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Why Collect Vintage Razors?

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Mantic59 recntly posed an interesting question in the Sharpologist email newsletter: “Can someone explain what is the attraction of collecting vintage razors?” Is it a hobby…or an obsession? Or something much more?

Why collect vintage razors? In fact, why collect anything? Who is it that puts the value on the things we collect?

If you asked any collector why they collect the things they do, you would get many answers. I, however, would like to tell you what I discovered when I honestly had to answer that question myself.

Let me start by saying that I did not get my first computer until 2005. More about that later.

Between 1969 and 1989, I started buying Scripto Mechanical Pencils, LP’s and 45’s and record players, and, starting in 1980, Gillette and Schick Double Edge and Injector Razors. Everyday household items. Things I took for granted everyday.
SE Razors
I need to point out that in the 1980’s, many of the Gillette and Schick Razors that are now considered vintage and going for a King’s Ransom on eBay and Amazon, etc…were still readily available in my local grocery stores, department stores and pharmacies that I shopped at. I could still buy Gillette Tech Razors, Gillette Adjustable Razors, Gillette Super Speed Razors, etc…all brand new in box. I could also buy all my favorite Gillette and Schick Blades (The Blue Blade, The Super Blue Blade, Platinum Plus, etc…). I could still buy brand new in box Schick Injector Razors and Schick Injector Blades. DE Razors and Injector Razors were all over the place in the 1980’s. So were Scripto Mechanical Pencils and records and record players. The things I loved and used and enjoyed everyday were everywhere.I could buy them anytime I wanted to. It had not really become collecting…yet!

That all changed in 1989. It was during this year that I noticed that all of these things started to disappear from the stores. Very quickly! DE and Injector Razors were replaced in the stores by Twin Blade Cartridge Razors and later on by the multi-blade shaving systems. Oh yes, you could still buy DE Razor Blades, but they were dwindling down to only the store brands. Brand new DE Razors were gone from the store shelves by 1992. In the Record Stores, it was only CD’s and Cassettes. Record players were gone, even from the Department Stores that used to proudly display the big furniture style Console Stereo systems. And Scripto Mechanical Pencils were no more. Scripto completely stopped making them. It was at this point, around 1992, that I became very concerned about the sudden departure of the things I loved and used that I could go to a store and buy everyday. That’s when it became…collecting…if I could even find them. Remember, I didn’t get my first computer until 2005.

Between 1992 and 2005, I was hitting Thrift stores and antique shops every chance I could to try and collect the very things I used to be able to go to any store and buy. It became an obsession. But why? They were only things…razors, blades, records, pencils, etc…Right? Wrong! Not to me!

The Discovery

I discovered that it wasn’t materialism on my part. It became emotional. It became very personal. These things were a part of my past, my history, my memories. They were disappearing. These things reminded me of my happy childhood, my teenage years. They reminded me of the great people in my family and in my life that introduced me to these things in the first place, some of whom are no longer with us. These things I was buying, then collecting later, were not just an attraction.

These things were disappearing. As I saw them disappear from the stores and even from the thrift shops and antique shops, I started to forget about my past and I immersed myself into my present life and thought, “OK, I lived through all that, it was great, time to move on.” Forget the past, move into the future, the brave new world of SHAVING SYSTEMS, iPods and the things that “replaced” the things I loved in the past.

2005. Enter my first home computer. Enter eBay. Enter Amazon. In 2006, enter Mantic59. The computer was not only about work and personal emails. All the things from my past that I loved and those things that reminded me of the special people that I loved, many who are now gone, were available to me again. This is really when I became a COLLECTOR. No, it is not a mere attraction for me to buy vintage razors and blades and cases and brushes, etc…I am rescuing old memories that I have almost completely forgotten about and I am making new memories with the people that are still in my life using these old things. My Son Joe Jr is a traditional wet shaver now. I have been encouraging many of my young friends to switch from the shaving systems to DE Razors and blades, etc…just like our Fathers and Grandfathers did for us.

I have been able to buy the very record players, Scripto pencils, and razors that my loved ones introduced me to 40-50 years ago. THE SAME ONES. I thought they were gone forever. Thank you, eBay. I think of my loved ones every time I use and enjoy these things. Having them in my possession has brought back memories I thought I had long forgotten. I wish they could bring back those wonderful people, too, but…
Many of you traditional wet shaving folks have said that certain razors, certain scents, creams, soaps, etc…have brought back many memories of YOUR Dad’s or Grand-Dads, your favorite Barber Shops from the past. I am sure my thoughts have struck a chord with you as well. Mantic59 made me realize that there are a lot of us out there. No, collecting vintage razors is not an attraction. it is so much more than that. I’m buying back my past. It is life itself. It is not about what it actually is. Its is about what these things represent…to me…and to you. Joe Hartka, Aug 2018

About the author:
Joe Hartka has been enthusiastic about traditional wet shaving since accidentally finding his father’s old Gillette Adjustable Double Edge Razor sitting in his family’s medicine cabinet back in 1980. Having been a Gillette Trac II user since the mid 1970’s, Joe soon discovered (the hard way) that the DE razor shave was very different than when he used a cartridge razor. It wasn’t until 2006, however, while checking out You Tube videos, that Joe discovered Mantic59’s excellent early videos on the “hobby” of traditional wet shaving as well as proper face prep and shaving techniques.  Joe had no idea that so many men were traditional wet shaving enthusiasts and were also collectors of the DE razors, blades and accessories as Joe had been since the early 80’s and that he was not alone. Joe is happily married to his wife Karen, lives in Parkville , MD and has been working in the Alarm Industry since 1992.

Joe Hartka

Joe Hartka

2 thoughts on “Why Collect Vintage Razors?”

  1. I usually don’t blame collectors, or collecting by itself. But I kind of have a weird relationship with it, at the same time.
    I like to play with things. The “standard” collector is someone that has stamps, or coins, and knows about the year it was made, or how scarce it is, or some of its history.
    I just don’t like it. If I had more money, and a bigger home, I’d probably “collect” one or two cars. I would enjoy welding, re-making parts, fine tuning an engine, and finally driving a 90 YO car. I did some of this with fountain pens, some years ago. I was not focusing in a certain brand, or era, or FP type, but just browsed here and there, tweaked them, and enjoyed writing with them. I would have to sell the ones I still own, but I am now focused on different stories.
    Back to razors: I just own one of them. It used to be my grandpas one. He would be kind of 100+ (less than 110) YO right now if he was still alive, so it is safe to say that the razor is kind of 80-85. I had to learn to hone, strop, and shave with it.
    Though I could be getting one or two more, I cannot imagine myself having a myriad of them.
    Just MHO

  2. Many things have gone with time, the world ablaze in iPads, Social Media, HI-DEF TV
    and many other things like slide rules.
    Some still around like an Old School Metal stove-top coffee percolator, a shame I hear that for kids is school, the art of cursive writing has been dropped from the curriculum.
    I have acquired 7 Gillette DE razors.
    It all started when a friend found his fathers old Gillette Slim when going through his home after his father passed on.
    He got me interested in wet shaving, I bought a Viking Vulcan off Amazon and was enamored by it. I have most of the razors I’d like to get.
    I recently gifted my ex-girl-friend with a pristine 1974 Lady Gillette after she telling me in a conversation while we had a drink, that work now requires “Dress” which means has now has to shave her legs, something she finds distasteful.
    What better than a vintage DE Razor made on her birthday!

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