182. Hallmarks: Dating Your Peterson with Metal-Mount Markings

182. Hallmarks: Dating Your Peterson with Metal-Mount Markings

With the Peterson book now sold out at the publisher (although Smokingpipes.com still has copies), I feel I can finally offer a guide on dating Peterson pipes by their metal-mount markings to those don’t have the book and perhaps make it a little easier even for those who do. Peterson ranks only very slightly behind Dunhill as the world’s most dateable production pipe, which is one of the many joys of owning and smoking one. Even when the mount is nickel, with a bit of knowing, the collector can usually date his or her pipe to within a five year period.

Usually Peterson metal stampings and bowl stampings aren’t too difficult to decipher, but I’d recommend at the outset, if you don’t already have one, some kind of strong magnification loupe. Jeweler’s hand held loupes are usually not quite strong enough to do the job. Headset loupes with multiple lenses can usually be had at quite reasonable prices which, with a good light source, are usually all you need. If you dabble in photography and have a lens with macro capability, it’s often the case that a digital photograph of the stamps offers clues that even a headset loupe can’t, since you can then magnify the photo on your computer.

There are five types of metal stampings: the “K&P” maker’s mark; nickel-mount marks (which are often confused for hallmarks on the estate market and by those new to the brand); Irish sterling hallmarks; Irish gold hallmarks and British sterling hallmarks.

The K&P Stamp

Pipe smokers new to Peterson sometimes wonder what the “K&P” stamp is all about, not realizing the company was known as “Kapp & Peterson” until the 1970s and is still referred to as “Kapps” by the old hands who work in the shop. Most Peterson pipes with metal mounts (and all nickel-mount Systems) have a “K & P” Maker’s Mark, also called a Sponsor’s Hallmark, which is used by The Company of Goldsmiths of Dublin (est. 1637) to identify the silversmith or goldsmith responsible for making the article. The “K & P” maker’s mark was registered at the assay office shortly after Kapp & Peterson’s incorporation and appears either in capital letters (on early sterling and later nickel mounts) or capital letters in shields (on sterling). This detail of a sterling band on a 1908 meerschaum shows the original K & P maker’s mark:

The maker’s mark was later placed in shields, which may be flat or pointed at the top. Here’s an example:

After 1938, the K&P maker’s mark became a stand-in for the Company of Goldsmiths (aka Dublin Assay Office) date letter and was usually accompanied nearby by the STERLING over SILVER stamp, as seen above.

The practice of stamping sterling with the date letter wasn’t resumed at Peterson until 1969, for rather humorous reasons explained in the Peterson book.

 

Nickel Mount Marks

Dealers and pipe smokers unfamiliar with Peterson often confuse the three nickel-mount markings of Shamrock, Wolf Hound and Round Tower with assay marks. They are instead multivalent symbols chosen by Charles Peterson and Alfred Kapp to represent Ireland. They’re so rich that I encourage you to search them out for yourself as I think you’ll be fascinated by what you discover.

The marks appeared on every single nickel mount ferrule and most nickel mount bands from 1891 to 1963, when they disappeared–the three marks, not nickel bands (which were, by the way, actually brass-plated nickel plate until the advent of alloy base metal under nickel plate in the last 40 years or so). The three stamps resurfaced on the copper-plated 2019 and 2020 Christmas pipe mounts but have not made their way to general production. I hope at some point that Peterson will be able to return to this important historical practice.

The markings appear in at least three iterations over the decades. Here’s how they looked on a wind cap in the 1920s during the Irish Free State era:

Notice the articulation of the shamrock leaves, the upright Wolf Hound and the door at the base of the round tower. And here’s a very clear, deep impression probably dating from the Éire era:

You can see how the stamp has deteriorated, although the Wolf Hound’s position makes it even more probable that it’s a later iteration.

The following photo of a sandblast 308 Standard System shows a fairly typical stamp configuration, K&P maker’s mark over nickel mount marks with PETERSON in small caps beside K&P:

 

Irish Sterling Hallmarks

Irish sterling hallmarks denote the year in which a piece was made or hallmarked and began with the foundation of the Dublin Goldsmiths Company in 1683. Peterson hallmarked pipes have been documented from 1891 to 1938 and 1969 to the present, leaving a 30 year gap.  Approximate dating of a precious-metal mounted pipe made during these 30 years is possible but requires The Peterson Pipe Book or an extensive collection of Peterson catalogs to understand the history of shapes, lines, finishes and stains.

Peterson’s first hallmark dating chart appeared in their Smoker’s Guild #5 magazine, which appeared in 2005:

It was a great effort but marred by the fact that, at the time, they didn’t realize that Peterson had not hallmarked any pipes from 1938 through 1969! The extra marks, at the bottom right of the chart, also perplexed many Peterson collectors for years, as these never appeared on any Peterson pipe.

There are three symbols that appear on Peterson sterling. The first is Hibernia [symbol of Ireland] seated, with arm on harp. This is the special symbol of the Dublin Assay Office. The second symbol is the Harp Crowned, a fineness mark indicating sterling silver. It appears on hallmarked Peterson pipes through 2002. Here it is on a 305 sterling mount:

From 2003 on, the fineness mark indicating sterling has been a .925, as seen on this Peterson from 2019:

The third mark is the date letter. These follow a system peculiar to the Goldsmiths of Dublin and sometimes use a Celtic alphabet, sometimes an English one, and quite often skip a few letters in each cycle. Here’s a simple chart for your use. The first one is eye candy for the blog post, but you can click on the PDF below it to download a black & white version for printing or to keep handy on your computer. It has all the information you’ll need to date Peterson Irish Sterling and Gold mounts from 1890 through 2026:

PPN Hallmark Chart 

 

Irish Gold Hallmarks

Gold band Petersons are amazingly rare, but they do come up from time to time, and chances are the estate dealer won’t be able to tell you the year, but if you know what to look for, you can make inquiries.

If you think the Irish sterling hallmarks are confusing, try the Irish gold. The trouble lies in the fact that there are four instead of three marks and that the marks are placed both vertically and horizontally:

In this thin 9 karat gold band, only the .375 purity mark for 9 karat gold runs parallel to the Peterson’s over Dublin script. The first three marks are at 90 degree angles, placed one atop the other. The first is—as you smart Pete Geeks guessed—the special symbol of the Dublin Assay Office, Hibernia Seated. The second mark now becomes the date letter. In this case, an italic capital N for 1999. The third mark is a 9 for 9 karat gold. The fourth mark seems redundant to me: “.375” indicates a ratio of 9/24 is pure gold while the rest is other metal (silver, copper, nickel, etc. depending on the color and type of gold). The 375 represents 375/1000 or what 9/24 would be.

Okay, your turn. Using the Irish hallmark chart provided, see if you can determine what year this gold band Pete is from:

 

British Sterling Hallmarks

I have never actually held or owned a British sterling-mount Peterson, but just in case you run across one, you need to know two things. Thing One: the Peterson factory in London was operational in 1937 and was liquidated in 1962 (and there are some years for which my co-author Gary Malmberg has never documented a single British sterling mount). Thing Two: here are the date letters for London:

If you think of anything not covered here, please let me know in the Comments section, as I’d eventually like to add a version of this post to the pages at the top of the blog for easy reference.

 

Be safe, be healthy–
Happy Smokes!

 

 

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Martin
Martin
1 month ago

Very nice to read on a rainy day like today. In fact i smoked my 314 premiere and can’t read the hallmarks because it is so thin. Do you have a trick to make it more readable. I bought it 2017, but it have the sterling silver on it. This means pre 2003 right. So I wish you all a good day.

Jorgen Jensen
Jorgen Jensen
1 month ago

Good morning. It is fine that the book is now sold out at the publisher. Somewhere in the future it is going to be a collectors piece.
Like Martin I have trouble reading the stamps, even with a Sherlock glas.

Andy Camire
Andy Camire
1 month ago

Mark Your information is priceless to any collector that has a metal fitment on a Peterson Briar Pipe who wishes to date such. I was fortunate many years ago to be gifted the “Bradbury’s Book of Hallmarks” from “Irish” Al Rosenfield when I started collecting Peterson Briars. It is a small pocket sized book. I guess that’s why I love Peterson Pipes with Hallmarked Silver or Gold fitments. Just adds so much more information and history behind this famous brand. Thanks for all of the great photos and the addition of the “Pipe Notes” print out for Irish Hallmarks.

Lowell Nussey
Lowell Nussey
1 month ago
Reply to  Andy Camire

You state that they quit marking nickel after 1963. Does this mean that the 1312 I purchased in Toronto in 1970 had been sitting on the shelves for seven years? I guess so.

Andy Camire
Andy Camire
1 month ago
Reply to  Mark Irwin

Yes, Alan was truly a dedicated Peterson Freek as you might say. He became personal friends with the “Old Guard” at Peterson’s in Dublin, visited annually and always came back home with some amazing treasures. And at the same time Peterson used to give him some special briars as gifts to donate at the pipe shows. Alan was my introduction into collecting our revered brand and sold me many rare examples that I treasure today.

Linwood
Linwood
1 month ago
Reply to  Andy Camire

Funny, Al “introduced” me to “collecting” special Petersons! His display table at an early CORPS show led me to a term (designated by three letters…). I remember one of his pipes in particular – a long stemmed, full bent smooth meerscaum! – the bowl was shaped as an extra large XL90 – and a B-style stem (tapered)! My gosh I coveted that pipe! I think he was willing to sell it back then for $700. The car I drove didn’t cost that much (an ‘estate’ car). Andy probably owns it now….

Dan Hester
Dan Hester
1 month ago

Wonderful post and I appreciate the current hallmark chart as I’d only been able to find the 2005 version. Now I now both my sterling mounted systems were from 2019 (or at east the bands were)! Hope you and your family are doing well!

Yosemite
Yosemite
1 month ago

Hallmarking…ugh!..the hallmarking on the ebony Peterson 338 spigot I got today is driving me nuts even looking at it through a jewelers loupe…. on the stem…. maybe that’s a slanted “O” on the ferrule… a mashed “O” from years of use-certainly not polished off since it was so black- or is that a mashed “G” oh well …it’s cleaning up nice and I’m happy to have a vulcanite Peterson lip spigot no matter what year it comes from…. thats for continuing to post all the interesting Peterson history on here

Joseph
Joseph
1 month ago
Reply to  Mark Irwin

Hello Mark and everyone…, The identification markings are confusing to me and yes I have used various magnifiers, including the objective lens of an old pair of binoculars. It works very nicely in most usages. Well, the last time, I mentioned I like the Deluxe System pipes and being sensitive to stem curves and balance of artistry. I considered many shapes, finishes and my wallet. I purchased a Standard System, 312, Dark Smooth Finish, P-Lip and it’s a very nice specimen. For me the new dark finish is nicer than it generally photographs. The new dark has a hint of… Read more »

Joseph
Joseph
1 month ago
Reply to  Joseph

I forgot to state I want to thank Darrell at Peterson, Ireland for his help in selecting my pipe. Very nice man!

Joseph
Joseph
1 month ago
Reply to  Mark Irwin

Hello Mark, do you know what is the oldest model Peterson pipe that is still in production today?

Albin
Albin
1 month ago

Hey Mark! I’m here because I wonder if there is any way to get the Pipe Smoking from Middle Earth book? Do you have any way of giving it to people?
It’s basically impossible to get nowadays but I really want to read it!

Linwood
Linwood
1 month ago
Reply to  Mark Irwin

YEA! Another very special reason for all to attend and enjoy at the CORPS/ Sutliff Tobacco pipe Smokers’ Gathering Oct. 2-3! Please save me a copy Mark, as well as one of The Catalog.

Albin
Albin
1 month ago
Reply to  Mark Irwin

Hello, Unfortunately, I will not be able to go there since I live in Sweden, however it sounds amazing if I could get it on email. It’s really exciting that you’re going to include the Hobbit trilogy as well, I can’t wait to get it!

Albin
Albin
1 month ago
Reply to  Mark Irwin

Hello, thank you for taking the time and doing this. Please send me an email when it’s ready!

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