There exists an oasis of masculinity that has remained pretty much a “boy’s club” since it’s inception in the mid-1800s. It’s a place to relax, read the morning paper, share political views and catch up on all the local gossip (yes, men gossip too). A place where a man always felt welcome, even catered to, no matter what his social position. No membership dues or scheduled meetings here, just a chance to escape from the worries of the day . . . at the neighborhood barbershop.
From the striped pole at the entry, to the basic tools of the trade, barber shop memorabilia is attracting an ever-growing audience of collectors. Whether it be a barber chair for $1,200 or a shaving brush for $10, the memorabilia from the glory days of the barbershop are once again trending in 2018.
Shaving mugs from 1860-1930, have long been a popular collectible. The first commercially produced shaving mugs were sold as a package with a bar of soap. While collectible, they are usually of minimal ($10-$30) value. More serious collectors watch for “occupational mugs.” When a man was a regular at a barber shop he would be assigned his own personal shaving mug. These commissioned mugs, with the name of the owner in quilt lettering and a hand-painted illustration of his profession, added a touch of individuality and prestige to the daily grooming ritual. Prices vary greatly with the rarity of the profession dictating the value. Be on the lookout for an elaborate form of mug called a “scuttle”. They came with a small mirror and a drawer to store soap. Pewter, stoneware and fine porcelain example are currently selling in the $95-$150 range online.
Perhaps the most common barber shop collectible are the razors from 1860-1930. Manufactured in many styles, they are easy to find and come in a variety of price ranges. Late 1800s examples are often elaborate with inlays, precious stones and engraving. Early 19th century straight razors will commonly have ivory, bone or horn handles. Handles made of the early plastics include celluloid handles from 1880 forward and Bakelite from 1900-1930.
Bar bottles were used in the home as well as barber shops. Many of these were personalized with a customer’s name and were passed down from generation to generation, making them harder to find than mugs and razors. They were produced in a wide variety of colors and can vary in quality from hand blown art glass to mass-produced pressed glass. Those sought by serious collectors will be from 1860 to the early part of the 1900s. Prices will range from a few dollars to several hundred. The Food and Drug Act of 1906 made it illegal to refill bottles for public use and soon after production of barber bottles ceased.
Porcelain advertising signs and barber chairs are among the most prized finds in this field of collecting. Two words to the would-be buyer: condition and authenticity. Signs have been widely reproduced since the 1950s. Old signs will have a mounting hole, the rust will be an orange-red color, not black or brown, they will have considerable weight for their size, and you should see several coats of thick paint rather than one single coat. Both adult and children’s chairs, while usually authentic, are often in poor condition and can cost a small fortune to have restored. It is usually best to buy a restored chair from an established sales/restoration company. If you do buy a chair that needs work, pay as little as possible for it.
As you plan ahead for the summer yard sales remember to watch for Old Spice mugs, bottles and brushes from 1950-1970. They are just starting to gain a following of collectors and can still be found in the $1-$5 range. Until next time . . . . Linda
Linda Kennett is a professional liquidation consultant specializing in down-sizing for seniors and the liquidation of estates and may be reached at 317-258-7835 or email@example.com