Wednesday, March 11, 2009

Collectible Shaving Mugs

Today I'd like to talk a little bit about shaving mugs.

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:

Decorated mugs

Originally, decorated shaving mugs came from England, France, Germany and Austria. Although they were rarely used before the late 19th century, after they became popular, these ceramic mugs were manufactured in Europe and then imported, undecorated, into the United States. Once here, they were decorated with the owner’s name and often with a hand painted over-glazed enamel decoration of some sort. Usually these decorations included floral, scenic, animal, or comic designs. My research has shown that current prices for decorated shaving mugs range from $1.00 - $100.00+

Occupational mugs

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 mugs

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+

Scuttle mugs

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+

Advertising Mugs

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 United States by Robert Blake Powell

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


21 Bids, Sold for $910.00


12 Bids, Sold for $586.90

Well, that's about it for now, so until next time Pards,
Whiskey Jack

Today's Word of Wisdom: "It's always best to keeps skunks, lawyers and bankers at a distance."


Ali said...

nice post thank u for sharing.

Melissa said...

My husband reminds me alot of you, yea he has the mach 3 but cant remember when he used it last. Im looking for an old cup/razor cause thats what hes into and i love it. i will forward himyour blog but not until i get on of the books you recommend. Kinda want him to think it was my idea for a few days. thks.

Melissa said...

Looked all day for an antique shaving mug or razor, your blog has given me some great leads. Going to try and buy a couple of the books you reccomended tomm. Thks, i will turn my guy onto this after he thinks the book was my "find". Love your blog.

Stephen Roberts said...

Those are wonderful looking vintage shaving mugs!
Shaving mug is a useful shaving device to make rich lather.
Thanks for sharing.