In a Gallup poll last year, a record-high 36 percent of Americans said they had "very little" or "no" confidence in U.S. banks. (In 2008 and 2009, when the financial crisis was peaking, that figure stood at 22 and 29 percent, respectively.)
In an era marked by financial turbulence, it's probably not surprising that safes have become a popular commodity, with some manufacturers, retailers and installers reporting sales increases of as much as 40 percent from a few years ago. But the bigger eyebrow-raiser is what has happened to those iconic gray-steel boxes of yore: They've undergone an extreme makeover -- or several of them. Taking the place of those old square combination jobs are a range of custom safes, from boutique showpieces to decoy models for the family den -- not to mention the truly offbeat (a hideaway lockbox resembling, ahem, a pair of men's underwear) and the seriously safe (an in-home vault with a price tag of more than $100,000). And that's not even getting into the ever-broadening array of color choices (champagne marble, anyone?) "None of our safes should be hidden in a closet," says Markus Dottling, principal at Dottling, a German specialty-safe manufacturer whose museum-worthy designs can cost more than the average American house.