Here you can see a few pictures of some of the old shaving brushes I have acquired in my travels. On the front row are some Culmak brushes that are very common in the UK, in the centre of which is a small Bakelite brush. On the left of the back row are three of the prized “butterscotch” handled brushes, these were made from a thermosetting polymer called Catalin which oxidises over time to this colour. The big one on the left is very faintly branded “Boots” so is probably a rebranded Rooney, the next one looks like it could be a Culmak or maybe a Simpson’s shape, the next two I don’t know anything about. On the right are probably two Kent BK2s.
Now I am sure that there are some people who collect these, just as there are people who collect postage stamps, but their real value is in being brought back into use, many keen traditional shavers see brush restoration as being a key part of their hobby. The first step is to remove the bundle of hairs (the knot) which is usually held in with epoxy or a vintage equivalent strong glue. This requires great care and the weapon of choice is usually a Dremel. The handle can then be polished, repainted or revarnished as appropriate and a new knot cemented in.
One of the great things about brush restoration is the huge choice of knots that are available from companies like The Golden Knib. Not only that, you can choose how deep to put the knot in the handle, which has a huge effect on the backbone of the brush. So the restored brush is very customised to be exactly what the user wants.
If you are too lazy or impractical to do this for yourself there are some brush manufacturers and some brush restorers who will do it for you. Whichever route you follow you can end up with a very nice shaving brush indeed for a very economic price.