Friday, November 25, 2005

The Last Great Trade?

The Last Great Trade?

First off, I do not know if I want Mike McCain at a show. The last time I saw him was Chicagoland 2002. He had just opened up this big green can of Exotic...something. I asked how was old it was - something like 40 years old. (I like Mike but asking me to smoke some stale tobacco - I mean after 40 years you figured he would have smoked it already.)

So being polite, I took a bowl. Knowing that Mike was trying real hard to get rid of the stuff, I helped myself to another bowl. But Mike, next time, you have to offer me some of that nice black sweet tobak instead of stuff that smells like old sweaty socks!

Well Mike (Davis) is certainly offering me a most interesting trade offer. As everyone can see, this is a very long, giant tamper. I know the Castello factory has one other tamper that is at about as long but that's it (so far as I know). So the tamper is rare. I have a number of tampers and only one is almost as long as this. I like tampers but do not collect them. All tampers that I have are actually used so his big boy would be dirtied up by me as soon as I got it.

The next question - what is is it worth? Since there are so few - we ask to look at the other Castello tampers. A rather ordinary large smooth Briar one could run me say $150 to $200. This is one is so much larger - but I am not sure if it is briar. Even so it is still a very rare and worth owning.

Without knowing more I would say that if offered to me between $500 to $600 I would add it FOR SURE to my collection. However, it could be "worth" even more to Mike than that.

Now the next step - the trade. First off, obviously Mike values this tamper a lot. He wants something that will fit in and improve it. This makes sense. The question is what does this mean? I must determine if Mike's value is so high that it will make a trade impossible. Or do I want the tamper so much, I will be willing to trade whatever it takes?

Mike has an outstanding collection of Hawkbills. I would say he has everything in that shape there is. Mike D, if we're at a show and you offered this to me as a trade - I would ask what pipe would of interest that would want "add" to your collection that you would want in trade for this "crappy" tamper? I mean who would want a tamper this big anyway?
~ Rich Esserman

Saturday, November 19, 2005


Rare is overdone!

There are tons, thousands, more than one person in the world that doesn't know diddly from daddly about pipes. To these folks, "mea culpa". It's Saturday, I've got chores to do around the house. I've finished my morning coffee (percolated, thank you..) and I'm wading through the drivel on ebay just to get a look at what's happening.

People with real lives probably don't head to their computer first thing in the morning, before the first sip of coffee. Stock brokers surely check the markets many times daily - Store owners check the receipts many times daily - yet I'm a working stiff who can't keep away from looking (rarely bidding!) at how the pipe market is rolling on ebay. It's my hobby. Not EBAY.. but pipes. It's in my blood. It's a sickness.

To those ignorant souls who think that any pipe grandpa had in the front pocket of his overalls - which grandpa wore last in 1963 - which they just found in an old trunk in the attic after 40+ years - these folks are allowed to be ignorant. There is no culpability here. It's old, grandpa was too, it's a rare pipe and I'm going to list it on ebay and retire from the profits.


Not all pipes are rare. In fact, most are NOT rare. Pipes used to be rare because they were hard to find. Now, it's easy to find pipes. I've got a selection of Dunhill ODA's, Castello White Bars, Celius, Ilsted... I can buy until my credit card melts! Not just one - no, countless numbers of them.

I'm just at a point where I'd like to "mammy slap" some of these folks who know better - or, should know better... nope, I'm convinced that they DO know better and that they're simply attempting to polish the proverbial turd in hopes of getting $300 for a $50 pipe from some unknowing bidder. I'm turning these ebay listers off and have been for some time now. Why do I feel some moral obligation to warn others of this stuff? I'm a schmuck sometimes, I suppose.


When "knowlegeable" people list pipes as RARE on ebay it makes me want to scream. Some are worse than others. Some YELL at me when I'm looking at their listings. Heck, I'll go one step further; There are some listings I never bother to even review! There are other collectors who turn people like this off, when every machine made pipe that's over 3 weeks old is RARE... and every estate pipe is PRISTINE... that's just not true. "Minty" would be a better adjective to use if indeed, the used pipe is sincerely like new. Anything Pristine is supposed to be new.

I'll go a step further in hopes of driving a little debate amongst the small but growing group posting here - Dunhill Magnums (registered/old pieces) ain't rare. They're scarce, to be sure, but they're not RARE. A Castello Ecpoca Hawkbill is RARE. A Dunhill Magnum Canadian from 1925 with a 7" shank would be RARE. A Charatan carved portrait pipe of Adolph Hitler would be darned RARE. But a Sasieni pipe from the 1950's, when they made them by the thousands, isn't rare. If it's unsmoked then it's RARE. Most 55 year old pipes that have gone unsmoked are rare. Back then, people bought pipes to smoke. If it's unsmoked in the original box then it's VERY RARE.

FWIW, "mammy slap" is a term meaning 'the kind of slap that your Mother would give you in hopes of getting your brain to function correctly'. Motherly love, you understand.

I'd rant some more but I've got work to do. I'd like to "mammy slap" the guy who keeps producing these dirty clothes that I'm forced to wash weekly.

TRUE RARITY is about the only thing, pipe related on ebay, that's RARE these days.

Do others tune these "carnival barkers" off like I do?

Wednesday, November 02, 2005

What has happened to the "old" Charatans?

I'm not a collector of Charatan pipes though I do have one that is a great smoker. The question I have is, "What has happened to the 'old' Charatan pipes"? Where have they gone?

You don't find many 'old' Charatans on ebay! It amazes me that there are numbers of old Dunhill pipes to be found on ebay. Some may be in less than good condition, mind you.. but, they're out there. An authentic, old Charatan? I don't know that I've ever seen one!

At a pipe show in 1997, Fred Janusek had some of the oldest Charatans I have ever seen in person. These pipes were fantastic, smaller pipes (not the large freehand models that are sometimes seen on ebay) with phenomenal grain.

How to date Charatan pipes?

The following is part of an article by Ivy Ryan:

Dating Charatans

The way to date Charatan pipes is to be aware of the minor changes that were made during the years that Charatan was in business. With a bit of information as to the dates of some markings and stem changes, I introduce this approximate dating guide. A lot of these dates are going to be "about" or approximately," and I am only able to cover the times from the mid 1950s to the sale by Dunhill to J.B.. Russell circa 1988. My information is approximate because I do not have access to factory records. I am working from memory, stories I heard It the Prescott Street factory, and pipes I have owned over the years.

The keys for dating post-war to 1960-era Charatan pipes are the presence or absence of serifs (i.e., short lines stemming from and at an angle to the upper and lower ends of a letter) on the CP stamp, the presence or absence of the Lane "L" on tapered and early saddle bit stems, and the presence or absence of the renowned Double Comfort bit.

After 1960, the dates may be determined by the stamping on the right side of the pipe. (Note: I was a 20-odd-year-old, pipe-smoking woman when I hung around Charatans. I was not a researcher, though I sure wish I had been. I have been told since that all pre-WW II records went up when the "old" factory was destroyed in the bombing, but I was just not interested. I really regret that now. I let a lot of history go, but all I can say is that I was younger then.)

The Lane Limited florid "L" is on almost all Charatans imported into the United States from somewhere after WW II until 1988. (Lane bought Charatan in 1960, but it began importing Charatan pipes in 1955, when it got the contract from Wally Frank, who had been importing them.) If the pipe in question has a tapered or saddle bit without the "L", then it is probably very old, possibly pre-war. Or it may not have been stamped. This did happen, and no one knows how often, but I think it was fairly infrequent.

Pre-1955 Charatans--possibly back to the beginning--had pronounced serifs on the CP stamp and either a taper or saddle bit. Pipes made in 1955 or later had the same types of bits but without the serifs on the CP. The block letter "FH" marking, for "Free Hand," on either side of the stem was used from the 1940s or so until about 1958. The problem is that all pipes were not stamped "FH," even though all the pipes were actually hand made.

The block letter "MADE BY HAND" stamp on the right side or bottom of the shank came into use in early 1958 to replace the "FH" stamp and was used until late 1965. The letters were about one millimeter tall.

The Double Comfort bit came into use in 1960 and is still in use. The original design was supposed to produce a strong stem with a thin bite. It was also supposed to be a distinctive point about the brand, giving instant product recognition. ~ Ivy Ryan

So - Where are all the old Charatan Pipes?

I'm curious. Has any individual collector taken pictures of the different stamps, clearly defined, in order for collectors to accurately or semi-accurately date these older Charatans?

According to Tad Gage, in an article written in Pipes and Tobaccos magazine, December 2003, Tad wrote that, "in 1955, he (Herman Lane) struck a deal to become the sole U.S. distributor of the Charatan pipe". Thus, the Lane "L" came into being during this time. Further, Gage writes "until 1957, the company had four primary smooth-pipe classifications that featured varying degrees of straight grains; Supreme, Selected, Executive and Belvedere".

I guess I'm just a curious sort.

Where have these old, Pre-Lane Charatans gone?