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193. Irish Seconds and the Importance of Gateway Pipes

When Peterson began exporting their Irish Seconds for the first time last year through, most of the rest of the pipe-smoking world may have thought this was something new, when in fact it’s a practice that goes back to the very beginning of Kapp & Peterson’s history.

Back when every town and city had a tobacconist, “basket pipes” were commonplace, and in fact my first pipe purchase was a no-name blocky Italian oom paul basket pipe. When I was a teenager and worked at a drugstore after school on week nights, we had “board” pipes behind the counter—cardboard displays with holders for Kaywoodie, Medico, Dr. Grabow and Missouri Meerschaum pipes.

Across the Atlantic, Kapp & Peterson maintained a trade route route Ireland as late as the 1980s, as Harry Whelan, who was the route manager and sometimes on the road himself, relates in The Peterson Pipe: The Story of Kapp & Peterson. They stocked tourist boutiques, sporting goods stores and likely merchants with Peterson-branded pipes, but also supplied newsstands and hardware shops with non-Peterson branded “Irish Seconds,” mounted on boards. These had several stamps over the years, beginning with my favorite—DUMMIES—and then went on to IRISH SECONDS, REJECT and ERICA SYSTEM REJECT.

A “Dummies” from the Irish Free State era

During the 1980s, Hollco-Rohr imported Irish Seconds and the Erica System Reject to the US. But by the time Tom Palmer, CEO of the company during the Dublin era (1991-2018) took over, he reversed that policy in his determination to restore prestige to the brand, believing such pipes would cast a negative light on the company, which has always exported the vast majority of their pipes. To this, former Tinder Box owner Doug Owens adds, “We sold the Irish Seconds at our Tinderbox in Portland in the early 1980’s for $8.95 a piece. The briar was pretty “iffy” and I recall several burnouts coming back at us after the customer had smoked the pipes only a few times. Those seconds were pretty sub standard and that is probably why Palmer stayed away from [exporting] them.”

In the summer of 2018, Laudisi Enterprises bought Peterson and by the fall of 2019 their site began marketing a new iteration of Irish Seconds to any and all comers. These are considerably different in quality from the board pipes sold in previous eras and a great addition to the aspirational tiers so fundamental to Peterson’s long-standing business philosophy.

An Irish Seconds “3” with nickel mount [XL315 System Standard]

Graded at 1, 2 or 3, and currently priced at €98 / $114 for a 1, € 69.11 / $80 for 2 and €57 / $66 for a 3, the pipes are taken from standard production lines which don’t for one reason or another meet quality control standards. They are stamped IRISH SECONDS over a 1, 2 or 3:

What’s more, the 1s and 2s I’ve seen are all sterling-mounted:


A “2” sterling army mount [X220]

As the classic “impoverished academic” and then “poor teacher,” I always felt the necessity to carefully think about every pipe purchase I made. After 45 years in the hobby, however, I have a lot more freedom than when I was working, being able to trade in or sell pipes I don’t get along with and acquire nicer pipes in the process. But everyone has a comfort zone, and as John of the Cross likes to say, God leads everyone on a different path. If that is indeed the case, then I think the Irish Seconds offer something important that should not be overlooked but rather praised as a valuable contribution to the hobby.

A “2” sterling mount lovat [shape 53]

For those who have families to feed, a living to make and other pressing economic concerns which must take precedence over pipes and tobaccos, Irish Seconds and other gateway (or entry) pipes are life-savers, real God-sends, for a number of reasons.

While I would not recommend as a first pipe one of the old Irish Rejects, the new Irish Seconds are a different story. “Briar is briar,” as pipemen have argued and talked about for decades. If the wood has been harvested and cured correctly and the engineering is even halfway decent, there is every possibility that a gateway pipe may smoke as well as a high-grade. Or to say it another way, as Fred Hannah remarked in a recent interview, if an artisan should be so unfortunate as to create a pipe made from a piece of briar that was soaked in donkey piss every day for ten years while it was growing (because that’s where the donkeys were tethered while the workmen did their harvesting), then no matter how beautiful or well-engineered, that pipe will not in all probability deliver a sweet smoking experience. In other words, there are always two makers of a pipe: Mother Nature and the craftsman or artisan.

A sterling mount Irish Seconds “1” [POY 2019]

I suspect by the sheer number of pipes sold at various price points that those who do most of the pipe smoking across our little planet may not be those with large collections of high-grades, but those with small or moderate rotations of entry and mid-grade pipes, with perhaps a few highs scattered among them. Since its founding, Kapp & Peterson has been transparent in its avowal to provide quality smoking pipes at every level of the aspirational tier, which has inevitably drawn censure from some folk. I suspect that Charles Peterson wouldn’t have paid them much mind, given his genius and belief in the quality and value of his pipes.

An Irish Seconds ebony “1” sterling mount [SH Lestrade]:
one of the coolest oom paul shapes on this
or any other planet


You can check out IRISH SECONDS here.

Thanks to Ralle Perrera for sharing
his Irish Seconds [POY 2019] photos & his wonderful cartoon.
Thanks to for their
Irish Seconds photos.


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3 years ago

Thank You for another very interesting article. I’ve bought an Irish Second in 1993 at a very low price. It is stamped “Made in the Republic of Ireland” on one side and “Irish Seconds” without any number on the other side. Shape is clearly “The Squire” from Sherlock Holmes Series, but without a sterling mount. The pipe has 3 large fillings on the surface of its bowl, maybe those were the reason, why the pipe didn’t make it to celebrity status. Nevertheless its smoking quality can absolutely compete with any of my Sherlock Holmes divas, even outdoing a few of… Read more »

William Auld
William Auld
3 years ago

Board and basket pipes – thanks for stirring that memory … Those were the days, yes they were …

John Schantz
John Schantz
3 years ago

I would buy that Sterling Mount #53 🙂

Ralle Perera
Ralle Perera
3 years ago

Great article Mark – Glad that l could be useful. Take care ALL of you fine readers of this blog. Be safe and smoke well.

Kindly Ralle Perera

3 years ago

Hi Mark; Loved the ‘donkey piss’ reference from Fred Hannah. We sold the Irish Seconds at our Tinderbox in Portland in the early 1980’s for $8.95 a piece. The briar was pretty iffy and I recall several burnouts coming back at us after the customer had smoked the pipes only a few times. So you are right, those seconds were pretty sub standard and that is probably why Palmer stayed away from them. These new ones you picture look terrific and 60 bucks or so for a quality second these days is a very reasonable price. Keep puffin.

Douglas Owen
Douglas Owen
3 years ago
Reply to  Mark Irwin

Thanks Mark. I am flattered that you will incorporate my remarks.

Jorgen Jensen
Jorgen Jensen
3 years ago

Years back when we went to Ireland in the summer I have seen a few fully stamped pipes also stamped with ” 2 ” in the Dublin shop.
I have also seen that on SH pipes in a shop for fishing tools in Castlebar.
I£ 29.95 as far as I remember, cheaper than in the Dublin shop which price I do not remember, I bought a few there.
Yes and those rejects on bords were everywhere in small shops.
Today I am waiting for an unsmoked 309 from England.