3-1-13 Check that Fat Boy up top. Sold for $220. Lower than the $380 NOS, but there wasn't too much difference between the two.
12-23-12 Sucker link. This is a late 20s mix-n-match metals by Gillette, came with a thin gold wash. With the gold polished off, it has no collectible value. See the footnote.
12-29-12 Here's a great example of Gillette's last gold tone razor - a 1969 Black Beauty.
2-11-13 Mistake link. Had this seller perused this guide, he would have known that this was an new-style open-comb mfg between 1921-1939, gold finish with the gold washed off.
2-11-13 Bargain gold F-4 toggle. Didn't last long. $250+
10-12-12 - Added paragraph about rhodium plated Gillettes.
8-27-12 - Redid link to $1650 silver toggle fat boy. See completely reworked discussion below on silver and gold toggle fat boys.
8-14-12 Added link to a very rare 1971 R-R Black Beauty that went for around $150. It's like in coins, an error coin, like the 1943 copper penny that's worth the lottery..
7-28-12 Added link to a 1941 WWll Ranger Tech. Notice how the patent number is on the handle. 46, 47, Pat no underneath the razor body.
7-28-12 Added link for a one through five bottom dialer that brought 1800. Very good condition.
7-17-12 Added NOS Fatboy link, gone now, ordinary production Fat Boy $380.
6-10-12 Added 1977 Black Bottom Black Beauty. Exceptional razor and case. Sold for $71. 1977 was the first year for the all black hand/black bottomed razor.
5-23-12 Added link to a 1946-7 no notch, no date code. Very nice.
3-12-12 Added a link where the seller was nice enough to line up a standard production case with a red dot case so you can see the deeper curve.. 2-11-13. A colllector informed me that there weren't very many cases made, just experimental only, a case-only sold for $500 in 2011.
6-21-12 - Phillip J. Krumholz ' EBAY handle is razorman2.
7/17/12 - Removed paragraph about bottom dialers. Added link to one up now, it's over a grand with over 50 bids. 7-20-12 Sold for 1150. A nicer one earlier this year didn't meet the reserve, it was up to $513. And late last year one went for $1800. Sure like to find one of these.
1/18/13 - Removed link to NOS Fat boy. Added link to "This is not a red dot." You boys didn't bid this thing, didja?
10-20-12 - Prices. The really rare razors, the excellent cased razors, good looking fatboys are all getting fabulous prices. That unboxed bottom dialer is up to a grand! I've noticed in the past year that prices on the average used unboxed slim adjustables and black beauties are not what they were (20-40). They're more like around $15, give or take. Mint postwar cased Milords and Aristocrats are going from $150-250, they've jumped in the past two years.
Original Start of this Guide
I've been using Gillette safety razors for 50 years. I've spent the past three years googling dating information, perusing auctions, cleaning Gillettes for other people selling, and generally soaking up information. I'd like to share what I've learned to new buyers and sellers of Gillette razors. I don't know all there is to know, additions and corrections are welcome.The heavyweight collectors hang out on the "Badger and Bade" shaving forums. Mr-razor dot com has the best razor photographs. Bruceonshaving dot com. has far and away the best all-around commentary on safety razors, brushes, and soap on the Internet. Bruce shows you why, in pictures, why every man should be using a double edge safety razor. It simply does a better job than the multi-bladed gizmos they're selling. Another terrific article with showroom pictures is at
razoremporium dot com slash archive.
I hope I'm not guilty of plagarizing these gentlemen, I'm only trying to sort and collate their model and dating information into one place. Folks want to know what it is, how old is it, and what its worth. These gentlemen do have a certain elegance of prose that I can't possibly approach.
We're in hard times now, I don't have to tell you money's tight. Listen, you guys, it's a helluvalot less money getting a cheap $20 adjustable off EBAY, or even cheaper 3-piece, and buying a 10-pack of Wilkinson's at Walmat for a buck-eighty, than it is ponying up in excess of $15 bucks for those stupid multi-bladed Mach3s and 4s refills. Figure it out as a cost per shave. Think about it. Exactly how many edges do the cutting when you drag your razor across your face? That's right. One.
Let's start with a glossary.
Safety razor - means a razor body that houses a single or double-edged razor blade, with a handle extending perpindicularly from the razor body. The scope of this discussion is American Gillette double edged safety razors.
Three piece - means the razor will break down into 3 pieces, allowing the blade to be changed. The handle unscrews from the top through the body, allowing the top to be lifted to expose the blade as it sits in the razor body. These are how your original safety razors were made. King Camp Gillette's patent drawing on Wikipedia shows a lamp-shaped handle. Three piece razors were made from the get-go in 1904. 3-piece "tech" razors were made from 1938-1975.
Three-hole - Original three piece razors with 3 holes to guide the blade in place. Assembled, you'll see two dagmars sticking out the bottom of the razor body. Made from 1904- circa 1921. AKA "old style."
Open comb. On each side of the razor body, curled 3/8 in metal flanges 12 per side form a base on which the blade rests. The blade bar razor was introduced in 1940, three different models, the Tech being the cheapest.. 2/15/12 The guys on Badger and Blade say the Gillette Sheraton was the last open comb made - 1937-1939.
If you're lucky enough to find a razor in it's original box, you can hit the verbal links above, compare pictures with your box, and generally date the razor that way. Wooden boxes are 1920s. Silver and gold scrolled boxes are 1900s and 1910s.
A third dating mechanism is the blade. If you get a box with the original set of blades, then you can date to the year when the razor was made. But you'll have to get a Krumholz' razor guide to do it, blade dating is complicated and beyond the scope of this short guide. Shaveworld.org/home/images and associated links on that page has EXCELLENT photos of blades. This guy did a tremendous amount of work. His dating chart is very good for dating early razors and blades. Also See Footnote 1.
Brass finish. 2/15/12 - No Gillette razor was ever finished in brass. The ones that look and feel like brass had a very thin gold finish that has washed off. See footnote 2.
Rhodium finish. 10/12/12 - Impeccable sources have informed me the the only Gillette razor finished in rhodium was the tan-cased 1950 barber-poled handled Executive , green velvet, 5-10 packs of blue blades, and a mirror. The 1953 President's handle was finished in rhodium. All others are expensive refurbs that detract from the razor's value. Please see the photos of the Executive at mr-razor.com
Travel razor. A short handled three piece razor. Sold in a metal or wooden velvet-lined case with a pack of blades. Cased mint travel razors are doing quite well - $20-$30 range.
TTO - twist to open - Introduced in 1934 as "The Aristocrat". The twist-to-open mechanism is the separate bottom part of the handle that rotates counter-clockwise to open the butterfly doors to about a 135 degree angle, allowing the razor blade to be changed. TTO means a one-piece razor.
Tip - the part of the handle that rotates to open and close the doors of the razor body. They can be in different colors than the rest of the handle. From 1955 through 1959, Gillette used red and blue tips, to signify the closeness of the shave. In order of "aggressiveness", from least to most, the tips were blue, regular black, and red. Ladies liked the aluminum handled blue tips. The red and blue tips were made obsolete by the introduction of the adjustable Fat Boy in 1958. The flare tip was introduced in 1954. A black plastic tip with an aluminum or standard handle was used in the early 50s also, as a part of the Gillette Cavalcade of Sports promotion.
End caps -1941 and before, the TTO models had no endcaps and no center bar end notch. Sometime after the war, they started putting end caps on. I have seen 1940s TTO razors with two end caps; mid-1948 they switched to a single end cap. (English endcaps are pointed, American are blunt.)
Notch. Up until 1947, Super Speed (TTO) razors were made with tiny wings on each end of the center bar. In 1947, they redid the center bar so that each end was notched on top, allowing a hands-free loading of the blade from the slip-out Gillette dispenser. 3/2/13 - In my 46-47 Aristocrat auction, I'm getting 4x the clicks than on the Milord or Fat Boy.Postwar Milords came in a hard shell alligator leather case, with cream-colored dispenser, and used razor case..
Triangular slots. You'll see some three-piece razors with triangular slots. I think you can make the statement - All razors made with four triangular slots were made 1938-1945, but not all razors made from 1938 to 1945 have triangular slots. Also, the military issues for these years do have thick plastic handles. Only military razors were produced 1942-1944. Please look at Mr.Razor's photos for examples.
Adjustable - First introduced 1958, last produced 1986. This means there is a nine position adjustment ring just underneath the razor body. The numbers 1-9 were inlayed black when new. The "clicker" just above the adjustment ring will be red or black. This adjustment allows any beard from peach fuzz (position 1) to bristle brush (position 9) to be shaved. If the razor does not have this adjustment ring, it is not adjustable.
Fat Boy - Gillette's first adjustable razor - made from 1958 thru 1961. This is an adjustable razor distinguished from all others because it has a thicker handle, shorter and heavier than the slim adjustables.
There are a number of Fat Boy variations:
1) Most Fat Boys were sold for $1.95, making them known as the "195 special". These have the adjustment ring underneath the razor body with a red RECTANGULAR plastic clicker just above the adjustment ring.
2) In 1960, there were also sold with a bottom dial adjuster.
....a)Five position dialer. Previously I thought (along with many others) that there were no prototypes of this razor made, but User "Kingfisher" on Badger and Blade admitted this week (5-25-12) to having one. There's no telling what that one's worth, they're certainly rarer than the nine-position dialer. 7-29-12 One in very good condition sold for $1800 last week. Very Rare.
....b)Nine postion dialer.
The spot magnifier will be on the opposite end of the box from the normal production fat boy. Mid 2012 summer, unboxed razors were selling for around $500, but there's one up now 10/25/12 (See the link) that's going to go over a grand.
3) Toggle. Silver first. The silver toggle fat boy was sold Nov. Dec 1960 only, date code F-4 only, 1-9 adjustable only, no red dot, and in a red velvet lined tan case only with a 20-pack of Gillette blue blades. One just sold for $1650 - see link and remember the case. Very rare.
.................Gold 1956. First ones made as a production prototype - red dot, 5 position dialer, serial # under PAT. OFF., tan leather inner case holding razor and red/black case of blades, clear plastic doors cover, with snap cover, Gillette on cover. The inner case fit inside a square outer case with a snap cover with warranty and serial, both cases tan. So you can see the $1650 silver toggle was auctioned with the wrong (1956 inner) case. Extremely rare. Google youtube "1956 gold toggle" for a video. See discussion badgerandblade dot com slash toggle.
So, you boys better do your research before you start throwing your money around. I'm quite sure in this case, neither the buyer nor the seller knew what was going on. My information came in today, 8-29-12 courtesy of a collector who knows a Gillette marketing manager.
................Gold 1958 last quarter and 1960 last quarter, 9 position dialer, blue lucite case. Date codes D1-4 and F-4 only. Scarce. Unboxed specimens have been going 100-350, depending.
10-21-12 - Because the 1960 silver toggle is much more rarer than the gold, the possibility exists for someone to take a 1960 gold toggle and have it rhodium-plated, and declare it to be the higher demand razor. This is why discriminating collectors stay away from refurbs. You just don't know.
4)"Red dot" - Instead of the RECTANGULAR clicker just above the adjustment dial that tells you what position 1-9 the razor is in, there is a CIRCULAR red depression (dot) in its place. Razor connoisseurs consider this the finest adjustable Gillette ever made, as the whole adjustment and TTO mechanism is different, beefier, and more secure. Razoremporium dot com slash archive has a wonderful article. The case has a deeper curve to it instead of the shallower production case.
6-29-12 I was looking at the completed "red dot" listings. These are silver fat boys with the red dots. One in April went for $250. One in May went for $500. The one in April was in better shape than the one in May. You just never know.
5)Mr-razordotcom shows a beautiful toggle gold-plated fatboy serial 2605 1-5 adjustable red dot with a blade date code of B1, which makes it 1956.
Slim Adjustable - an adjustable razor thinner than the Fat Boy, introduced in 1960, and produced through 1968, then replaced by the black handles until 1986.
In 1966, Gillette added two black handled resin coated variations to the slim adjustable line, one, a normal length handle; the other, the so-called "Black Beauty", which has an extra half inch longer handle, making the total razor length of the Black Beauty four inches long,. Gillette produced these black handled razors until 1986. I like them. Good balance.
Gold tone - the razor has been plated with a very thin layer of gold. Using metal polish will remove the gold plate, polishing the underlying copper coat, giving the razor a reddish copper appearance, destroying its value. Clean it, but don't polish it. These can be re-plated for around $50, as I understand it from internet forums. The 1969 Black Beauty was the last gold plated razor Gillette made. I notice (Dec 2011) three re-plated gold fat boy style razors didn't get any bids. Interesting. Last week, though, May 2012, I noticed that some rhodium re-plated jobs were getting pretty fair bids - $100+.
GENERAL DATING - Visual inspection - Added 6-14-12
1904-1921 Three piece three hole open-comb razor with bullet-shaped projections sticking out the bottom of the razor body.
1904-1930 - All razors serialized.
1930- June 1950 - No serial number, no date code.
1921-1939 "New" type three-piece open-comb, open comb last made 1939, three piece last made in 1975
1931-1935 - "Goodwill" boxed open comb 3 piece. See Krumholz' guide for 3 variations (2 rare)
1939-1945 - Three-piece razor with 4 triangular slots.
1941 Ranger Tech with patent no. on bottom clear ring on the handle. (Saw a gold Milord 7-29-12 - same deal)
1934-1958 One piece TTO in all its variations.
1946-1947 One piece TTO no notch, no date code, two end caps, resume 4 rectangular slots.
1948-June 1950 One piece TTO with notched bar ends, single end cap.
July 1950-1986 - All razors date-coded except for the serialized 1956 gold toggle fat boy.
1958-1961- Adjustable fat boy in all its variations, exception - 1956 Gold Toggle
1960-1986 - Slim 1-9 adjustable in all its variations.
SPECIFIC DATING: 1904-1929 Serial numbers - copied and pasted from Badger and Blade.
1927 770071B-902611B * From Oct 18 1927 to Aug 27 1928, there were no serial numbers used.*
1930-through second quarter 1950 - No serial numbers, no date codes. (There is an exception, the New Deluxe (top of the line) model has a letter date code starting with 1930-A, 31-B. How long this lasted I don't know.
SPECIFIC DATING - DATE CODES: changed 3-1-2012 Corrected 6/07/12
1. Flat bottom adjustables: Viewing the underside of the razor vertically so that all lettering reads from left to right, on the top left side of the post where the post attaches to the body, there will be a letter stamped into the body. On the right side of the post, there will be a number stamped into the body. The letter corresponds to the year manufactured, the number corresponds to the quarter of the year manufactured.
2. All others until 1980s. Viewing the razor horizontally so that REG US PAT OFF is visible just below the oblong slots, between that lettering and the top side of the diamond, extreme left and right you will see the letter on one side, number on the opposite side stamped into the body.
3. Plastic Black Bottomed adjustables - First introduced Jan 1977 X-1. Open up the doors, and to the left and right of the center post, you will see the letter-number combination as described below.
Third quarter 1950-1986 (last produced)
1950-V3,V4, 1951-W, 1952-X, 1953-Y, 1954-Z, 1955-A, 1956-B, 1957-C, 1958-D, 1959-E
1960-F, 1961-G, 1962-H, 1963-I, 1964-J, 1965-K, 1966-L, 1967-M, 1968-N, 1969-O
1970-P, 1971-Q, R*, 1972-S, 1973-T, 1974-U, 1975-V, 1976-W, 1977-X, 1978-Y, 1979-Z
1980-A, 1981-B, 1982-C, 1983-D, 1984-E, 1985-F, 1986-G
*1971 Jan and Feb Q-1, March R-1, 2nd-3rd-4th Quarter = R-2, 3, and 4.
There's another exception I learned today 8-14-12. I put up a link to a 1971 R-R Black Beauty (the link will disappear eventually), I'd do an screen capture of it if I were you, it's an error in the date code stamper, just like in coin collecting, very rare, never heard of it.
Date codes are important because there are collectors out there who must have a razor for every year, every quarter. So then they have to have place holders in their collection, a beater just to remind themselves they need a good one for that slot. It's just like coin collecting. They're always upgrading. Also, people like to give these razors as birthday presents, so, they like to match up the razor year with their relative's birth year.
As an afterthought, the website reocities dot com has an interesting article on the Gillette Techmatic, a band cartridge razor that tried and failed to bridge the gap between the double-edge and the double-bladed Trac ll cartridge. It's a museum piece that is not real collectable, and from experience, gives a terrible shave. I'm assuming that the date codes remain the same as the double edge, as I see them listed sometimes as a late 60s early 70s date. Even the collectors are listing R2,3, and 4 as 1972. Faked me out, too, for a while.
I can't improve on Badger and Blades verbal description at badgerandblade.com slash Gillette Lady Gillette.
3-12-12. I've often wondered about the older 3-piece and travel razors that look like Gillettes, but do not have any manufacturer/country stamp on them. Krumholz says they were smuggled in from Germany 1917-1945 and sold to hardware stores for resale at bargain prices. Usually they don't have the good finish or the fancy handles the production razors had. But some are stamped "Made in Germany" and command a pretty fair buck ($20) in auctions, I've noticed. 6-21-12 Yesterday I saw a gorgeous pre-1921 4 piece silver-cased German travel razor at a flea market, but the lady wanted $20. It was her father's. Can't make money at that price.
Boys, clean up your razors. Virtually everyone uses a soaking solution of soap and bleach in hot water; and a toothbrush to scrub the dirt and crud from their razors. Light rust and corrosion can be removed with a soft brush and WD-40. However, I've changed my mind on the cleaning process.. Get one of those $25 Chinese ultrasonic jewelry cleaners, throw in some hot water, liquid dishwashing soap, and a splash of ammonia, and after two cycles through, you will be amazed at how good your razor looks.. It will knock all the crud and most of the light blue copper oxidation right off. I shine up my better razors with Maas metal polishing compound using cotton swabs and paper towels. I have gotten in razors so dull they wouldn't reflect light. Using a grinding wheel pad with Sears Craftsman polishing compound bars will shine the razors doors like almost new. Easy does it, and don't use this method on a good razor, as you'll leave scratches in the doors that will take an hour to polish out. For antiseptic purposes, I follow up all cleaning with a scrubbing bath of Clorox Cleanup. Phillip Krumholz recommends no polishing whatsoever on razor in mint condition. All polishing compounds are destructive to the finish. 99.5% of the razors we come across, however, are not in mint condiiton. The advice I've given here works. Never ever use anything acidic, like vinegar. It will eat the plating off.
Good luck and may God bless your efforts!
Footnote1 from an intenet forum, anonymous poster on Mantic59 blogspot::
"The open comb Gillette razors are called the Old, the New Improved, the New, the Goodwill and an open comb twist-to-open." He goes on to say, "The original blades were thicker than the tissue-paper thin blades we have today. If you put a modern blade on an open comb razor it will lay flat. If you put a vintage, three hole blade on a open comb razor it stands up off the teeth at just the right angle to give a good shave. I found this out by testing it on my double-ring, a WW1 ball handle and a New (the twist-to-open doesn't accept three hole blades and I don't yet have a New Improved or Goodwill)." Mantic59 used to have a real good blog, but I can't find him anymore.
Footnote 2, copied and pasted from Badger and Blade:
"The Gillette NEW was introduced during a time of great financial distress in our country - the Great Depression - which makes the recent recession pale by comparison!The "entry-level" NEW was the Goodwill. It was produced from leftover Old-Type parts, and was given a thin gold wash. It was given away "free" with the purchase of the new-style Gillette blades. The NEW standard was sold at a low price, and it also featured a thin gold wash. The top of the line NEW Deluxe series was plated, but was only produced in limited quantities and are hard to come by today. During the Depression, not too many people spent a week's pay on such a luxury! Most NEW and Goodwill razors that have survived to the year 2010 have long since had their thin gold wash go down the drain. The top cap was copper, with the handle and base plate made from two different brass alloys. Often times you will see the "rare" tri-color razor or beautiful "copper top" models sold on eBay Much harder to find is the Goodwill or NEW with all its gold wash intact . . . but they are out there and can be found. (I've got a couple myself!)"
3-02-13 Anything can go wrong with any of these razors. I got in a three piece 1920s mix n match style, and the clamp curve didn't fit the razor body curve. I have a 77 black beauty that cuts me. Took a long time to figure out it had been dropped, so that the flange on one side was further away from the doors than the other side, it would "crinkle" the blade when tightening it down. I fixed it with a pair of needle nose, got lucky. You really have to look these razors over.