by Richard Carleton Hacker
Speaking of price, the obvious next question is, how much should you pay for a pipe? Most of the pipes in this article will start at well under $100 and go up from there. The most expensive is Dunhill, which launches in the mid-$300s and can swiftly rise well into the four digit stratosphere and beyond. Likewise with some of the higher-end Italian and Danish pipes. What are you paying for when purchasing any of these brands? Workmanship, quality of briar, and brand name imagery. But no matter what brand, finish or shape you decide upon, the cardinal rule in pipe buying is to purchase the very best you can afford.
By the same token, be on the lookout for bargains. For example, many top grade pipemakers end up with pipes that exhibit a few minor imperfections that do not affect their smoking quality These pipes are called "seconds." They are usually sold under a different brand name and they are substantially less expensive than "firsts," pipes that are turned from a visually perfect piece of briar. While these pristine rarities are highly sought after by image-conscious pipesmokers, one can pay dearly for the privilege of ownership. But for many, the pride of perfection and collectibility potential is worth it.
As an example of a "second," some smooth pipes will exhibit a tiny dot or sand pit, or will have a putty fill that covers up a flaw in the wood. Neither of these physical marks will affect the smokability of the briar. In fact, some of the top Italian and Danish pipe makers regard a sand pit as simply an identifying mark of nature. However, there is a stigma against a putty fill, which is usually evidence of a flaw that is too large to ignore. There is also a practical reason behind this almost universal aversion to fills. As the pipe is smoked, it will develop a patina over the years, but the putty will not.
In addition to "seconds," some private brands your tobacconist may stock are often priced well below the standard grades and can represent real value. There is nothing like finding a moderately priced virgin briar that might have cost hundreds of dollars if it had a well-known brand name stamped into the shank. However, stay away from "barrel pipes," those cheap, poorly made briars that are thrown into a box on the counter and offered for some ridiculous price that may seem like a bargain.
Of course, the nice thing about buying the perfect pipe is that one is never enough. Pipes need to dry out between smokes. That means you‘ll need at least two; or better, one for every day of the week. Some of us have a pipe for every day of the year. After all, buying a pipe is not just a one-time adventure. Like pipesmoking itself, it is an ongoing part of the hobby. There‘s always the search for the perfect pipe.
Richard Carleton Hacker is the best-selling author of The Ultimate Pipe Book (U.S., British, and German editions) as well as producer-host of The Ultimate Pipe Video. He is a member of the Confrerie des Maitres-Pipiers de St.-Claude and the Academie Internationale de la Pipe, and was elected as Germany‘s Pipe Knight of the Year.
Prossimo articolo: Types of Pipe Tobacco