That Was a Close Shave!
Razor blade related collectibles
by Amichay Bar-Yoseph
My interest in old Double Edge Razor Blades started 17 years ago when I was 16 years old. When my grandfather died I helped my mother clean his apartment. I found in my grandfather's bathroom his old Gillette safety razor and his old unused Wilkinson blades. Not just one package, but about 30 packs, each pack containing 5 blades. These items were for me "love at first sight". I decided then and there that I will use these items in memory of my grandfather. From that day I have collected this kind of item. I have always used every opportunity to visit flea markets, second hand shops, antique shops and shows, perfume shops, pharmacies etc. looking for old razor blades at a good price that I can add to my collection. In the last 10 years I have had the chance to travel a lot around the world mainly to USA, Europe, Asia - so most of my collection comes from these continents. Actually I am writing this article from the other half of the globe - from beautiful New Zealand. Until about a year ago I thought that I am the only "crazy" person in the world who collected this kind of item, but then there was a dramatic change regarding my collection. I was introduced to eBay! Searching eBay I was amazed to find out that there were dozens of collectors like me all over the world and at the every moment that you are reading this article there are hundreds of blades on eBay for sale. This is how I also I found all the other collectors that I now know - more than 50 collectors from around the globe -- the USA, Italy, France, Germany, Turkey, Sweden, Holland, UK, Russia, Argentina, Chile, Czech Republic, Spain, and Poland.
Well back in time before my grandfather bought his razor blades, the first manufacturing of the blades began at the beginning of the 20th century by the world-renowned salesman named "King Gillette".
He thought how to make the life more easier for the men who had to shave every morning. Prior to this time, people used the straight razors which had to be sharpened or stropped every few days . "King Gillette" wanted to invent a razor which people would be able to change easily the blades in few seconds every time they felt that the razor wasn't sharp enough. Thus he invented the "safety Razor" that has Double Edge Razor Blades that can be replaced easily.One surprising fact I learned when I discovered eBay was the number of collectors I met there who collected safety razors and not the blades - but this is perhaps a subject for another article.
Since the invention of King Gillette many manufacturers started to manufacture this type of blades all around the world. The famous ones are Gillette from USA and around the world, Wilkinson and Vallet from the UK, Persona and Pal from USA and many more.
Even today when most of the population in the world uses modern razors and blades like the Gillette Mach 3 and Sensor and other modern brands like Schick and Wilkinson and many more there still are a lot of people around the world using old razor blades to shave. So, many manufacturers are still manufacturing these blades every day in huge quantities. In Israel we have a plant in Nazeret (where Jesus was born) named Persona, owned by an American company. This plant manufactures every day a million Double Edge blades! Amazing! Most of their production is for export around the world, but not all. I, for example, shave every morning with an old razor and old blades. It's a great and safe shave every time - "like a baby face". Because of me, my father and a good friend started to shave also with the old blades.
An American collector that I know told me that he knows for a fact that they are about 40-50,000 different kinds of razor blades made in USA, and another 50-60,000 kinds from rest of the world - so in total collectors can find up to almost 100,000 different blades. My collection in comparison is a small one - I have only about 500 different packs of blades. My blades are from all over the world from more than 30 countries and 5 continents. When I started a year ago connecting with people on eBay I was amazed to find that there are collectors with 4,000, 10,000, 20,000 blades in their collection, mainly from USA and Europe - an amazing fact. Perhaps even more surprising to me is the fact that some of the collectors from USA are women who started many years ago, even before I was born, to collect blades.
Another very interesting fact was to discover was that many collectors are collecting not the full packs like me, but the individual blades with the small graphic wrapping envelopes. In every pack of blades there are 5 or 10 blades with these graphic wrapping envelopes (rarely they also come with packs of 3,4,6 blades).
Those collectors collect them in nice albums like stamps, because their size is like stamps. These blades are called "RBW" - which means Razor Blade Wrappers. The graphic wrappers of the blades are usually the same as the graphic on the front of the pack/box of blades. Other collectors like me collect the full packs of blades.
Usually the really valuable items are the old beautiful ones from the beginning of the 20th century with nice and special graphics on them, circa 1910-1930. Many are rare and very hard to find. An example of a rare one is "Tommy" from the British times in Palestine in the 30's (the Israel of today).
I found this item in a Flea Market in Tel-Aviv. The price was $1 US because the seller didn't know that it was a rare one. Usually blade packs can cost between $1 to $4, the rare and valuable ones will cost from $5 to $30. So as you can see, it's not a too much expensive hobby.
When I just started to collect I collected the plastic packs like the Wilkinson's packs I found in my grandfather bathroom, but within a year, after getting to know other collectors, I realized that the plastic ones are too modern and not worth collecting. The real interesting blades packs, that most of the collectors collect are made out of card board and those card board packs should have inside them nice graphic wrappers that were manufactured before 1960 and look the same graphic on front of the pack.
One indication for the importance of this kind of collectible would be that a few years ago, a book was published by a gentlemen named Mr. Phil Krumholtz from USA The book is called - "Collector's guide to American Razor Blades". In this book there is a lot of information on blades that were manufactured in USA. The blades are shown with a lot of very nice pictures. The book gives also information on the Manufacturers that were and still are in the USA and also identifies and gives values for the items.
I would like to end this article with a personal approach to the readers: If you are a collector of razor blades or have any interest in this article - don't hesitate to contact me with any questions. You are welcomed to contact me by e-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org. I will be happy to meet new collectors and friends from around the world to exchange information about our collections and trade our duplicates.