As many of you know from reading this blog, I have recently become “retired” from my job of 18 years (22 years total in the field). As a recently retired fella, I have really begun to look at where I can save a couple of bucks. One of those areas is shaving. Currently I have one of those fancy Mach 3 razors. You know the ones I’m talking about. These are the ones that you have to pay $10 - $15 just to buy replacement blades. Well, not anymore! I picked up a vintage safety razor, a pack of 10 new blades, a shaving mug, and some (here is were I splurged) custom made Bay Rum shaving soap. All of this cost only $10. Less than a pack of 5 replacement blades for my Mach 3.
Not only am I saving money, but I’m getting a better shave. If you’re wondering where all this is leading, it’s this – shaving used to be an art. One of the “Manley Arts.” A gentlemen’s art if you will. And something that has somehow been lost over the ages. Each morning as I lay out my shaving equipment I look at my vintage shaving mug, and I think about what a work of art these little mugs are, and that’s what I want to talk about today. Shaving mugs. Specifically, vintage shaving mugs. It’s amazing the prices that these things can command these days. I got lucky. Real lucky. I found one at a local Goodwill that the workers apparently thought was just an oversized coffee mug, and they had a .49 cent price tag on it. Needless to say I snatched that up right quick! (It just goes to show that there are still treasures to be had at Thrift Stores!).
Shaving mugs have a long history throughout the world, and even in this country. From the late 19th century through the early 20th century, almost every man owned a shaving mug. Either at home, or at his local barbershop. And some of these little beauties can fetch a pretty penny. Today, collectible shaving mugs can bring anywhere between $1.00 - $9,000, depending upon the age, condition, rarity, and style of shaving mug.
Essentially there are five styles of shaving mugs that are collected today. These are Decorated Mugs, Occupational Mugs, Fraternal Mugs, Scuttle Mugs, and Advertising Mugs. There are others, of course, such as metal mugs (tin, graniteware, and silver), but the market for these types seems to be more limited, although the right one could bring a substantial reward. Remember to always do your research before investing in a collectible whether for yourself or to resell.
Types of Mugs:
Originally, decorated shaving mugs came from
Occupational shaving mugs are among the most sought after and popular shaving mugs collected today. They are almost always ceramic / porcelain, and will feature as a decoration the name of a particular profession or occupation, as well as a scene related to that occupation. The majority of occupational shaving mugs represent middle-class professions. A few upper and lower class professions were also made, but these are a rarity. My research has shown that current prices for occupational shaving mugs range from $50.00 - $9000.00+
Fraternal shaving mugs were owned by members of fraternal organizations such as the Masons, the Odd Fellows, the B.P.O.E. (Elks Lodge), and others. Fraternal mugs were decorated with the organizational logo, and often the owners name. These decorations were usually hand painted. My research has shown that current prices for fraternal shaving mugs range from $10.00 - $200.00+
An unusually shaped shaving mug, scuttle mugs are actually quite unique. Scuttle mugs can be plain or decorated. As for shape, these mugs feature what looks like a second mug attached to the main mug. The mug features a shallow dish area in the top, with holes in the bottom of the dish area. This is where the soap goes, and the holes are designed to help drain off water and excess soap. After shaving, the water and excess soap is poured out through the “secondary” mug area, and the brush is then stored in this area. My research has shown that current prices for scuttle shaving mugs range from $5.00 - $1000.00+
Often used as sales promotions for shaving soap manufacturers , Advertising Shaving Mugs were given away to customers. These were generally inexpensive ceramic mugs that the manufacturers hoped would convince their customers to continue purchasing their product. My research has shown that current prices for scuttle shaving mugs range from $1.00 - $200.00+
For more information on collecting shaving mugs, visit the National Shaving Mug Collector’s Association. They have a pretty cool site, and I personally found my visit to this site to be quite enjoyable.
Or, you may want to invest in a couple of good books on shaving mugs. Some of these include:
Occupational Shaving Mugs by W. Porter Ware
Antique Shaving Mugs of the
Occupational and Fraternal Shaving Mugs by Robert Blake Powell
Barber Shop History and Antiques by Chris Jones
The Best of Shaving Mugs (Schiffer Book for Collectors) by Keith Estep
The Shaving Mug and Barber Bottle Book by Keith Estep
Some Collectible Shaving Mugs that recently sold on eBay:
Machinist Occupational Shaving Mug & Personal After Shave Bottle
16 Bids, Sold for $1,287.99
OCCUPATIONAL SHAVING MUG
21 Bids, Sold for $910.00
OCCUPATIONAL SHAVING MUG
12 Bids, Sold for $586.90
Well, that's about it for now, so until next time Pards,
Today's Word of Wisdom: "It's always best to keeps skunks, lawyers and bankers at a distance."