Unlike most other works of art, tobacco pipes are functional objects. They're handled, set aflame, held in the teeth, scraped out, cleaned, and re-cleaned inside and out (sometimes for decades). Even pipes that haven't been previously smoked often show very minor blemishes, like faint scratches on the bowl or stem — often a direct result of a given pipe maker or factory's workmanship and finishing process.
In order to pass along these details to you, we include a condition statement for each estate pipe we offer on the site. Though somewhat subjective, we do our best to briefly describe any physical and/or cosmetic changes a previously owned pipe may have undergone since it originally left the factory or workshop. Based on that condition, we then assign the individual pieces a score with a maximum rating of 5/5 — denoting a pipe which is, essentially, in mint condition.
Below you can find some examples of the qualifiers we use to rate the condition of our estate offerings. Any of these may be combined, altered, or augmented based on the details of the given pipe. In general, minor cosmetic or physical issues like faint tooth marks or slight rim darkening are rated higher, while more severe issues such as broken tenons and chipped mouthpieces will receive a lower score, as they are beyond repairable to original condition.
- 5/5 - Unsmoked.
- 4.9/5 - 4.99/5
- Unsmoked, but there is a tiny ding, chip, or scratch on the briar or stem.
- Unsmoked, but there are few shallow scratches and dings on the briar (or tooth mark)
- Unsmoked, but the finish may be runny, faded, or blotchy.
- Smoked, but very near mint. Looks almost brand new and the bowl is rather clean.
- Smoked, but only the chamber is darkened (Not precarb or chamber stain. Darkened from minimal smoking).
- 4.8/5 - 4.85/5
- Range of darkening inside the lip or on the rim from normal smoking.
- The bowl is rather clean, but there is some stubborn oxidation on the stem.
- May include flaked or bubbled finish.
- Stem and/or shank 'opened' (Example: drilled 5/32" in factory, reamed larger by customer). This is difficult to judge, since not every company is consistent.
- 4.7/5 - 4.8/5
- Some rim darkening plus a minor scratch (or ding) on the bowl.
- Rim darkening plus a tooth mark on the stem.
- May include scratches from a previous customer; sanding; oxidation.
- Dings or other issues on silver bands and/or caps.
- Missing parts (material stem logos – such as the Castello "diamond").
- Chatter marks from reaming with a knife.
- 4.6/5 - 4.7/5
- Rim darkening plus a scorch mark on the rim. Burned spot from a lighter.
- Tooth marks, tooth impressions (buffed out tooth marks), in addition to other issues.
- Cracks, chips, dings on accents (will not affect smoking).
- 4.5/5 - 4.6/5
- Rim darkening, tooth mark on the stem, some minor scratches on the bowl.
- 4.0/5 - 4.5/5
- Rim darkening, some out of rounding in the chamber from reaming and/or smoking, tooth marks, finish issues.
- Uneven chamber from reaming with a knife or drum sander (gouging the bottom).
- Unsmoked, but the tenon or stem is a replacement. (The better the repair, the higher the score).
- Rim darkening plus a small crack on the button and/or other blemishes.
- Rim darkening, out of rounding from reaming/smoking, spider webbing in the chamber.
- Rim darkening, topped bowl, tooth marks on the stem, out of round.
- Unsmoked, but there is an aftermarket band that repairs a small crack on the shank.
- 3.75/5 - 4.0/5
- Replacement stem or tenon, otherwise very clean.
- Replacement stem plus some rim darkening.
- Replacements stem plus rim darkening.
- Aftermarket band repairs cracked shank, plus rim darkening.
- Replacement stem, rim darkening, tooth marks on the stem plus some bowl dings.
- 3.25/5 - 3.75/5
- Replacement stem, rim darkening, scorch mark.
- Replacement stem, rim darkening, scorch mark, minor scratches on the bowl.
- Replacement stem, rim darkening, scorch mark, tooth marks, dings on the bowl.
- 2.5/5 - 3.25/5
- Replacement stem (not well done), rim darkening, evenly dinged rim, removed much of the stain, chatter marks from reaming with a knife.
Depending on severity, we use our best judgment to subtract points and fractions of points. There are countless factors and combinations that could apply. This list contains some examples, but don't consider it an exhaustive set of rules. As with any pipe listed on our website, if you ever have any questions about an estate pipe's condition, feel free to call or email us, and we'll provide you with details that might not be noted or observed in the photographs.
Got any estate pipes you want to get rid of? Take a look at our estate pipe trade policy to learn how you can send in your old pipes for cash or store credit.