225. “The Long Island Pete”: Bob Cuccaro’s Pipe Beginnings
You can learn quite a bit about a Kappnist or Pete Geek by his pipes. There is a great deal to discover and admire in the rich collecting interests of Bob Cuccaro, aka “TLIP.” I’ll let Bob tell you how his interests came about.
The Complete Classic Meerschaum Collection and Special Black Rack
It was one of those mid-Spring days in 2018 where there was still a chill in the air but the sun beating through my driver’s side window of my car made it feel like summer. I arrived at my local cigar shop for a ceremonious cigar to celebrate graduation. Whenever I walked into the shop, I would walk past the pipe case and observe all the shapes and types of pipes, ranging from a white pipe which I had no clue was meerschaum to some other unique looking ones that had bends with darkened silver spigots. I bent down and this rich merlot-looking pipe stood out. I inquired about the pipe to the tobacconist, and he said without paying attention, “Oh, that’s a Peterson.” “Can I hold it?” I asked with a simple curiosity. Little did I know that would be my first Peterson pipe, a Killarney 87. The store had a lot of in-house tobacco, but I noticed some tins on the shelf that garnished the same Peterson name, Sherlock Holmes and Connoisseur’s Choice. “I’ll take the pipe and those two tobacco tins.” I cracked open the Connoisseur’s Choice and packed a bowl like a kid shoving his finger into a light socket for the first time (not a wise idea, but we have to learn the hard way). The red-blossoming cherry formed in the bowl nicely with a match.
The PSOI (Pipe Smokers of Ireland) Annual Commemoratives
Now I did have two pipes from about 10 years earlier, one that is a slight bent pipe with only the marking “Italy” on the bottom and the other a Butz Choquin Brumaire. I never really got into pipes, since every time I lit them up I found the nighttime ceremony of bringing the tooth bristle to my mouth with paste made my tongue feel like I indulged in rolling ghost peppers around my mouth. This Peterson was different. I got bitten, but I found the quality of the tobacco and pipe were exceptional. The vulcanite stem was easy to clench, and I smoked this pipe daily for weeks and weeks.
French Brevet Clay System (bottom) and Scottish-made Clay System (top)
I researched the company and found a history so rich in the pipe-making process, a variety of shapes, sizes, and lines that I figured I could get into this brand. Next time I visited the store, an Orange Army 01 was my next pipe. Wow! An acrylic army mount that I could detach while smoking and blow out the pool of humidity and condensation! Now I had two pipes, and I thought, “I may never NEED or want more pipes!” A little trip to upstate New York led me to my favorite cigar place on earth. I saw a Christmas 999 pipe on their website and asked if they had it in stock. The owner and one of the staff members were enthusiastic and extremely helpful in my choice and locating the pipe I saw online and some tobacco I asked about. I walked out with the 999 and Peterson Summertime 2015 blend in its glorious tin, along with some other tobacco. Three Petersons! “Now I can smoke a different one every day and I have enough I to rotate every few days,” I thought.
A Pipe of the Year collection nearing completion
Then I discovered Peterson Pipe Notes and eBay and I went down a rabbit hole of curiosity which lead to a passion for this pipe company that started in 1865. “Pipe of the year”? “ Sherlock Holmes”? “St. Patrick’s Day”? Clay? Meerschaum? It was endless. I went on Facebook and discovered there were other Pete freaks like me but with hundreds of rare pipes, which I like to call “unicorns.” “I just would like one Unicorn!” If as you read this you’re laughing it’s because you realize we are one and the same. I emailed the Peterson shop and asked them if they had any of the Pipes of the Year. Within two weeks I had my first POY, a 2017. WOW! What an incredible sight to see my pipe collection growing so I could rotate more in and out.
The Mark Twains
I am not even going to go into the tobacco portion just yet, because we all know what happened from 2018-2019. Some beloved tobacco companies and our very own Peterson either closed or were acquired, and there was some uncertainty as to the future direction of the brand. So I turned to eBay and discovered very early on I should have studied more with machine learning and data mining to determine the exact millisecond that a pipe would be sniped from underneath my very ability to hit a button on my phone. I walked away from eBay with my first estate pipe from Gary Malmberg, a 1945 belgique. “Well, that was easy!” I thought. “Not many people bid on these old pipes, so I might be able to get more used old pipes to further my rotation of different Petes.” Then the sniping occurred, and I found myself outbid on some pretty cool pipes. EBay has served me well when I have said WTF and put in a max bid that would bankrupt most of America. Fast forward almost three years, I have enough in my rotation to smoke one every day for approximately 70 days. I have been lucky to acquire a unicorn set of Sherlock meers and matching stand from networking with friends on Peterson Pipe and Pipe Smokers of Ireland Facebook pages. A few rare pipes here and there have been presented to me in an email or messenger asking, “Would you be interested in…?” When you get into Peterson Pipes, it’s like doing a home project or working on any other hobby—you better be prepared to go over your budget, because if the opportunity is there, you’d better go for it.
The long-deleted Adventures of Sherlock Holmes collection with an Aboriginal Meer below
My collection ranges from an older Brevet System clay and Patent billiard to an almost complete collection of the POYs. My PSOI pipes, Dunmore Systems, Mark Twains, Briar Circle and beloved Centenary pipes are always in my rotation. I am sad to say I have a lot of unsmoked pipes, including the Adventures of Sherlock Holmes collection, a few of my POTYs (which I will get to smoking), and my gold limited Mark Twain and Original MT. So, I am a CPG, Pete Freak and the one and only TLIP (The Long Island Pete).
Four fabled Centenary pipes from 1975
Briar Circle K&P Book pipe set
A quartet of classy unmounted Dunmore Premier Systems