Straight Razor Buying Guide
This is a guide to aid buyers who wish to buy straight razors, and join the world of straight razor shaving. This intent is to help inexperienced buyers recognize inferior razors being sold, before buying them. It is a widely known fact among experienced straight razor owners, that there are many inferior razors being sold through various outlets to unsuspecting and inexperienced persons who wish to try the straight razor method of shaving. Much has been talked about these inferior razors in various straight razor forums and elsewhere. By inferior razor, we're talking razors that cannot under any circumstances be sharpened (honed) to where the inferior razor will cut whiskers. Purchasing these inferior razors will in most cases cause certain discouragement, loss of money, wasted time, and final rejection of one of the most satisfying shaving methods. Word of mouth by the discouraged victim, can and does spread the loss of future enjoyment to other aspirants.
Unfortunately, there are those in our midst who would, and are doing great harm to this endeavor and all for personal financial gain by selling inferior razors that flat out will not shave even after the best of sharpening. This is due to the extremely poor quality of the steel and manufacturing process used in the manufacture of these straight razors.
Words to be wary of and mostly avoided that some sellers use are, New, 440 steel, High Quality, German style, more in stock. Especially the word "New". Back in the day, when straight razors were used by everybody there were about a thousand reputable companies, today there are only a few reputable razor companies still producing new razors. Henckels, Dovo, Thiers-Issard and Boker are still making quality razors. This may not be a complete list, but these four manufacturers are the best known, for sure. You may find new old stock, (NOS) razors and/or regrinds. These are high quality and will not be cheap either in price or quality.
Intentions herein are not to focus on price as a qualification because the sellers of junk razors are crafty and change logos, brand names and anything else that they can do to deceive buyers. It's intentional deception and it's not at all inconceivable that one or more of these junk peddlers will run auctions with premium prices intended to reassure the buyer that they're buying "expensive quality". So I can only advise buyers to be cautious and heed the advice contained herein.
The junk peddlers tend not to sell any vintage collectibles. Usually the vintage collectibles are sold by either people who find them and have no idea what they're selling (in which case you MUST know or DON'T buy) or are experienced collectors and traders, which are much, much more likely to provide you a reasonable quality vintage razor. A seller's history can tell you a lot.
Here are more cues:
Any razor for sale that does not have the country of manufacture's name printed on it, or stated by the seller in their description should be avoided, unless the seller explains why there is no name. A very good source of reputable, quality manufactures can be found in list form, in a widely available soft covered book titled Straight Razor Collecting by Robert A. Doyle. The price guide portion of this book is just that, a guide and not always accurate of today's prices.
Auction sites with auctions being duplicated one after the other for the same or similar item are almost certainly of dubious quality. The same goes for repeat auctions on different days. Some unscrupulous sites have quantities of 2, 3, 4 or more razors for sale on the same auction. A very few honest sellers also do, but not in as great a quantity. Just an occasional auction now and then. The distinction here is that a reliable seller most always describes in some manor as to the condition and/or quality of the razors being sold. A telltale picture will most always accompany this razor description, often with several pictures that show various views of the razor.
One gimmick inferior razor sellers use is that these razors will sometimes be sold at a very low item price, but with a very high shipping cost, that might go unnoticed or disregarded because of the low item price. A reliable honest seller will often refund any overage of actual shipping charge plus a reasonable handling charge. A total shipping charge should only be the actual shipping charge plus a reasonable handling fee. Any razor can be well packaged and shipped anywhere in the U.S. by priority mail in a, free from the post office priority box for $4.80. Any razor can also be shipped by first class mail in a padded envelope for about $2.00 or less, plus a reasonable handling charge. Anything over that should be suspect, unless you really, really, heaven forbid, want the damn razor. There is a saying that,"there always is another razor", and this is very true.
Many auction sites have auctions selling strops and straight razors together. There are some reputable sellers who do this, but almost none. You can easily determine the quality of their products by their descriptions, prices, pictures and selling features. A feature example is auction duplications. If an auction is duplicated several times with the exact same products, i.e., strop alone or with a razor or two, the products are usually inferior.
Of course there are straight razors that were/are made of high quality from reputable companies that are for sale in all the various stages of quality from, dirty rotten no good,,, to,,, boy this razor looks like it just walked outta the factory. That is another subject and very different from this one and best left up to the buyer's purchasing skill and determination based on conscious guidedness, and sometimes, (smile) your better half.
With the herein contained advice and your shopping experience, you will quickly become experienced at recognizing the inferior razors as well as the old razors that are still in existence. If you should happen to become the owner of an inferior razor, don't be discouraged. Learn from your mistake and you will be much better off for it.
A world of knowledge is at your fingertips by joining a straight razor forum. They are all free, with very experienced members who are ready and willing to help. Join a straight razor forum and the world of a great way of shaving will open up for you. This is by far, the best advice I'm giving because this text is limited, but the help and advice and experience you will get from members of the regular straight razor forums is boundless! If you don't know what you're doing, join a forum, read, ask questions or even buy a shave ready razor from an experienced member.
SUMMARY: Before you bid, know what you are bidding on. If you are unsure, find out. Remember, there is always another razor just as good and/or better, ALWAYS !!!
The above complete writing with it's statements and opinions, while shared by many, is the sole compilation of this writer.