Your birth razor, the Gillette razor dating system

This is something rather nice that you can do with traditional, real shaving. Gillette have been the dominant manufacturer of shaving equipment on planet earth for about a century. During all of that time they made fantastic, well engineered, very high quality double edged safety razors. Nowadays these are reserved for developing countries where the bulk of the male population cannot afford several dollars every week for a system razor cartridge. But for many decades they were the prime Gillette product in Western markets as well.

Gillette double edged razors are made to last, their potential life is virtually indefinite. I have a 1930s Tech that I use regularly, many people still use razors made before World War 1. So there are tens of millions of these razors hidden away in attics and garages that, after a quick cleanup, would still make fantastic shaving razors today. I have a small collection of these, which I use, and have written about the Super Speeds and Adjustables on here before. Tens of thousands (maybe more) of real shaving enthusiasts seek out and use these razors, their prices go ever upwards on eBay.

One very interesting feature of Gillette razors is that with very many of them you can tell when it was manufactured. So you can buy one made in your birth year. From 1904 to 1931 each razor carried a serial number. Though from 1921 to 1931 this was just for the top models. And there was a brief period in 1927/8 when there were no serial numbers. If you have a serial numbered razor then you can easily look it up against online tables to get its manufacturing date.

From 1931 to 1950 there were no distinguishing marks, then in mid 1950 they started again with a new system. There is a letter of the alphabet for the year and a number for the quarter within the year. The first razors under this system were marked V3. They worked their way through the alphabet till 1955, when they started at A again. Then in 1980 they started at A yet again. With this system you can buy a razor within a 3 month window within which your birthday lies.

Looking at some of my razors there is a red tip Super Speed that has B2 stamped on the underside of the head, this razor was made in April, May or June of 1956 and it still shaves perfectly today. I have 2 Toggles, a D1 and an F4, they are from Quarter1 1958 and Q4 1960 respectively. And for a more modern razor there is a fantastic S4 long handled Super Adjustable which is from Q4 1972.

When you see Gillette razors advertised you will often see the date code included in the description. Some people collect the date codes. So, say, the Fat Boy was made for just four years and it would be quite simple to accumulate one made in each quarter that it was manufactured. By chance both of mine are stamped F4.

As with everything to do with personal shaving date of birth razors are a personal thing, to some people they are important and they hunt them down, other people just can’t be bothered. It is up to you.

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3 comments ↓

#1 Nathan on 03.13.12 at 1:38 am

Just starte collecting. Like the info here. Looking for a Fat Boy. Is there a razor club or a show like the blad show some where in the US?

#2 Scott on 11.13.12 at 8:20 pm

Bruce, I just purchased a “Single Ring” razor that neither has the Pat. date on the handle nor a serial number. The razor does not appear to be silver but is a high polished metallic finish. There is a Gillette logo on the bottom of the blade guard with “Made in the U.S.A.” but I am not convinced it is truely a Gillette Single Ring razor. What do you think?

#3 Ward on 06.10.13 at 2:44 pm

Just found a 1932 gillette and a 1960 adjustable fat boy in boyle, ab 20.00 for both. pretty sweet deal

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