In 1895, travelling salesman King C. Gillette envisioned a razor with a replaceable blade. In 1901, he teamed up with MIT graduate William Nickerson to form the American Safety Razor Company. In three short years, the pair renamed the company Gillette and the first razor was sold to the public. Collectors can date antique razors by serial number, though the system is not foolproof. Serial numbers disappeared for a year between 1927 and 1928 before re-emerging. Date codes debuted in 1931, but letter codes were recycled. Pay special attention to the location of numbers on a razor for an additional date clue.
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Examine the blade or cartridge for a date code. The date code consists of numbers and letters, indicating year and quarter. Gillette began imprinting blades in 1931. Therefore, razors with coded blades are no older than 1931.
Flip the razor over and look for an imprinted number under the razor guard. If the razor is a cartridge style, a date code appears near where the cartridge attaches to the razor. If a code appears in one of these two places, the razor date is further narrowed to 1951 or later.
Inspect the razor barrel. If a razor does not have a date code, it may have a serial number. Serial numbers appear between 1904 and 1931, with the exception of a short period between 1927 and 1928.
Translate the date code. Each year corresponds with a unique letter. Date codes for years 1930, 1955 and 1980 begin with the letter "A." Each subsequent year followed alphabetically
Visit Safetyrazors.net for a time line of serial numbers on antique models.
Examine vintage advertisements and catalogues. Visit your local library to find publications containing razor advertisements. Note handle styles and sizes. This helps narrow down the decade a razor was produced, even if Gillette recycled serial date codes.
Tips and warnings
- To find older Gillette advertisements for comparison, look for catalogues and magazines from the suspected time period. Christmas catalogues, sporting, men's wear and other men's interest magazines serve as a good starting point.
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