228. Dating A Hollco-Rohr Catalog

With the prices on K&P estate pipes taking some big jumps in recent months, I thought it might be time to look at one of my favorite eras: the Late Republic (1969-1989), as seen in a Hollco-Rohr distributor catalog that came to me after The Peterson Pipe went to the printer in 2019. It might be argued that I like these pipes because they were made during my first years as a pipe smoker, but in fact I owned only two or three Petes during those years and knew very little about the company. What is becoming increasingly clear to me is that the Late Republic era is, after the company’s start-up in the Patent era (1891-1912 and a few years beyond), the most important in its history. This is not the place to make such an argument, but a solid case can certainly be made aesthetically, with the largest range of shapes and most interesting adornments and finishes; economically, with most pipes produced per annum until the crash of 1984; and structurally, with the best engineered pipes in both the System and Classic range.

Hollco-Rohr was K&P’s US distributor from the time James Crean, then owner of K&P, sold the K&P-owned Associated Imports in the 1980s until 1998, when Ashton took over distribution. To Hollco-Rohr’s credit, they were far more interested in Peterson than Ashton later on ever seemed to be. Hollco-Rohr carried other pipes, of course, including Castello, Jobey, Karl Erik, Willmer, Butz-Choquin, Pioneer Comoy’s, GBD and John Pollock. Primary among these, however, were Peterson, Jobey and Butz-Choquin. They also carried cigars, pouches, chewing tobacco and . . . pipe tobacco.

I wouldn’t mind to have half a dozen vintage tins of a few of these!


System Range

As we did in the The Peterson Pipe, I set about dating this catalog contextually and thought you might enjoy tagging along to see how it’s done, and perhaps even catch any mistakes I’ve made. The basic idea in dating something like this is to create a set of bookends. The first is the earliest possible date any of the shapes or lines is known to have appeared. The second is to find a shape or line not seen in the catalog. So take a look at the System chart and see what you notice:

The earliest “new shapes” are the 301, 302 and 303, which appeared c. 1978; then comes the calabash 305b and 315b from 1984. So our first tentative date is sometime after 1984. Notice also the wonderful Comfort Lip P-Lip vulcanite mouthpieces with their wide saddles on shapes 301, 302 and 315. Finally, see that the 304 and 306 from 1992 are missing—a tentative end marker.

The second System page is a bit confusing. The Dublin with Briar Circle (B), Connemara Silver (D) and Standard System (E) are all straight forward and give the collector valuable information, but only in the context of the other catalogs and any additional information contained in this one. The Comfort Lip is also on display. But what about the Gold Mount Supreme (A) and the Silver Ebony Spigot (C)? It’s hard to know if these are being touted as Systems, which is possible, or just fit conveniently on the page. On the one hand, the Supreme has a P-Lip and we know Supreme Classic Range pipes in earlier decades were routinely supplied with reservoirs and screw-in tenon extensions. Were they at this date? But the fishtail mount on the Ebony Spigot doesn’t make sense and I feel sorry for anyone who spent the money for one of these spigot-Systems (if it really had a reservoir) only to find the fishtail short-circuited the System.

This is my favorite page, laid as it is on the background of a classic Aran sweater. It features a rustic Sherlock Holmes Original, a Mark Twain and Gold and a Silver Spigot (both in shape 11). Again the spigots are advertised as Systems, but they surely wouldn’t smoke like a System with those mouthpieces. The MT (which was a System) was first issued in 1981, the “new” spigots in 1979 (after a long hiatus stretching back to the 1906 catalog) and the SH in 1987. The SH pushes the earliest date of the catalog up three years to 1987. I do like seeing the two spigot styles together and with such incredible bowls. I think it was genius to finally issue a genuine spigot System in 2018, as having both tenon and mortise sheathed in metal means a tighter fit and hence (theoretically) a cooler smoke. I’d love to see it in Natural.


Classic Range

The Classic Range shape chart is a great reference and aid in helping collectors date pipes. Hollco-Rohr includes 24 shapes, far short of the complete K&P catalog of the era, but intended no doubt to offer the most popular by sales. I’m not any sort of occultist, but it’s fun to note that this number 24—so often included in K&P groupings—numerologically signifies relationships, home, harmony and companionship.

Aside from the dating indicators mentioned above with the 01, 02, 03 and 05, there are some other interesting details here. I’ve never seen an 02XL stamp, for example. And what is the straight billiard 90 on the top row? I see the little 406 prince on the bottom row, the 408 (first appearance, I wonder?) as well as shape 8 in the guise of the 338 Classic, shape 4 (the 309) not yet having transitioned to the Classic Range as the 339. The 68 Classic Range appeared in 1979, another date indicator.

This page is another help to collectors, letting us know something about the five major lines being imported to the US at this time: Shamrock, Donegal, Galway, Emerald and Royal Irish. Context within other catalogs of the era will help, of course, but even as a stand-alone there’s some interesting facts here. The Shamrock mouthpiece had a stamped gold S on the mouthpiece; the Donegal was of sufficient quality in its rustication to merit a sterling band and P-Lip; the Galway has a briar-ring inset into the P-Lip stem; the Emerald of this era features the ever-gnarly and unsurpassed Pebble Grain rustic finish; and the Royal Irish features a brass-and-briar sandwich band. (In a recent post you can see the same band used on a rare 9mm Galway, helping us to date it to the same approximate years as this Royal Irish.)

This is the “something more” page of the catalog, showing both upper-range and gateway lines. The gateways include the Kildare (basically the current unmounted Aran, albeit with a P-Lip) and the Wicklow, a slightly higher grade but with partial rustication to rescue the bowl. Then there are the top lines: the gold-mount Supreme, with its P-Lip; the F (facing) mount gold and silver spigots with their fishtail stems; and the beaded silver spigot.

A little deeper in the catalog comes the Specialty line, or three of the original quartet (the Belgique having gone missing). Also here are the rarely-seen finishes of the Irish Seconds line and the Erica System reject, seen every once in a while on the estate market here in the US and discontinued for import at the beginning of the Dublin era in 1990.

On this second page are three lines established immediately following WWII at the dawn of the Early Republic era (1949-1968): the SPORTS, the Army and the Churchwarden.  It would appear from the notations that Hollco-Rohr was only importing selected shapes from each of them, again no doubt by popularity in sales.


So what date do we give this catalog? The SH Original commemorative first appeared in 1987, but neither it nor the MT are featured as something new or remarkable. The 304 / 306 shapes appeared in 1992. The Original SH series began appearing in at six-month intervals in 1989.  Wouldn’t the Baskerville, which appeared in 1989, be in this catalog if it were available? Even on the cover, if it had recently appeared? Of course it would. This catalog was therefore issued in 1988. Elementary, my dear Baskerv—er, Watson.

You can download the Peterson pages from the catalog below:

Hollco Rohr 1988 Peterson Pages



1988 Hollco-Rohr Distributor Catalog (entry for The Pocket Peterson).

Hollco-Rohr became K&P’s US distributor following James Crean’s sale of the Peterson-owned Associated Imports. This catalog appeared in 1988, after the 1987 commemorative Sherlock Holmes pipe but before the 1989 Baskerville release. There is much to interest the collector here, including Paddy Larrigan’s DUBLIN WITH BRIAR CIRCLE System, the Irish Seconds (Classic Range) and Erika System Rejects, and two lines with briar band adornments: the Galway (in the mouthpiece) and the Royal Irish (in a brass-briar sandwich band). 8.5″ x 11″. 48 pages. Mark Irwin Collection.


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