Whether you are buying, selling, or collecting, barbershop memorabilia represents the perfect trifecta for antique lovers. Aging boomers nostalgic for relics of their youth are searching for all things barbershop; there has been a recent resurgence of new “old-fashioned” barbershops whose owners want their decor to reflect the barbershops of yesteryear, and barbershop memorabilia appeals to numerous collectors of other antique genres. For example, knife collectors are interested in straight razors, porcelain collectors are happy to buy shaving mugs, and paper collectors will jump at the chance at owning original advertising posters. Even interior decorators look for vintage barbershop paraphernalia to use as bathroom accessories for their clientele.
What to Look For
Because barbershop finds have such a broad appeal, keep an open mind while searching; everything to do with vintage barbershops has a buyer in one category or another. Here are some of the more popular items:
• Barbershop signs and poles
• Advertising posters
• Shaving mugs
• Chairs and other authentic furnishings, such as antique lighting
• Straight razors, razor blades, and razor straps
Where to Look
The easy way to search is on the Internet, but for the budget-minded, the best deals are most often found at estate sales, estate auctions, flea markets, and tag sales. Flea markets often offer the best bang for your buck because dealers just want to sell their wares; they usually don’t have a vested interest in the items. Private tag sales have the same MO: homeowners want to clear the clutter and are often clueless about the value of their “junk.” The only problem with finding barbershop memorabilia at flea markets and tag sales is the relative scarcity of the specific collectibles. Seek out local antique shops and let the owners know what you are interested in. Believe it or not, thrift stores and second-hand stores sometimes have antique barbershop collectibles as well.
Many people have great luck finding barbershop collectibles at live auctions. Get to the auction early so you can inspect each lot. Compare items with your price guide, and decide beforehand the absolute maximum you will pay. Many times an innocuous “box lot” has random, mostly valueless items with just one hidden gem. If you know the value of that barbershop gem, you are likely to get a great deal. Consider all of these venues in addition to your online searches.
Assessing the Value
The surest way to know the relative value of a barbershop find is to buy a price guide. Get familiar with the price range for various vintage pieces relative to their condition and availability. The last thing you want to do is pay $500 for a shaving mug that has a value of $27. On the other hand, you wouldn’t want to balk at paying $100 for a vintage painted turned wood barber pole that is most likely valued at over $800. Search online for images of the items you are looking for. Educate yourself about how to differentiate between a knock-off replica and the real McCoy. When it comes to vintage barbershop finds, knowledge is the only way to save and to make money.