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Sunday, April 8, 2012

The Vintage Shaving Shoppe Joins The Pennsylvania Society of Goldsmiths

It is important, as collectors, to recognize the contributions of the artisans of the past whose skills and dedication produced the beautiful creations we love to own.  But we should not forget  that there are men and women in the present day, who devote years of study and practice to the art of fine metalwork.  In our area, these people are admirably represented by the Pennsylvania Society of Goldsmiths.  We have chosen to become members not only to support the art, but also to increase our in-house knowledge of technique.  I find personally that the more I learn, the more I respect the work involved in creating fine blades - particularly "early" blades and those with special features such a fancy "worked" spines.

If you have such an organization near you, I strongly encourage you to join and become involved.

Friday, April 6, 2012

The Wade And Butcher "El Magnifico" Pressed Horn Straight Razor

Those of you who know me and who have read my postings know I have a special place in my heart reserved for Wade & Butcher straight razors.  Wade & Butcher, in its various incarnations, was one of the oldest, longest lived and best producers of shaving steel in all the history of the "modern" straight razor shave. But shaving blades were but a part of the Wade & Butcher product line.  The company was heavily involved in making all sorts of edged steel items.  A nice encapsulated history of the company and pictures of some of its extensive product line may be found here.

But I digress.  I wanted to take a moment to show you one of the "crown jewels" of the Vintage Shaving Shoppe.  This is a 7/8 "Patented Frameback" in the original box made by Wade & Butcher.  While the entire razor is a work of art, the highlight is the scales.  These are polished pressed horn with 100% of the gold lettering intact.  This is certainly a scarce straight razor in any condition, but you can spend a lifetime looking and never find one like this.  Try to keep the drooling to a minimum ;-)







Tuesday, February 7, 2012

Koken Barber's Chair "Striptease"

Get your minds out of the gutter gentlemen!  It's not that I'm above adorning one of my fine old chairs with Megan Fox or Angelina Jolie, it's just that we can't manage to synch our schedules.  Seriously, I introduced the magnificent Koken barber's chair (shown below) to you several months ago.  While it looked really good for a 80+ year old chair, I wanted to bring it closer to its original state.  Believe it or not, this was a minimal (although not inexpensive) effort.  I had the two foot surfaces (shown worn to the iron in the below photos) replated in the original thick nickel - many people don't know that chrome plating was not used on this chair.  Also the tacks that secure the seating fabric to the chair seat, which were rusted, have been replaced with new nickel plated tacks.  These are small things to some, but it is truly rewarding to see this chair as the excited young barber who plunked down considerable cash for it did when it was delivered to his shop.  Take a last look in this posting at the pre-restoration condition and keep and eye out for photos of the fully restored chair in our blog!


Purchase inquiries at $2,700 will be entertained. Local pickup is recommended.  Shipping can be arranged but can be extremely expensive.







Sunday, November 6, 2011

Been A While...What Happened?

Friends and Clients,

You may have noticed the seeming absence of new postings over the last 3 months.  Well, I have a note from the teacher - I've been consulting out-of-town for a considerable length of time.  Rest assured that we are preparing some very special things for this holiday season.  Whether you celebrate Christmas, Hannukah, Ramadan or just enjoy the cold, clear nights of winter, we will have something that will be special to you.  Keep checking our store and ebay, particularly in a couple of weeks, for some very nice things.


Sunday, August 21, 2011

The Vintage Shaving Shoppe Is Now An eBay Top Rated Seller!

Thanks to all of our customers who have given us 5 star ratings on eBay and thus contributed to us being named a Top Rated Seller!  This highest honor shows the faith that our customers have in our ability to deliver the highest quality items in a timely fashion.  Keep an eye out every week for more great material as we continue to go through our vast inventory.

Friday, August 19, 2011

Look For The Unusual For Your Shaving/Barber Collection

Don't get me wrong...I love my razors, but row after row of razors on a shelf eventually leave me a bit cold.

The fascination of the razor is not just in its varied designs and origins, it's in every that surrounded it.  That's why I've been collecting barbers items almost as long as I have been buying razors.  Everything from an antique neck duster to an old Koken barbers chair, puts all of those old razors into their proper historical context.  Old mugs and brushes make the perfect companions to the razors in the bathroom.  Old barbers bottles can really make a great display in your den or office.  But what really excites me most are the items that you NEVER see.  Items that were one-of-a-kind or so delicate that few, if any, survived.  Look below at a magnificent such example:


In all of the years I have been in the antiques and Barberania business, I have never seen anything like this item.  After an extensive search, I have concluded that there are none like it surviving in the world that are known to exist.

This unique item is a decorative bottle cover which fits snugly over an early 1950s era Wildroot Hair Cream bottle.  It may fit earlier bottles if they were exactly the same side. The "Barber Pole" part of the piece is a cardboard tube covered with paper that has been handpainted.  This tube travels up to the waist where it meets a Plaster of Paris figure of a barber.  The figure is hand-painted and calls to mind the barber of the Gay 90's holding a straight razor.  Overall, the painted surfaces are in excellent condition, with a few lost chips on the hair.  As it was the weakest point of the piece, the neck was broken off but was carefully glued back into place.  No plaster or epoxy was added in an attempt to disguise the break line, but it is so small that it does not detract from the beauty of this piece.  The piece is 12" tall.

Why did almost none of these survive?  Being made of cardboard and plaster, these bottle sleeves were very prone to damage by water and breakage.  Also, since they only fit specific Wildroot Cream Oil bottles, once the bottle size changed, there was no need for the cover.  Additionally, once the head broke off, the cap could no longer be turned and, once you lifted the sleeve, the head would tumble to the ground.

Bar none, this is the rarest barbers item I have ever owned.  And if you are looking to build a truly exceptional collection, it is these types of items you should be seeking.



Wednesday, July 20, 2011

Pins Are Important

Removing pins for the purpose of cleaning is absolutely forbidden in our shop, as the original pin cannot be re-installed. We, on rare occasion, replace broken scales with ones from the same era and style, but this is infrequent because we must wait, sometimes years, for a set of scales that match. We DO NOT manufacture new scales - ever.  In those cases, we retain as much of the original fastening hardware as possible, including washers and collars.  Some pin replacements are easy to detect.  You should look for:
  • Top and bottom pins that are made of different materials (most common are brass and nickel silver)
  • Pins using flat external washers
  • Pins that look different from one another, even if they are the same material (this is not a guarantee of a replaced pin, just suspicious)
It is here that I should mention something happened frequently in the life of an old razor.  Antique razors, particularly early ones, tended to be expensive (imagine spending several days wages on a razor today). So the owner did not simply throw them away if something happened to the scales or one of the pins.  It was common for a pin to be replaced, generally with a common nail, so that the razor could continue to be used.  I find this a fascinating practice and one could build an impressive collection of such period replacements.  When we encounter razors like this, we leave them with the improvised pin.
Why does it matter when the razor is removed from the scales?  The main reason is that you can no longer be sure that the razor was original to those scales.  The scales can be a vital clue to a razors age and identity.  Replacing scales with a model never used on that razor cheats history by creating a "fantasy" piece - not a genuine collectible.

Sunday, July 10, 2011

Late Night Thoughts On Old Straight Razors...A Ghost Story.

Have you ever just sat down and looked closely at a straight razor which you know hasn't seen the light of day in a century?

This is an experience I have quite often.  And looking at these old razor I sometimes feel that I can see flashes of the former owners reflected in the blades.

You could tell the folks who were in a hurry to get their shave - they tended to "lean" on the razor when honing, placing their finger on the tip of the spine as they ran the blade over the stone. Over time, of course, that part of the razor tended to be overhoned, leaving the razor narrower at the tip than the rest of the blade.  Then there is "the brute" who seemed to feel that extreme force exerted at the center of the razor would "force" the blade sharp - leaving the telltale overhoned center on the spine and, eventually a "frown" on the blade. 

Then there is the well-worn blade which is much narrower than it used to be; the hone wear is extensive but even.  Here is the sign of a man who used and loved his razor and maybe even passed it down to his son, who put yet more honest wear on it.  Then, probably around the end of WWI, it was abandoned and sat unnoticed in a drawer for decades before finally finding its way into my hands.

Maybe I am overly romanticizing a simple instrument for cutting facial hair.  But it is thoughts like these that find me generally opposed to the "extreme makeover" that seems to be so popular these days.  Actions like replacing old, structurally sound horn scales with new materials like Micarta and heavily regrinding pitted blades, just seem to take the spirit out of these once dearly loved items.

And perhaps the screaming noises we hear when putting an old razor to the grinder aren't all the mere sounds of metal giving way to rock. Or maybe it is just our imaginations running away with us in the cool, dark cellar.

Something to think about when we put that blade to our throats in the morning.

Pleasant dreams :-)

Tuesday, July 5, 2011

Going...Going...Gone! Straight Razors Rapidly Vanishing.

Take it from me, someone who looks just about everywhere for razors - they are disappearing from all markets at an alarming rate.  Several years ago, you could go to a flea market, garage sale or antique shop and find some pretty nice straight razors virtually by the boxful - sort of like you can today with common pocket knives.  This is a burning hot market folks!  When I visit antique stores, indoor and outdoor markets all over the northeast and mid-Atlantic regions, I'm finding very little material of ANY quality. I'm not even finding razors at unreasonable prices.  The last weekend I spent looking yielded just ONE razor - and it wasn't anything impressive.

The bad news is that those of you who haven't been buying have missed the "ground floor" opportunity to buy nice razors cheaply. The good news is that with availability low, values are just going to increase.  So look for and buy the very best examples you can find (originals, not the "rescales" or reground blades) - even if you have to pay more than you ever have before.  Wet shaving and straight razor collecting is growing.  Even the DE razor market, which used to be completely dead (you could easily find Gillette "Fat Boys" for a couple of dollars.) is red hot.  Mark my words - we haven't come close to seeing the top of this market.  If you are an investor, buy now and put a lot of money in your pocket later. If you are a collector, buy the things you love while you can  - your opportunities are shrinking. 

In the meantime, I will, as always, keep my eyes open for all of you - picking up both the good and the common stuff when I can.

Sunday, June 26, 2011

The Vintage Shaving Shoppe Gets "The Chair"

It's not just about the razor or the quality of the shave - at least it isn't for me and for most serious collectors I know.  Razors hanging on a wall or even in a nice glassed-in case look somewhat odd and forlorn set there alone in a living room or office.  The finest and most enjoyable collections I have ever seen are put in a setting that gives it context, history...a flavor of shaving past if you like. 

It is with this in mind that I am proud to announce that The Vintage Shaving Shoppe has just laid its hands on a near mint condition 1920s era Koken Barber's Chair with child seat.  This beautiful item is all porcelain and nickel plated iron. It has the original headrest, original upholstery (or if re-upholstered, it was done many years using original materials).  The hydraulics work wonderfully and the chair tilts and swivels like new.  The chair is SO good, that all I have done to it is added hydraulic fluid, lubricated the moving parts and polished and protected the finishes. The only work I am having done (at no small expense) is re-plating the two footrest surfaces with nickel to return them to "showroom" condition and re-upholstering the child seat.  The chair should be available for sale in two to three weeks for $2,500.  It weighs approximately 350 lbs, so local pick up is required.  I will work with serious collectors who don't mind the considerable expense of having the chair shipped to a distant location.

I have also been buying other items that will provide context to and enhance, your collection, including two Gillette display cases, two wooden Sanitizer cabinets and a early 20th century beauticians license.  Please feel free to contact me at assistance@vintageshavingshoppe.com if there are items you are searching for that I may not be currently displaying.

Here are a few "preview" pictures of the chair:







Monday, June 20, 2011

Congratulations To Winning Bidder: The Unger Bros. Sterling Silver Scaled Straight Razor!

Congratulations to the gentleman with the discerning eye who won our auction on eBay tonight for the rare Unger Bros. sterling silver scaled straight razor.  He paid a total of $606 for one of the rarest razors I have ever handled.  The spirited bidding started at $299, ascended to $380 where it sat for a few days, before rising to the winning bid price in the last few minutes of the auction.

Keep your eyes open for "bargains" like this one.  It is the razors that were expensive and rare at the time that they were made, that will end up being the best investments of today and tomorrow.  Here is one last look at this fine example of the art of the Unger Bros. of New Jersey before it "disappears" into a private collection.

Again, congratulations to the winner!


Friday, June 10, 2011

A Word To The Hard Done DE Razor User

Just a short posting to humbly apologize to my DE-shaving friends who felt that I was a bit hard on the practice in my recent article, "Going Green By Shaving Straight." 

Shaving with a permanent, all-metal razor that uses all-metal blades is certainly MUCH kinder to the planet than using plastic disposables.  It also produces an outstanding shave that provides much the same benefits to the skin as does straight razor shaving.  While my heart will likely stay with my beloved antique straight razors, I have to acknowledge that DE shaving is still pretty "green" (especially if you have one of those old medicine cabinets with the slot that lets you drop the used blades between the beams of your house).  So I tip my badger brush to all of my DE-shaving cousins - gentlemen all!

Tuesday, June 7, 2011

Going Green By Shaving Straight- Four Alternatives To Disposable Plastic Razors & Cartridges


Going Green By Shaving Straight
Four Alternatives To Disposable Plastic Razors & Cartridges

By John H. Tischler

(Note: The author sells vintage & antique straight razors & safety razors)

There is something that unites men of all nationalities, colors, religions and sexual preferences; something as basic to our genetic code as our desire to avoid yard work – we all grow facial hair.  For the majority of us who want to remove it without having a negative impact on our fragile planet, this article was written for you.

A Close Shave For Mother Earth

Few men will argue that shaving with disposable razors (either the plastic “throw away” variety or those with disposable cartridges) isn’t bad for the environment.  The approximately 68 million men in the USA alone using plastic disposable razors produce waste that consumes an astounding 34,000,000 cubic feet of space. And this does not include the space taken up by shaving cream cans and the packaging for all that plastic.  Much of this waste is not recycled and ends up in landfills or is dumped into our oceans.  But the news gets worse – each plastic razor or cartridge requires fuel (primarily oil) to both manufacture the item itself and to power the machinery that produces them.  Throw into the mix the toxic chemicals which are either used in, or are waste products of, the manufacturing process, and the business of making, using and disposing of plastic razors becomes nasty indeed.

The High Cost Of Hair Removal

A hundred years ago, you could get a barbershop shave and a haircut for “two bits” (25 cents).  Not anymore.  Today, the cost of all that plastic, packaging and the advertising dollars spent to support the industry, really adds up.  And the cost is passed onto the consumer.  In a single year, the razors, cartridges and shaving gels/creams that you will need to keep your face smooth will cost you, on average, around $225.  This cost can be even higher of you toss your expensive cartridges at the first hint of dullness or rust.  For the sake of comparing this with other options, let’s assume that a man has an average of 68 shaving years over his lifetime; and that each year, shaving with disposable razors will cost him $225. To calculate the number of shaves in a lifetime for the remainder of this article, we will use the following formula: 68 (years) * 365 (shaves per year) = 24,820 shaves. So, in in the case of shaving with disposable razors (the Gillette Mach 3 is used in this example):

Lifetime Cost: $15,300. ($225 * 68 Years)
Cost Per Shave: $.62 per shave ($15,300 / 24820)

These costs do not account for inflation or "upgrading" the products you use over time, so the lifetime cost is likely to be higher. Of course, the total cost can decrease if you use razors of lower quality.

To sum up, shaving with disposable razors is very expensive – both in your direct costs which will only increase every year, and in the damage caused to our already stressed ecosystem.


Alternatives To Plastic Disposable Razors

Hopefully at this point, you are willing to examine the alternatives to the plastics.  Fortunately, you do have options which will both cost you less money and decrease your “carbon footprint.”  

Solution #1: Permanent Laser Hair Removal With Electrolysis

About: The desire to eliminate the burden of daily facial hair removal is nothing new, but modern technology has made it more realistic and affordable than ever.  The best known and most reliable treatment for all skin colors and types is electrolysis.  Around since the late 1800s (but significantly improved over time), electrolysis involves inserting a tiny needle into each hair follicle on the face and “zapping” the dermal papilla with electric current.  This renders that follicle permanently incapable of supporting hair growth.

Pros: Your shaving burden will be substantially decreased or even eliminated.  This also makes this method among the “greenest” of all the solutions presented here.

Cons: Each time that needle is inserted into a hair follicle and electricity is passed through it, it hurts.  According to an article in Men’s Health magazine, the average man has approximately 30,000 follicles on his face.  If each and every one of them are “zapped” with electricity, that is PAIN x 30,000. That's some serious agony. As if that were not a sufficient deterrent, an interesting article on the topic of facial hair removal from the transgender community, reports that it can take from 1 to 4 years of treatment to finish the job.  That’s a whole lot of pain just to avoid shaving.   Treatments cost between $25 and $250 each, depending on how many follicles are treated, where you live and the experience of the technician (and trust me, you don’t want someone who sucks at it.)  The whole job can take up to 4 years and cost up to $20,000.

Grade: D (for cost, time and suffering)

Solution #2: The Electric razor.
About: Electric razors have been around for decades.  It was invented in 1928 by Colonel Jacob Schick.  There are versions that work dry, others that let you use creams and lotions and even models that allow you to shave in the shower.  With daily use, a quality electric razor should last you 2-3 years before a replacement is needed or desired due to either expensive parts or the internal rechargeable battery wearing out.

Pros: Using an electric razor solves the waste problem – sort of. You aren’t throwing out plastic every day and you typically aren’t buying cans of shaving cream – all good news.  They do not consume a great deal of electricity and, if you use the car adapter that comes with some of the better razors, you will be even “greener” – although shaving while driving is not something I would recommend.

Cons: It’s true that an electric razor lasts considerably longer than plastic disposables, but you will go through quite a few of them in your lifetime.  Unless you dispose of them responsibly, these devices (the rechargeable batteries in particular) are very bad for the environment.  A good electric razor is also not cheap – a good one will set you back $100 or more.  So if you buy a new razor once every 3 years, the cost adds up.  Finally, of all the options examined here, this type of razor, hands-down, will give you the worst shave.

Final Grade: B

Solution 3:  Non-Disposable Safety Razor With Disposable Metal Blades

About:  While the identity of the inventor of the “safety razor” (a device which exposed only the shaving edge of a blade to the face) is a hot topic of debate in the shaving history community, there is little doubt as to the man who made this type of razor both practical and popular – King Camp Gillette.  The earliest safety razors did not use disposable blades, but Gillette’s did right from the start. His blades were also sharp on both sides (known as “double-edged” blades) –giving the user two sharp edges for the price of a single metal blade.  This was important, because the early “disposable” blades were not cheap.  But what really converted the male population of the United States to the Gillette razor was the fact that during WWI, the US Government issued Gillette safety razors and blades to the entirety of the armed forces and allowed them to keep their shaving kits when they were discharged.  The art of shaving was transformed virtually overnight.

Pros:  As the “runner-up” solution, the safety razor with disposable metal blades has a lot going for it.  Since the razor is permanent and typically made of metal, you can use it for years or possibly a lifetime with proper care, although you might find it fun to use and collect a variety of these razors.  And since you can always pull a fresh blade from the pack, a great shave is always close at hand.  Additionally, the thin metal disposable blades are MUCH less expensive than the plastic multi-blade cartridges – a 10 pack of Merkur blades sells on the Wed for about $5.75+ $3.99 shipping. If you can get an average of 4 shaves from each blade, that’s an average cost per shave of just 24 cents.  Plus, since you are disposing of metal rather than plastic, the carbon footprint of this solution is significantly smaller than that of plastic disposables.  A good quality safety razor from a company like Merkur will set you back $30 to $90 - a one-time expense.

Cons:  Although they produce significantly less waste than plastic disposables, this solution does generate millions of sharp, wasted metal blades every year – something I’m sure your trash collector does not appreciate.  They are not biodegradable and are likely to remain a safety hazard for decades.  Plus, fuel is used in the manufacture of the blades. What’s more, each pack of blades comes in a container made of plastic or metal which is also discarded.  Cans of shaving cream cost in manufacturing, disposal and use, unless you use shaving soap and a brush (recommended for a better shave). 

Final Grade: A-


Top Rated Solution: Shaving With A Vintage/Antique Straight Razor

About: The straight razor has been around for centuries and man has yet to produce a razor that does a better job at giving a close shave.  The “modern” (those made over the past 175 years or so) straight razor is a marvel of human engineering.  The finest razors using the best metals and the best craftsmanship came from England, Sweden, Germany and the United States.  Japan also produced some excellent straights, although the style is significantly different from “western-style” razors.  Never, ever shave with a razor made in Pakistan or India.

Pros: Using a straight razor is, by far, the “greenest” way to remove facial hair.  There are no blades to throw away.  A shaving brush (used to apply shaving soap) will, with minimal care, serve you for a decade or more.  You really have only two recurring costs – shaving soap and two professional honings per year.  If you use a good quality hard soap, you will spend around $20-$25 each year on soap.  Professional honings will set you back about $15 each.  Since it takes a week or two to get your razor back from a Honemeister, it’s a good idea to have at least two straight razors in your shaving “rotation” – ensuring that you will always have one to shave with when the other is in the “shop.”  Straight razor shaving is also good for your skin.  Kenneth Beer, M.D., a Florida Dermatologist interviewed by Men’s Health magazine says, "The low-grade friction from shaving stimulates collagen production and smoothens the skin. That's one of the reasons men typically have far fewer wrinkles than women do."  It also provides, hands-down, the best shave of any method available.  Sweet.

Cons: Most of the costs of shaving with a straight razor are paid up-front.  A high-quality straight razor can set you back $80 to $150 or more.  When you get to the very expensive razors however, you are paying more for style than you are for shaving quality.  If you buy a new razor, there is the environmental impact of production to consider – although the fact that it is done only once still puts it way ahead of safety razor blades.  But here’s a great “inside” tip – buy a vintage or antique straight razor in excellent condition.  You will pay no more than $75-$150 for a really good one and, since it is already made, your carbon footprint is zero.  Also, many of these razors have a beauty and level of craftsmanship that is scarcely found today.  You will also need a shaving brush, a leather strop and a barber’s hone.  This means that your total startup costs will be between $200 and $400. Straight razor shaving also takes some time to get used to. Your skin must become accustomed to that beneficial “low-grade friction” mentioned earlier, so you will experience quite a few nicks in the first few weeks.  But as your skin becomes “conditioned” to the straight razor and you become more skillful at using it, you will find it to be a very comfortable way to shave.  Your only “consumable” is shaving soap, but that is traditionally packaged in paper or a recyclable box.  I should warn you that straight razors can be addictive.  Many shavers end up being collectors - I have many clients who tell me that they “want to shave with a blade two centuries old.”

Summary

The two environmental "winners" here are the metal safety razor using disposable metal blades and the straight razor.  Disposable razors are an environmental disaster. Permanent hair removal is expensive and impractical. Electric razors are a big improvement over disposables, but they consume considerable resources to manufacture and leave serious toxins in the environment when disposed of.

The straight razor is the "writer's choice" in this survey for the following reasons:  
  • It is the most environmentally friendly solution (especially if you use a razor that has already been made)
  • Costs of ongoing use are extremely low
  • The scraping of the blade is good for the skin (a quality shared by the safety razor)
  • It produces the best shave
Grade: A+

I hope you find this article helpful.  It was fun to write and the fact-finding was illuminating. If you have any questions, feel free to email me at assistance@vintageshavingshoppe.com

John H. Tischler is the owner of The Vintage Shaving Shoppe, L.L.C., located in the Philadelphia PA metropolitan area. The Vintage Shaving Shoppe has sold vintage and antique straight razors, safety razors, shaving supplies and sharpening products to clients worldwide.  At any one given time, approximately 1,000 razors are kept in stock ranging in age from 60 to 200 years old.  The store website is www.vintageshavingshoppe.com.  Due to the size of our stock, most razors are not shown on the website. Honing services are also provided.  Contact the author at assistance@vintageshavingshoppe.com

@ John H. Tischler & Vintage Shaving Shoppe, LLC. 2011

Wednesday, June 1, 2011

Lusting After Ivory Wedges? Moss & Gambles 7/8 Ivory Wedges In Box!

For all of you folks who have yet to see a perfect pair of large Ivory Scaled 7/8 Wedges, check out these beauties!  They were made by Moss & Gambles of Sheffield at the Franklin Works. A careful examination of the razors would put them in the late 19th century. Moss & Gambles was at Franklin Works and in operation from about 1860 to 1911.

These razors were truly an expensive top-of-the line pair, both in their time and now.







Saturday, May 28, 2011

Back In Razors In A BIG Way - Check this one out!

Since I haven't been selling razors for awhile, I decided to offer something HUGE for my first one after my "break."  You may not be able to afford it, but have a look and view a TRUE rarity.  The following excerpt is from the eBay listing:

Rare Antique Straight Razor. Sterling Silver. Made By Unger Bros., NJ - Famous Jewelers, Silversmiths & Goldsmiths. 5/8 Barbers Notch. Shave Ready
 
Well folks, it's been awhile since my last razor listing, so I wanted to start them again with something really spectacular.  If you follow the razor market on eBay or in the non-virtual world, you are aware that some scale materials are very rare.  Based on personal experience, I would consider the rarest scale materials to be (in order):
  • Stag
  • Pressed Horn
  • Mother of Pearl
  • Aluminum
  • Sterling Silver
  • Gold
I may have left something out of the list (I'm sure there is a platinum scaled razor out there somewhere), but if you own a razor with any of these, you have something special.  It is not surprising that razors were scaled in common materials.  Razors were already expensive and how many men out there would pay a couple of hundred dollars in today's money to have their Mach 3 cast in sterling?
 
For your consideration today, we have a fabulous, ornate Unger Bros. 5/8 Barbers Notched straight razor in elaborately crafted sterling silver scales.  This piece is simply beautiful and incredibly rare. I can go a year without having the opportunity to buy a razor like this and many years without finding one with this degree of beauty and craftsmanship. Most of the sterling razors I have seen are fairly plain, but not many were made by companies like Unger Bros.
 
Unger Brothers Company History
The Unger Brothers had both a factory and sales facilities in Newark, NJ.  The company advertised as manufacturing jewelers, silversmiths and glass cutters.

The Unger family originated in Germany and came to live in Newark, NJ 1849. The elder son, Herman, started a jewelry business around 1871.  He began to make sterling silver items in 1878.  Eventually, his four brothers joined the company.  Sadly, by late 1879, only two of the five brothers were still alive.  Herman and Eugene continued to operate the business - Herman, the chief silversmith and Eugene, the chief engraver.  Both were officers of the company, which experienced its greatest financial success in the period from 1895 to 1907.
In 1880 Eugene Unger married Emma Dickinson.  Her brother, Philemon Dickinson, was hired by Unger, eventually becoming its primary artistic designer.  Philemon designed an extensive line of beautiful repousse Art Nouveau pieces for which the company became renowned.  It is very likely that this razor was personally designed by Philemon.

Unger had incredibly high quality standards.  When company staff judged molds and dies as being too worn to continue to be used, they were often sold to other companies which used them to make jewelry. The Unger hallmark was eradicated on these molds and dies. This piece has their hallmark, very small but very clear and is guaranteed authentic.
Unger Bros. was considered to be one of the premier makers of Art Nouveau sterling silver items in America.  Their most popular lines were "dresser sets" adorned with amazing Art Nouveau designs incorporating cherubs, flowers, ocean waves and seashells.  It is quite possible that this razor came from such a set.
The Razor
This razor is personalized in engraved script on one side with the initials "EJR."

These scales are remarkably free of major damage.  There are no holes, tears or corrosion spots. There is a slight inward bend to the back scale that does not interfere with operation or detract from the beauty of the piece.  The hallmarks and "STERLING 925 FINE" are along the inside edge of the scale directly to the left of the head of the cherub. The scales are "single pin" style, with the top pin actually being a tiny flathead screw.  While screws are almost always replacements, this one has the look of being original to the razor.  Screws and nails were often used to attach new scales to older blade to replace broken scales.  Since BOTH the scales and the blade are marked with Unger Bros. identification, this was clearly not the case here.  Perhaps the designers felt that, given the possibility of damaging the delicate design with a hammer, a screw would be a better choice than a pin. There is no corrosion present on the razor, nor evidence of any prior major damage. There are just a few spots and a bit of "lather burn" that make up a minority of the blade's mirror finish.

With all of that history, who cares how the razor shaves?  Well, I do. And many of my clients love to shave with their rarest razors from time to time.  I honed this razor up and found that it gives a fantastic shave.  It has the barbers notch, which just adds to the interest.  Exercise some care in closing the razor.  It is snug, but not as tight in the scales as would be a razor pinned with a more common and flexible material.

Truly, this is one of the finest razors I have ever handled.  Given its maker and scarcity, even a high price paid for this razor will make for an excellent investment.