Barbershops at the turn of the 20th century were home to many unique shaving mugs that were personalized to depict occupations, hobbies, fraternal organizations and pictures of barbershop owners. Today these mugs are highly desirable and difficult to find, and some can be worth up to several hundred dollars.
These porcelain mugs look similar to traditional ceramic blank mugs mass produced in Germany, England and France. A barbershop could have an impressive and diverse collection of occupational shaving mugs on its shelves depending on the clients who patronized the shop and the prestige of the shop’s clientele.
Many mugs had hand-painted images relating to a client’s occupation, such as a hearse for an undertaker, eyeglasses for an eye doctor and a locomotive for a train conductor. Currently, mugs depicting a dentist, motorcycle and a fireman have brought in more than $500 each. However, most mugs sell for under a $100.
Barbershops acquired a large collection of shaving mugs for sanitary reasons. There was no sharing of shaving mugs, shaving brushes or even the same cake of soap from the mug of one customer to another. This practice helped stave off the dreaded “barber’s itch,” a highly contagious fungal infection stemming from barbers who used the same straight edge razor, soap cup and shaving brush for each customer.
Not only are mugs collectable, but antique and vintage shaving brushes are also popular. Their value ranges from $5 to $50. Straight edge razors are also a part of that collection. The first steel razors with fancy handles and hollow blades were invented by Sheffield in the 18th and 19th centuries that became the model for generations of future makers. They were badly and crudely made and tough to keep sharp.
The current market for barbershop collectibles remains strong, especially to the knowledgeable enthusiast, and the value of these personalized pieces continues to grow.