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Getting a Good Grip on Fancy Straight Razors

July 30, 1987|RONALD L. SOBLE | Times Staff Writer

Question: I have some straight razors with carved ivory handles that, I'm sure, were produced before the turn of the century. In terms of the collecting public, how popular are they?--C.E.

Answer: In recent years, straight razors have been extremely popular with collectors. The big draw, of course, is the handles.

In short, the more ornate the handle, generally the more valuable the razor. Silver, ivory and pearl all have been used in the creation of beautiful razor handles. Some of the most valuable handles have scenes etched on them.

Collectors say there still are plenty of valuable straight razors that haven't been uncovered. They'll turn up in curio shops, flea markets and garage sales.

Although razors have been produced for thousands of years, most collectible razors with fancy handles were designed in the 19th Century. Many of these razors came from the shops and factories of Sheffield, England, a community world famous for its fine cutlery.

After the Civil War, other European countries and the United States got into the act. Many of the handles of this period depicted animals, country scenes and the like. Most sought after by collectors are razors that were packaged as a set.

As valuable as the handle is in setting price, the maker and the condition of the blade also count in determining a selling price. For example, I. Barber of Sheffield, F. & H. Haag of New York and Michael Price of San Francisco are 19th-Century names that increase the collector's resale price. Generally, price tags range from $10 to $100 and higher.

If there are any straight razor-collecting clubs out there, let us know.

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