Skip to main content

Cross-collectible appeal of 'Moustache Spoon' adds to value

In the latest Ask the Experts' column, Dr. Anthony Cavo discusses the cross-collectible appeal of a "Moustache Spoon" from the California Midwinter International Exposition (Midwinter Exposition) of 1894, when offering a value.

Q I was wondering the age of this pitcher and basin. It is showing a lot of age and has the hand-written numbers 1120E1. The cup does have a chip on it. I bought it in an auction with another item, and I am extremely curious and would appreciate any info.
— V.M.
via email

A What you have is not a bowl and pitcher but two pieces from a bowl and pitcher, or wash basin and pitcher set. During the 18th century, before the advent of indoor plumbing, these sets were as essential to every household, as is modern plumbing today. People would pour the water from the large pitcher into the bowl and with the aid of soap and a washcloth bathe their entire body with that small amount of water. These sets consisted of a bowl with a large pitcher, one or two smaller pitchers, a covered chamber pot, a slop bucket with or without a cover, a soap dish with or without a cover, a toothbrush holder and one or two cups or mugs; some sets were also made with shaving mugs. Although most bowls were round with matching bulbous pitchers, other bowls were elliptical, square or rectangular in shape with like-shaped pitchers; these are rarer.


You have the bowl and one of the smaller pitchers meant to hold water for hand-washing, drinking or brushing teeth rather than bathing. During the late 19th and early 20th century, indoor plumbing made these sets obsolete and many were discarded, relegated to the attic or separated. The bowl and pitchers were stored, chamber pots were hidden away, the soap dishes, cups and toothbrush holders remained in the bathroom, and the smaller pitchers found their way to the kitchen; this is why it is difficult to find a complete set.

Depending on the condition, maker, form and pattern, a bowl with matching pitcher can sell anywhere from $40 to $1,500, especially those in Flow Blue with rare patterns. The heavily stained and crazed pieces you have are unmarked as to maker, which suggests that originally they were inexpensive, lower quality pieces made in the United States and only have a decorative value.


Q I have inherited a beautiful mustache spoon but can’t find any info on it. It is from the 1894 California Midwinter international exposition in San Francisco. On the back it just says “patented” and there are three marks, an “M”, “S” and “C”.

I know that mustache spoons are rare but I believe is one to be very unique. I can find info on the exposition and on mustache spoons, but not on this particular spoon. Thank you.
— J.G.
Seffner, Florida

A The California Midwinter International Exposition (Midwinter Exposition) of 1894 took place in San Francisco at the Golden Gate Park from January to July. Of all the fairs and expositions (Centennial Exposition, Columbia Exposition, St. Louis World’s Fair, Chicago World’s Fair 1893 and 1933) the Midwinter Exposition is probably the least known, making souvenirs from this event more difficult for collectors to find.


In 1868, a New York spoon maker named Solon Ferrer designed a soup spoon with a guard that protected the mustache from dipping into the soup. This dome kept the mustache dry and prevented dripping from the hair onto the chin and clothing.

Although you only included one photograph of your spoon showing the California bear and the globe, I believe the rest of the handle depicts local scenes, the bowl is engraved with the Golden Gate, and the guard itself should depict buildings in the exposition. Your spoon was advertised as “The Model Moustache Spoon” and “the only satisfactory moustache spoon ever made.”

The sales pitch went on further to state that “Every man having a proper regard for his appearance and comfort when eating should use this spoon.” The spoon came in a fitted box and sold for the whopping sum of $1.50 and upward. It was sold in the Mechanical Arts Building at the Midwinter Fair in jewelry stores throughout the city.

Because of its rarity and as a cross-collectible (spoon collectors, fair collectors, barber collectors) and without any comparable piece being offered in the market for quite some time, I would place a value in the $150 range and more if in the original box.

About our columnist:
Dr. Anthony J. Cavo is an honors graduate of the Asheford Institute Of Antiques and a graduate of Reisch College of Auctioneering. He has extensive experience in the field of buying and selling antiques and collectibles; at age 18, he became one of the youngest purchasers and consigners of antiques and art for a New York auction house. Mr. Cavo is an active dealer in the antiques and collectibles marketplace in the U.S. and abroad.

Weekly Showcase



Over 100 YEARS of Chinese History - Our pristine Jade Collection is extensive and beautiful!  Please visit our web site to get an idea of how beautiful this collection is.