Saturday, October 25, 2008

two chairs, no waiting

The stein collection that my grandmother gave me is visible in the background of a photo I posted here a year and a half ago when my wife and I showed off our new hairstyles. Grandma used to work at the Villeroy & Boch store in Southampton and would buy things that she thought her children and grandchildren would like. That's where the mugs came from. She also started me on a great collection of state quarters.

One of my wife's relatives showed us an impressive display of a different kind of mug recently. He has two sets of shelves full of authentic August Kern occupational shaving mugs. The August Kern Barber Supply Company of St. Louis made barber chairs and just about anything else needed to operate a barber shop. The man who showed us his collection is a direct descendant of Kern. Back in the late 19th century when men would go to the barber for a shave, it was considered unhealthy to share the mugs that the barber used to whip up the shaving cream. Yet I suspect they all shared the same razor. Each customer would get his own mug that he left in the barber shop. Sometimes their names were inscribed but the main way of differentiating the mugs was by the picture representing the owner's occupation. There are many examples online including mugs that belonged to a steam tractor operator, a telephone operator and a hunter. If the mugs pictured below are worth somewhere between $500 and $1,500 each, you could be looking at $10,000 to $30,000 right now. And that doesn't count the mugs we saw displayed on another wall.

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