340. The Great State of Peterson Estates
PSA: Pete Geek Meet @ the Chicago Show
We will be meeting in the smoking tent Friday evening at 8:30pm. Just look for the guys with the Pete Geek buttons or a table topped with Petes.
With the Chicago pipe show coming up next weekend, my thoughts have turned to what estate and NOS pipes I might see. It’s true the show is nothing like its former self in this regard, but that’s undoubtedly because of the tremendous influx of artisan makers and the exodus of estate sellers to eBay and other venues. And that’s not a bad thing, at least in the sense that most pipe smokers these days do have access to eBay while most don’t have plans to go to the show. Every year I’ve attended, however, I’ve found something interesting and unusual in the way of Petes, so I’m hopes this year will prove the same.
This morning I thought the blog might host its own virtual Pete Show for everyone not going to the show with a few of my favorite sightings from the past year or so, then conclude with some thoughts about my opinion of the current Peterson estate market. Some of these pipes you will have seen and some of them have found homes within our own Pete Geekdom—as you’ll hopefully find out by their new stewards in the comments section. As my sightings are limited to eBay and what some of the CPGs have shared with me, I hope there may be others of a generous spirit who can tell us where you go–besides eBay–to hunt for your amazing pipes.
Freestyle. The Freestyle meers are, in my opinion, as important to Kapp & Peterson’s design language of the 1970s as the Dunmore Premier System was of the 1980s and Original SH series of the 1990s. Shown here is the FS5, my favorite of the six shapes, in unsmoked condition. The coral-like blast of the meer, combined with the ‘smoked’ crenel and merlons of the rim and square-cut shank. It’s simply an outstanding pipe and one that deserves more than to be forgotten in the mists of time.
Patent Amber Nosewarmer, Shape 109B. Not too many weeks ago not one but two NOS Patent amber-stemmed nosewarmers were up on eBay from the same dealer at the same time. This gave two Pete Geeks some serious bargains in my opinion. Had they been listed sequentially, bidders would have competed against one pipe, not two. They were the same shape. One of them went for around $300, and one went to our own James Walsh, CPG. I don’t know who got the other one. It’s great to have the Junior and Shorts lines, of course, but for sheer Peterson firepower, these little torpedoes are over the top. Just putting one between your teeth would make you feel like the middleweight champion of the world. Incidentally, you can see the catalog image for this pipe back in Post #117. Also note the bone tenon extension is threaded into the mortise.
K Briar Box. I don’t recall seeing a K Briars box until just recently. The K Briar (“K” for Kapps, of course) appeared first in the 1937 catalog and then, according to The Peterson Pipe: the Story of Kapp & Peterson, on and off until around 2005. I’ve always loved collecting old Pete boxes, and this one’s a pip. It looks like it could be a P. Reilly-made box, although I don’t see the name on the glued guarantee flap (and can you imagine the work to glue in all those guarantees to the inside of the box?).
Meerschaum-Line HM 1923 House Pipe, Unsmoked. One hundred years old this year and never smoked. Looks as good or probably better than when it was sold, this pipe from Lance Dahl’s collection is simply unbelievable. Do note that the PATENT line has been removed as K&P is now in the Irish Free State Era. It’s also worth remarking that the sterling is a band and not a ferrule and that the bone tenon extension has yellowed in a century—or perhaps was originally that color.
Prefect System. Discovering a new System line isn’t something that happens every day or even year, so to have Scott Forrest and Gary Hamilton (CPGs both) relay to me photos of the Prefect System line within the course of the same few weeks was amazing. As we can now document the line in both smooth and sandblast, and as all three pipes have the nickel-mount marks, we can be reasonably sure it was made before 1963 (although some later use of the marks has now been documented). As the word “prefect” denotes a discipline enforcer, whether as a senior student or a member of the police, it’s hard to know why the line name was selected—was it for the students at Trinity College? For Northern Ireland (where the British usage as regards the constabulary might be supposed)?
Patent Meer w/Amber, HM 1902, Cased. This beautiful patent meer with amber is now in Scott Forrest’s stewardship. Based on the 1896 catalog, Scott believes this is shape 8. The tenon, which looks to me like it’s vulcanite, is easily unthreaded, Scott says. I’ve always wondered what a tenon extension would look like on an amber stem. Now I’ve seen two.
323 System. I think Brian 500s sent me these photos of the 323 System, but I can’t find any notes on it. Also if memory serves, it’s from the IFS era. I do remember having a conversation about the number, since it doesn’t appear in any of the K&P ephemera I’ve seen. The shape is very like our own 312 / 11S, but if this is the same bowl, then we need a shape chart for the IFS, one between the 1906 catalog and the 1937. The Temporary Illustrated and P. Weiss brochures from the mid-1920s don’t contain anything from the 300 group.
V.P.B. / Military Vulcanite Push Bit. The first appearance I can document of the V.P.B. is in the 1953 Rogers catalog. It’s not an inexpensive pipe–$10.00—at a time when the Premier System was $12.00, the Shamrock $3.50 and a Standard System $7.50. As seen in the Rogers ad, it’s a “Premier-selection,” which I take to mean Premier-grade briar. I’ve never held one in my hands, but I’ve always wondered about the ferrule: is it, like the exotic hardwood ferrules used in artisan pipes today, a solid piece, glued onto the shank? Is it really a cap like the reinforcing nickel and sterling dome-mount ferrules of traditional K&P military mounts (as seems to be the case from the photo of the 120 above)? I also wonder how deep the tenon goes into the mortise, as that monster gap has always been the downfall of K&P’s military mounts—in my opinion—making for a hot smoke. It appears that the tenon on the 406, with its step-down, extends much closer to the bottom of the mortise than the other two V.P.B.s. I don’t know the engineering difficulties of creating a good fit for a military-mount, but they must be arduous. That it can be done—at least by some artisan makers—I know, because Giacomo Penzo did one for me, the 309 Homage, and the tenon-mortise gap is nil.
S.L.E. System. I’ve been meaning to document the SLE System here on the blog for a while now, but not long ago James Walsh, CPG sent me photos of a NOS 307 SLE he’d acquired. Now the funny thing is that I didn’t remember this System line even though I’d sold a 314 SLE several years ago (I found my photos on Worthpoint)! In addition to the 314 I sold and the 307 NOS, I’ve traced a 312 Rustic, 302 Rustic (wide-shoulder) and 302 Smooth. The wide shouldered 302 narrows the SLE’s production date to around the time that shape with that stem configuration appeared—c. 1979-84. As you can see from the detail of the bowl underside, there’s a bit of a fill, which explains why the pipe is a Standard. What makes it a Limited Edition is staring right at you: great grain. K&P replicated this idea during the Dublin era with a large batch of Flame Grain pipes: they had fantastic flame but somewhere there was a fairly good-sized piece of putty. In any event, I’d take one of these SLE Standards with grain like this as a Premier these days, how about you?
Aran Line, 1st iteration. I’ve seen a few of the original Arans over the years and one in person. The line was first introduced in the 1975 Orange catalog with six original shapes, shapes specific to the line—all big, all wonderfully gnarly, in brick-red. Jim Vetrovic recently acquired the 30s seen above, a new/old stock, and it’s worth looking at, especially in Todd Becker’s photo. It is remarkable to think that, once upon a time, Kapp & Peterson could boast production of two rusticated lines simultaneously (the Donegal being the other), and the Aran had its own unique shapes!
505 Bent Rhodesian. The 500 Shape Group was never in the K&P ephemera to my knowledge, although most of the shapes were documented here at PPN back in 2016. They were 6mm filter pipes made for the German market (best guess), oversized and with some seriously nice grain. This is my favorite of those I’ve seen thus far, with its massive tapered P-Lip stem complementing the huge shank and tall bowl. Notice those great old chuck marks in the chamber, as well. Those were the days, my friend…
River Lee from Rivers Collection HM 2007. So this isn’t an estate, actually, but new/old stock. If you visit the Italian-market Peterson dealers (listed on the right at the top of the blog), you’ll not infrequently run across a NOS pipe, although they’re not as prevalent as they were a few years ago. I include this one for two reasons. It’s one of the very finest and most Irish shapes ever seen in the catalog, for one thing. If you spend any time at all in the Irish countryside, visit the prehistoric passage tombs at Newgrange and Knowth or walk on the Burren or out on Wicklow Way, you’ll look at this pipe and intuit what I’m saying. The second reason for inclusion is to note—in case you’ve forgotten—that while not advertised, the Dublin era (1990-2018) sets were always issued in two or even three grades. The highest, seen in this LEE pipe, will always have the aluminum pressed P in the stem. Oh, one more highlight of the Dublin era here: at that time in their history, K&P had a machine that could stamp engrave whatever design they had made up onto a flat bar. The Rivers pipes had a Celtic wave.
Reflections on Peterson Estate Pipes
I’ve followed the Peterson estate market daily for a dozen years now and never have I seen it so robust and offering so many treasures. It’s true that prices have risen considerably since 2019 and sometimes auctions for popular pipes reach incredible heights, like the Patent that went for more than $3500 not long ago. But for every one of those, there’s a half dozen good deals to be found and one or two genuine bargains.
The rising profile of Peterson pipes has been accompanied by a steadily-increasing number of rare Petes on eBay, many of them unsmoked and some with their original ephemera. While these often go for more than I can afford, some are still within my reach and they’re all fun to see.
What brings big money and what doesn’t changes somewhat from from year to year. Whereas the Mark Twain 1980s pipe once consistently demanded a lot of attention and high prices, interest has receded, replaced a thirst for Patent-era pipes, which often demand in excess of $1,000. The 9BC still demands a premium—probably because the recent POY harkened back to the Patent-version rather than the later fat one. Same goes for the John Bull—it still brings a good price, doubtless because the POY John Bull was another homage rather than true replica. The POY 4AB, on the other hand, has been getting double its retail, not surprising given the huge fan base, exacting replication and small number of pipes that were released (400). What I’m not seeing are the Dublin era Bs and special collection shapes—things like the Adventures of SH set, pipes from the various four to six pipe sets, the Antique Collection shapes and so on.
Not being Pete Geeks like you and me, dealers aren’t always very accurate in their listings and sometimes can lead the unwary astray with hype and verbal camouflage. Of course, other dealers give almost no descriptions, making an accurate assessment difficult. If you’re spending a lot of money, my advice is to do your homework. Get information concerning what you’re looking at, either from the Peterson book, the 1896 Patent catalog (if your interest is Patent and IFS pipes), this blog or another reputable source.
With the market being so vigorous, now is also a great time to put back into circulation Petes that are collecting dust in your rack, pipes that you don’t smoke and you aren’t interested in anymore. There’s a larger market for them than ever before and the prices you’ll get are also higher than ever. There’s two easy ways to do this, eBay or trade.
EBay has never been easier. Anyone with a smart phone can take photos, upload them to eBay (which has its own easy editing software) and write a description. You do need a PayPal account, but you’ve already got one if you’re buying estates anyway.
If you go this route, be as honest as you can—let your photos be accurate and tell what you know about the pipe. If it’s dirty, just say so. Most people won’t care. If there’s a scratch, be sure everyone sees it. I’d much rather buy a dirty pipe that looks dirty than a shiny one—as often happens from big dealers on eBay—and is a mess on the inside or grimy under a coat of carnauba and white compound. That’s quick-and-dirty selling and to me seems deceitful.
Don’t forget the chamber size in your listing, in both millimeters and inches. Many advanced pipemen have specific chamber sizes they know are compatible with the tobaccos they smoke. If you’re going to sell estates, part of the object is for the other guy to be happy he bought a pipe from you—at least that’s my opinion. Guys like Mike Beara and Clayton Mills are two of the best in my opinion. Mike and his dad make their estate Petes look and smoke like new without looking like they just came in from the Sports Illustrated wet swimsuit shoot. Clayton’s pipes are also really well prepared and super clean on the inside. Like Mike, he’s never out to scalp his customers.
Don’t start your listing with a high buy-it-now price or a fixed price would be my advice. If it’s a sterling mount or great vintage piece (say, before 1990), start it at $19.95 or $29.95. That shows folks you care and makes them commit a bit before they bid. Don’t worry about the end price—it will bring good money. Most auction prices go up for the first two days on a seven-day listing, then sit quietly until the last day or even minutes of the auction. I don’t think I’ve been seriously disappointed by one of my auctions more than two or three times in the hundreds I’ve done.
Trade-ins are the other great way to make some cash to reinvest in your pipes. Most dealers on eBay will consider your pipes and make you a decent offer, although this requires you to haggle and wait several weeks for them to examine, sell and pay you for your pipes. I’ve done this a few times and if eBay seems like too much bother and you’re patient, this is a great way to go. Steve Fallon (Pipestud) is probably my favorite here, although he can sometimes take six or eight weeks in turnaround.
Another, faster way to do a trade-in is simply to send you pipes to Smokingpipes.com. They’re quick—about a week after receiving your pipes—and you can get a bit more if you take in-house credit than if you want cash. You’ll always get as much as you’d make from any of individual sellers, maybe more. The estates they sell are also top-notch, easily the best you can get at a fixed price unless you happen on a buy-it-now on eBay.
Whether you do a trade-in or send your pipes to a dealer, you’re putting your unwanted pipes back into circulation for the next guy. I have to strongly disagree with “Ironic Guy” in The Pipe Collector who asserted recently that every estate pipe is a rancid, toxic sewer trap being pawned off on the unsuspecting. I’ve sent on many pipes that I love the shape of but just didn’t turn to, pipes that, for whatever reason, didn’t work well with the tobaccos I like and my own chemistry. For example, I have had a long love for the SH Lestrade oom paul—which happens to be YouTuber Malcolm Guite’s favorite Pete shape. I’ve tried three different times with three different Lestrades to accommodate myself to this shape, but never had any luck. It’s just one of those things. It’s may be the chamber, which is too wide and shallow for what I like to smoke, but it could also be the largeness of the shape itself. While it fits comfortably in Malcolm’s hand, I find it awkward to cradle.
As for prices when selling, there’s really never a way of knowing what a pipe will bring. A well-photographed, clean and well-described pipe usually does better than one that is not so. A pipe with its original box, sock and ephemera will also bring more. A new/old stock with all the trimmings even more. A sterling band also boosts the price.
At the end of the day, all this simply means that Peterson pipes are at finally getting a little more respect from others in the hobby. Those unfamiliar with our favorite brand may still look down their noses in favor of Dunhill or some other marque, but seriously—as one who has owned and smoked some of the so-called upper crust English brands—those guys don’t know what they’re missing. Their favorite marques have many of the same problems as ours but lack the long history, muscular Irish design language, sheer ruggedness and philosophy.
THE WALLY FRANK SCOTLAND YARD SOLUTION
After the original patents for the System pipe expired in 1911 (for the reservoir and graduated bore) and 1918 (for the final P-Lip), anyone could produce their own imitation System, and it seems like almost everyone did. I haven’t kept up with the System Clone Files (no affiliation with Star Wars®) since the Peterson book’s publication although I see two or three ones new to me with every passing year. I even know one Pete Geek who has made a point of collecting clones.
- Stamps. Insofar as Peterson seconds stamps go, you’re looking for DUMMIES (during the Patent and probably IFS era), REJECT (Éire and probably Early Republic), ERIKA (Late Republic), SECONDS (Late Republic—I think) or IRISH SECONDS (Laudisi). Tom Palmer, CEO during the Dublin era, didn’t like selling seconds and limited them to Ireland itself, distributing them to news stands and what we in the US would call hardware stores. IMPORTED BRIAR is another stamp you’ll never, ever see on a Peterson second. There will always be some reference to Ireland or Dublin or (in the case of DUMMIES) a K&P stamp.
- Ferrule. The ferrule on the Scotland Yard was my first inkling that something wasn’t quite Peterson. The pronounced bend in the cone (“flatter shank cap” as James Walsh says) at the mortise-tenon transition is the giveaway. In the photos of the beat-up pipe you can see that the finish is some kind of electroplating rather than nickel on brass which K&P used during this era and which is amazingly durable. In fact, while the nickel on these caps can be buffed down to where you’ll begin to see rust spots with oxidation, if you simply use a silver polishing cloth or something like Simicrome polish these ferrules will last until well after the Pipeokalypse.
- Stem. The wide-shouldered army mount, typical of William Demuth system clones, would not be used on a K&P System until the early 1980s and then only for a very short time (Rob Guttridge cites these as appearing after K&P’s acquisition of the Laxey company).
- P-Lip Button. The Scotland Yard, from the angles of the photos presented on the blog, really looks like the K&P version. I’d need a photo of the button from the top to see if the airhole is placed correctly or not.
- Bowl. Finally, this isn’t a K&P bowl. I kind of like it, the way it bulges out from the forward midsection down (kind of like what I see when I try to look down at my belt). It sort of looks like shape 9 (the 307).
While James Walsh hit this one out of the park, Rob Guttridge’s suggestion that the Scotland Yard was probably made by craftsmen who made the WDC Wellington or the Kaywoodie Chesterfield was important as was his indication that the K&P wide-shouldered mounts date from after the acquisition of the Laxey company. I also thought Sammy Miller’s close reading of the ad copy’s suggestive associations with the K&P System was brilliant. Gentlemen, you’ll find your No Prizes in the inbox of your email!
Here’s a great photo Rob sent, by the way:
From left to right: KB&B Yello-bole Imperial, Algerian bruyere; Kaywoodie Chesterfield, imported briar; WDC Wellington (French briar, Made in USA, nickel plated ferrule and stamped stem); crappy WDC Wellington (reject-quality “imported briar,” aluminum ferrule, stamped ITALY in tiny letters almost hidden under the ferrule).