I can afford myself.

@op, really like your story, thank you so much for writing this down and doing research on the destruction point of psa slabs!