Shaving Mugs and Mustache Cups, Perfect Collectible for Father’s Day

Is there a better collectible for Father’s Day than a shaving mug? The vintage mugs are back in style, too, with new ones available as shaving has returned to the traditional method that required soap, brushes and fine razors.

A shaving mug held a bar of soap firmly in place, allowing a barber to work up a good lather with a shaving brush, then brush it on his customer and shave him clean. In days of old, these useful mugs were often kept at the barbershop and lined up on a shelf, allowing customers to see just how business was going by the number of cups on display.

Most of these were personalized for each customer and trimmed in gold by local artists. The mugs themselves were usually imported from Germany, France and Austria, according to Schroeder’s Antiques Price Guide information.

Probably the most sought of these are the occupational mugs that were decorated to show the job of the owner, such as sailor, butcher, hotel clerk, dentist or brewery worker. These occupational mugs are fun to collect and display and recall the days of the Victorian age when a barber was often a man’s best friend.

Shaving mugs were popular from about 1860 until the early 1900s. Artists who decorated these personalized mugs would paint them to fit the owner, using their occupation, fraternal organization or favorite sport as other themes.

By the advent of the World War I, the shaving mug was on its way to the junk drawer as Gillette introduced the first safety razor and barbers were no longer expected to give a shave with each haircut.

The value of these occupational shaving mugs range quite high and can go for thousands of dollars if they are rare and in excellent condition.

The condition of the painting is essential to value and any wording that is worn off or trim that is missing makes the value drop. The picture on the mugs is what is really charming about these manly collectibles since these images give a glimpse into the work world of yesteryear.

Mustache cups are a different item altogether. These clever cups were popular during the age of handlebar mustaches, 1850 to 1900. Made in china or silver, these cups were used at the table and fitted with a ledge inside the rim. The ledge protected the hair of the mustache from getting wet. It also kept wax, used for grooming a large mustache, from melting.

An Englishman, Harvey Adams, is credited with inventing the mustache cup to keep the popular mustaches of the day from getting soggy as tea was sipped. This was in 1830 and it didn’t take long before his new idea caught on and every pottery firm in Europe was turning out the clever cups.

Mustache cups were decorated with transfers or gilded floral designs, making them proper for use at the table. Some of these mugs had saucers to go along with them and many were made in England, Germany or Japan. The most sought of these fancy cups are the ones for lefties.

The value of mustache cups is not usually as high as the value placed on shaving mugs. These cups might range from $5 to $75, but I’ve seen quotes online of some very fine porcelain mustache cups with saucers valued at hundreds of dollars.

Mustache cups can be found that are hefty stoneware models or delicate bone china cup and saucer sets.

Manufacturers include famous companies such as Meissen, Dresden, Royal Crown Derby, Limoges and Nippon, as well as local American potteries.

The ones in the column are mostly local, though one is German. Any of them would be a delightful gift for a dad who likes unusual treasures.

For comments or suggestions on local treasures to be featured in Antique of the Week, Maureen Zambito can be reached via email at: zambitomaureen@ or by writing in care of this newspaper.