Antique Hair Brush Identification and Value Guide

antique hair brush
Credits: Regrom

If you are fond of acquiring an antique hair brush to decorate your dresser, you are not alone! Antique collectors are always on the lookout for old hair brushes. Since these hair brushes were made as a piece of art, antique enthusiasts are eager to grab one for themselves!  

As we see hair brushes as part and parcel of our lives today, they were exquisitely handcrafted in ancient times. Brushes were not mass-produced till quite later and each piece represented the artisan’s craft. Therefore, an antique connoisseur knows the actual value of an antique hair brush.

Are you wondering if you can earn a small fortune by selling that old brush you found? I have developed this guide to answer precisely that! This detailed guide will discuss identifying different types of antique brushes, what were old hair brushes made of, and their worth in the market. Follow the guide to know the value of an antique hair brush so you can buy or sell it wisely.  

Antique Hair Brush – The Historical Overview

Historians have not been able to put a specific date for the inception of hair brushes. However, several theories are available to estimate their age. One popular theory states that someone transformed hair brushes from antique paint brushes. He took the liberty to drill holes in the paintbrush and added bristles to it. Somehow it stayed and kept on modifying.

Here is a brief overview of how the antique hair brush transformed in various eras

Early History

History of Romans and Greeks showed signs of hair brush through their styled hair in portraits. The Egyptian tombs have also revealed the combs and carvings of wigs. From this, it has been assumed that they possessed some hair brush.

The bristles of the hairbrush in that era were made of natural substances. The animal hair, such as that of a horse, boar, or porcupine, was stiff enough to tame human hair. The handles were made of metals and wood.    

In ancient times, people only used the hairbrush to reduce head lice. Soon, the need for styling hair emerged in society. The hairbrush became the need for hair aesthetics. However, they could only be afforded by the wealthy.

First Hair Brush Manufacturer-1777

Eventually, the demand for hair brushes grew as society became civilized. Kent Brushes was the first hair brush manufacturing company opened by William Kent in 1777.

The bristles of the hair brushes were hand stitched by the artisans of that time. It is said that it took almost 12 artisans to make a single hair brush. Kent Brushes remains the oldest hairbrush company in Great Britain.

The invention of the automatic boring machine for brushes in 1885 further eased the process of manufacturing. In the same year, Mason Pearson created a rubber brush which is still a popular antique style.

The brushes were now produced at a greater rate. The hairbrush also became a popular gift item in that period. Women gifted them to new brides or at the birth of a newborn. An ornately styled hair brush was also famous as an anniversary gift.

Hair Brush Production in the United States

The U.S. has seen a fair share of innovators in hair brush manufacturing. Hugh Rock obtained the first patent for hair brush design. He created appealing brush designs and glamorized them in the U.S. His company sold beautiful hair brushes with metal handles and matching mirrors.

In 1870, Fiery made a patent for elastic wire teeth in the hairbrush design. He added them with natural bristles to enhance their quality.

Lyda Newman, in 1898 presented a patent for synthetic bristles for hair brushes. She also created hair brushes with detachable handles and air chambers. Admirers still enjoy these vented brushes.

The hair brushes were widespread across the U.S. when Alfred Fuller sold them from door to door. He created the company Fuller Brush intending to expand hair brushes. He made them affordable and durable, which made his company grow among the masses.  

Antique Hair Brush Identification

An antique hair brush is not a hard find but identifying genuine antiques demands a trained eye. The unique designs and affordability of antique hair brushes have made them highly sought after among collectors.

You should know the types of antique brushes and what were old hair brushes made of to identify an actual antique piece. The next time you see an old hairbrush in an antique shop or a garage sale, consider the following to bag a priceless item.  

Types of Antique Hair Brush

Since the inception of hair brushes, they have evolved dramatically. From bristles made of animal hair to synthetic materials, collectors can witness various types of antique brushes in the market.

Following are some distinctive types

Military Hair Brush

Military-style brushes can be dated back to the 1700s. The military hair brush was mass produced in 1940 when the British Army used it.

A military hair brush is circular and without a handle. It is mainly made of wood with nylon or boar bristles. It is usually referred to as a man’s brush because it caters to short hair. The handle-free design was considered portable and functional for the marching soldiers of the army.

Military Hair Brush
Credits: Feelunique

Vented Hair Brush

Vented hair brushes were introduced in 1898 as a modification of synthetic paddle brushes. Lyda Newman added the vented chambers in the hairbrush to aid in cleaning.

Vented Hair Brush
Credits: eBay

Combination Brushes

You can also find an antique combination hair brush. This hair brush first emerged in 1870. Samuel Fiery manufactured it with a combination of natural bristles and wire teeth.  

Combination Brushes
Credits: eBay

Round Hair Brush

The round brush had a ceramic or metal base and was used to give hair a voluminous look.

Round Hair Brush
Credits: Chairish

Detangler Brush

Manufacturers primarily produced this type of brush to remove tangles effectively. The bristles were usually made of nylon and widely spaced for this purpose.

Detangler Brush
Credits: Smallflower

What Were Old Hair Brushes Made Of?

Another factor that plays a critical role in identifying antique hair brushes is their production material. Manufacturers used two materials in an antique brush to form the handle and the bristles.

Primarily, they can be classified into natural and synthetic materials.

Natural Materials

Before the invention of synthetic materials, manufacturers mainly utilized animal hair to form bristles in the hair brush. The handle of the brush was also made from naturally occurring substances.

For bristles, boar and horse hair were the popular choices. Boar brushes are considered to be of high quality. These bristles were soft and specially designed for detangling long hair.

The horsehair was also stiff and could glide through the hair effortlessly.   

For the handle, whalebone, wood, and ivory was popular choice of manufacturers.

Natural Materials
Credits: Etsy

Synthetic Materials

The technological advancements in hair brush manufacturing shifted the focus from natural to synthetic materials. These materials were lightweight and could be mass-produced.

Synthetic materials used for the bristles were metal wire and plastic. Though they cannot replace the quality of natural materials, they made the brush light and affordable.

The hairbrush handle was made of celluloid, bakelite, rubber, and plastic. The brushes were also given a coating of expensive metal such as brass, silver, or gold to decorate the pieces.

Synthetic Materials
Credits: Etsy

Antique Hair Brush Value Guide

As an antique hairbrush collector, you might have to pursue various auction websites, local stores, or garage sales to find the rarest pieces. The aesthetic hair brushes have been ruling the antique shops for decades. However, you should know their market value to get your hands on the most valuable pieces.  

The value of an antique hairbrush depends on several factors. Some of these beauties are worth hundreds of dollars, while others can be typically low-priced.

Factors Affecting the Value of Antique Hair Brush

The next time you are on the lookout for an antique hairbrush, consider the following factors.

Age of the Hair Brush: Vintage vs. Antique

The antique hair brushes are more than 100 years old. However, the brushes of less than 100 years of age are not considered authentic antiques. They are called vintage items.

The value of antique items is always more than the vintage ones. The hair brushes manufactured closer to the 1700s, and 1800s are worth more in the market. The 1900s pieces are comparatively less expensive.

The company’s logo or mark on the hair brush can confirm the age of the brush. It is hard to date a brush without the logo. Still, some vintage items can also be worth a handsome amount.

For instance, this Tiffany and Co. antique hair brush is sold on eBay for $120. In contrast, this vintage hair brush set listed on Etsy is $16.89.

Condition of the Hair Brush: Good vs. Damaged

Like any other antique item, an antique hairbrush in good condition is worth more in the market.

A good-condition hair brush should have all the bristles intact with adequate shape and structure. The handle should also show no discoloration, cracks, dents, or scratches. For instance, this antique sterling silver hairbrush in good condition is listed on eBay for $69.

If the brush is not of good quality, the price will vary depending on the magnitude of damage. The collectors are always looking for good quality items, so a damaged hair brush might sell for less in the market.

This used sterling silver hair brush is listed on eBay for $24.95.

Material of the Hair Brush: Natural vs. Synthetic

The materials of the hairbrush also determine their worth. Generally, the brushes made of synthetic and plastic were mass-produced as they were cheap. Therefore, the value of these hair brushes is also low.

The hair brushes made with natural materials are usually rare pieces. These items sell for more and can add significant value to your antique collection.

Material of the Handle

The hairbrush handles made of celluloid, bakelite, and plastic are relatively less expensive. Such as this hair brush made of bakelite is available on Etsy for $14.99.  

The handles of metals such as gold, silver, and brass are worth more. The whalebone and ivory brushes are also worth a fortune. However, you won’t be able to sell ivory items due to the ivory ban in the U.S.

This gold Victorian hair brush is priced at $58 on Etsy

Material of the Bristles

Collectors often look at the bristle quality as the last thing in the hair brush. But bristles usually make a genuine difference in the brush’s value.

The natural bristles are always worth more. There is no perfect alternative for natural bristles. So, if you got such a piece, you might have hit the jackpot.

Further, Russian bristles are always considered of the best quality. These bristles can be white, gray, yellow, or black. In the brush industry, white is the most expensive and high quality.

This antique white boar bristle hair brush on eBay is $40.

Synthetic bristles such as those made of plastic and metal wire are of lesser value.

For instance, this vintage plastic brush is listed on eBay for $11.95. 

Decoration on the Hair Brush: Embellished vs. Non-Embellished

The hairbrush was primarily considered a women’s item in old times. Owing to this, many companies produced feminine designs and styles of brushes. They created some of these brushes with intricate carvings and gemstones that were highly appealing to women.

The embellished hair brushes with beautiful art designs and stones are more valuable. In contrast, you won’t find simple brushes costly. Some popular design trends of the old age such as Art Deco, sell worth more than their counterparts.

Take these Etsy listings as an example.

4 Most Valuable Antique Hair Brush Manufacturers

In the history of the hairbrush industry, some notable manufacturers rose to fame. They created pieces of superior quality and excellent craftsmanship, which collectors still admire.

These four manufacturers are highly collectible in the market for antique hair brushes.

Kent Brushes

Kent Brushes is one of the oldest companies of brushes found in Great Britain. Their exquisitely crafted hair brushes are highly coveted among antique enthusiasts.

For example, this Kent men’s military hair brush is listed on eBay for $64.

Mason Pearson

The natural boar hair brushes produced by Mason Pearson are considered extremely high quality. This company has been around since 1905, and its original antique hair brushes are precious.

This Mason Pearson boar bristle hair brush is available on eBay for $167.

Fuller Brush Company

This company was developed in 1906 and is known for making hair brushes widespread for the first time. John D. Rockefeller and Franklin Delano Roosevelt are the earliest Fuller Brush Company customers.     

The antique hair brushes of Fuller Brush Company are still valuable in the market. This vintage fuller boar bristle brush is $107.99 on eBay.

Tiffany and Co.

Tiffany & Co. is an American luxury jewels company founded in 1837. The products of this company became famous in the early 20th century. Although this brand is known for its high-end jewelry pieces, gilded hair brushes under this name are also quite valuable.

Tiffany and Co. mainly catered to wealthy women who could afford jeweled dresser items. Therefore, an antique luxury hair brush from this company preserved in good condition is worth several hundred dollars in the market.

This antique Tiffany and Co. sterling silver hair brush is listed on eBay for $170.

For more information on the identification and value of antique hair brushes, you can refer to “Collector’s Guide to Hair Combs: Identification and Values” by Mary Bachman (May 1, 1998).

How to Clean an Antique Hair Brush

If you are lucky to procure some fine antique brushes, you will want to preserve them. Or maybe you have an old gem lying in those dusty cupboards, and you have realized its potential only now.

Whatever the case, you can thoroughly clean your antique brush to preserve it for a long time.

Check this Youtube video on how to clean your vintage hair brush

Here is another video of how to clean your boar bristle brush

Conclusion

Antique hair brushes enjoy the limelight among antique lovers mainly because of their aesthetics and affordability. You will also find these quite versatile. From a simple round plastic brush to an exquisitely crafted and jeweled golden piece, there is a range of options to choose from.

You can spot an antique brush in your local antique shop, at a garage sale, or online. However, you can find a real gem among these by inspecting their design, materials, and company’s logo.

The value of these brushes also depends on their materials, condition, age, and design. Natural materials are rare to find and are highly valuable. A good quality brush with an intricate design is worth more than a simple one.

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