There is nothing like that Indiana Jones’ feeling you get from finding your first vintage razor in “The Wild”. For me that feeling started with a $3 Gillette blue tip super speed. I still get that tingle every time and that’s what keeps me on my quest.
Hunting for razors has become so much more than just a hobby. There’s a real sense of accomplishment and triumph you feel when finding that “buried treasure”. Sure, you can easily hop on eBay and shop for razors till the cattle come home, but what I speak of is the thrill of the hunt. A challenge that makes that time and effort spent much more rewarding and memorable. It creates a bond between you and the relic.
Antique Malls – vs – Antique Shops
So there are two basic types of antique stores that you will run into – The antique malls and the smaller “Mom and Pop” stores. They both have their advantages and their drawbacks. Keep these thoughts in mind when visiting one or the other.
The antique mall naturally has more merchandise and a larger selection since there are dozens of vendors under one roof. However, since they are larger and more prominent, they also tend to get a lot more foot traffic. NOTE: With the ever growing rise in popularity of wet shaving these days, you really have to assume you are not the only one in your area on the quest for the grail. YOU my friend, have competition! (embrace it, keeps you sharp.)
On the flip-side, smaller antique shops don’t generally have as much traffic and are more reasonably priced (sometimes location can reverse this generalization however). Less competition still doesn’t necessarily raise your chances though, their inventory of vintage razors can dry up pretty fast in these off the beaten path stores. But don’t let that thought stop you from asking, always ask! They may only have one razor in the entire store, but some of my best finds were at shops that only had ONE razor, and that ONE razor I had missed on my initial “first pass” through the shop. Always Ask.
So how and where do you start? The obvious answer; find some antique stores in your area. Google never fails to deliver. I’ve picked up a few tips and tricks from my own experience out hunting that I’m going to share with you here now.
The first rule is, NEVER, EVER go hunting with a friend who shares the same interest as you. Inevitably razors will be found, quarrels will ensue, and friendships will be lost. Repeat this first rule 5 times out loud.
So now that we have rule “numero uno” out of the way and memorized, let us continue. It’s a good idea to carry a small flashlight with you. Display cases are often crammed full, obscuring possible treasures that may be hiding in the darkness. Also, have a few pictures of various razors saved on your phone. Showing someone a visual of what you are looking for will help immensely.
A small measuring tape tape key chain will also come in handy and a small looking glass. Why measuring tape? I personally know I have 42″ x 74″ worth of space above my toilet, and I am always on the look out for a hanging “razor rack” (converted pipe rack) or shave shelf. Why a magnify glass? These are great for checking out date codes on certain vtg razors and then cross checking them on google for an immediate date! This may also aid you in haggling if they have it marked wrong!
Depending on your age, that “analog” equipment may not be your thang or cup of tea. If that is the case, check out the App Stores; Itunes for Iphones or Google Play for droids,the Magnifying Glass w/ Flashlight App is invaluable.
There are also Flashlight apps, just flashlight apps, that allow you more control over the light. Remember, there is an app for nearly anything these days, take advantage of that. Those of you wondering at this point what an app is, you will need a fanny pack, tiny flashlight, mini measuring tape and no friends!
It’s also kinda fun to snap some photos of certain pieces you are interested in and post them to your favorite forums for instant feedback; Yays, Nays and overall vintage-tech support. Also, you may not be interested , but someone else might be VERY interested! So post what you find and help out your fellow enthusiasts.
Those aisles of locked display cases are where you will most often stumble upon your vintage shaving treasures, but don’t bypass those open booths though. Vendors will often have razors, mugs, and other “shaving stuff” sitting in vanity displays, sticking out of coffee mugs, and hanging out in smaller display cases within their booth. Wear the eyes of a crime scene inspector.
Build A Network
If you spot a vendor organizing and stocking their booth, stop and strike up a conversation. Compliment what they have displayed, make nice, then draw your smartphone from your pocket and show them those pictures you have saved. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve heard,
“Oh I have some of those at home. I didn’t think anyone wanted them”.
Give them your information, jotting down what you might be specifically looking for as a reminder. I actually made business cards and keep them in my wallet for these particular occasions.
[Editer Note: Justin doesn’t realize this yet, but I have designed him a brand new business card. The reason I include this is because I have something to add, an enhancement, if that’s possible, to this Pro Tip. Be “BIG” with your business cards, give them something to help them remember you, make you really stick out, panache. A short poem or quote will burn your mission into their brains and win you that first call! Get the word out, begin your own razor detective agency. That said, your network should not only be made up of antique vendors but also get that card in some barber’s hands. They meet a lot of folks and you know how it goes.] (Click Here For A Printable “Collector Card” Template. Compliments of HTGAM. Save File As a PDF. Add your personal information and get some cards printed NOW! Font Used: Arabic Typesetting – Vistaprint template but can be used at any print shop.)
Ask For A Discount / Always Haggle
Also, antique stores will almost always give a 10% discount if you ask. Some will go as far as to call the dealer and middleman your offer right then and there. No matter the price, always try and haggle a bit, if just for me.
Let’s do a quick review.
- Bring a flashlight
- Mini measuring tape
- Your smartphone
- Pictures of what you are looking for (analog or digital).
- It is NEVER a good idea to bring a friend with similar interest and dressed like you. (Similar interests is the biggest reason, matching outfit more of a personal concern you should consider sometime.)
- Bonus: Date Code Guide (You never know)
Most importantly, HAVE FUN ! Don’t get discouraged when you come up empty handed. It’s all about the intoxication of the hunt. Now get out there and make me proud!
Justin Lee Sullins is a vintage shaving hardware collector and enthusiast. He has been wet shaving and collecting for 3 years and foresees no end in sight. Sullins resides in Arizona and works in the architecture field believing life would be meaningless without laughter and coffee. The expansion of his own education and learning is an endeavor he must pursue on a daily basis.