A few weeks ago, George Fachner of “Tinashobby” on Ebay began running the complete 1996 Peterson Old English Collection in unsmoked, individually-boxed condition. Once in awhile one of these twelve shapes will appear in estate condition on Ebay, but to see all twelve of them simultaneously and in unsmoked condition was a marvelous opportunity for Peterson collectors. I contacted George as the auctions were nearing their ends to see if he’d mind letting us use his photos and he said he’d be glad to oblige. If you follow Peterson sales on Ebay, Tinashobby is well worth bookmarking, because George almost always has some great Petes on offer (http://www.ebay.com/usr/tinashobby).
The Old English Collection is important in several regards. First, it marks the innovative and somewhat experimental early period of the Tom Palmer era, when art direction and design was headed up by Bernadette O’Neill, K&P’s Marketing Manager at the time. The lavish companion case as well as the individually-boxed pipes featured an early photograph, “Garden Party at Harrow” by celebrated British photographer Bill Brandt (1904-1983), something we’d normally expect from Dunhill, not Peterson. But the mid-1990s were the heyday of the Big Cigar Boom and “Conspicuous Consumption” seemed to be in every advertiser’s mind. K&P was re-launching its own cigar lines at the time and its line of accessories and appointments extended as far afield as Peterson pajamas, dressing robes and cufflinks. The pipe-smoking world was obviously very different twenty years ago. The OEC then is a product of its age—an extensive, expensive collection designed to appeal to what I’d think of as the Dunhill demographic.
A second distinction concerns the gold-plated sterling bands. During this period K&P issued a few of its Limited Edition and other high grade pipes with gold-plated sterling bands, which is used on the OEC as well. It’s a peculiar effect as the bands give off a gold cast in some lighting and sterling in others. Complementing the gold-plated sterling, the OEC pipes feature gold-colored (brass) inlaid “P”s in the mouthpieces. The first year’s issue was hallmarked K. Nomenclature—as you can see in Fachner’s excellent photographs below—read PETERSONS over OLD ENGLISH over COLLECTION on the obverse and MADE IN THE over REPUBLIC over OF IRELAND on the reverse of the shank. The briar used was exceptionally good, and while not unmarked, was at the upper end, with tiny sand pits and root marks left visible (as is Peterson’s practice in their better briar) and at most one or two tiny fills.
Finally, as for the shapes themselves, all have good-sized chambers, but the idea behind them—to present very English designs in sizes typical of the 1930s and 40s—means that most of them are what pipe smokers today would consider smaller and lighter shapes. As you scroll down the photos and dimensions George Fachner provided below, you’ll see some well-known and perennial favorites like the 264 Canadian, 80 Rhodesian, the 86 Apple, the 65 Bent Billiard and the 407 Prince. But there’s also some extremely rare and interesting shapes: the 55 Liverpool, the “no-shank” Tankard and (my favorite) the 124 Dublin Stack. In between are shapes similar to current production: the 26 Lumberman and three billiards, the 119, 265 and 25. I’ve noted first appearances of shape numbers where I could find them in the Peterson ephemera.