Rachel DuBose
Estate Buying Guide

We've covered the general factors to consider when choosing a pipe, and even how to buy a pipe as a gift. For many, however, estate pipes can seem far more complicated — particularly once the nuances of age, stamping, and overall condition are taken into account. Thankfully, it doesn't have to be as complicated as it seems.

Know Your Target

There are two basic reasons that most people turn to estate pipes: budget or availability. The former category can include almost anyone, from the new pipe smoker looking to try various shapes, to the seasoned veteran rounding out a rotation. The latter largely pertains to collectors, as the estates market is often the only place one will come across a discontinued series or hard-to-find artisan piece.

Whatever the reason, knowing what you're looking for is a great place to start. Using the Pipe Locator, you can get pretty specific in terms of makers, price ranges, shapes, and finishes. Don't worry if you find yourself overwhelmed by the options — take it one step at a time and you'll be surprised how quickly you start to get the hang of it.

Research

It might go without saying, but if you're looking to collect in a specific area, you'll want to do your research. While we make sure to include information on all of a pipe's stamping, as well as relevant date ranges where they're available, your own tastes and goals will determine what information is useful to you.

In particular, when searching for pipes from a particular maker or marque, you'll want to get a sense for various proprietary stampings. "ODA" and "HT" are special stampings for Dunhill, for instance, and knowing an artisan's grading scheme will make sure you don't miss that coveted piece.

Conditions

Once you've found a pipe that fits your criteria, the question of condition comes into play. It's entirely possible to find unsmoked pipes in estates, but the larger majority are pipes that have been smoked at some point. Our own Adam Davidson has broken down our estate grading process before, and we have a grading guide available. These are great places to get a sense, if you haven't already, of what sort of condition grades to be on the lookout for, and what they mean.

There are no hard and fast rules here, though the goals you set earlier will help guide you in your assessment. Someone wishing to round out their rotation may be happy to pick up a piece with surface dings, after all, if price and other factors are right. A hard-to-find Peterson can be a boon to a collector, even with, say, a tooth mark on the stem. And for the new smoker who is looking to experience a number of shapes and styles, any number of pipes may fit their needs.

This takes us back to our original guide for choosing a pipe, and its first, most important point: buy pipes you like, and buy the best you can afford.

Take Care of It

Once you've got your perfect estate pipe in hand, most of the usual good practices of maintaining a pipe apply. We recommend cleaning your pipes regularly, keeping a rotation to allow pipes to cool and dry fully between smokes, and maintaining a good amount of cake.

Be aware of any specific quirks, however. Older pipes may have amber or horn stems, or tenons made of natural bone — these require a touch of extra care when breaking down and cleaning to avoid chips or cracks. Stingers, too, may need to be temporarily removed to pass a pipe cleaner fully.

There are many reasons to look to the estate market when searching for the next addition to your rotation, as many who use it exclusively can attest. Do you have a treasured estate pipe? Leave us a comment down below, and good luck in your quest.


Comments

    • KevinM on December 30, 2017
    • The estate market is also good hunting territory for pipers who enjoy smoking brands that have gone out of production, or the contemporary version may not be all that the old version was. It’s also a very good market for pipers looking to build a collection of favorite shapes from particular brands. The thrifty piper might want to spend some time learning the names and shape charts of the “seconds” from upscale brands. Good prices, good wood.

    • Steven Leo Teves on January 1, 2018
    • Well, though I've aquired quite a selection (for me anyway) of both new and estate pipe's, mostly from SMOKINGPIPES, what would have been my most "treasured" is the one I'm still searching for. That is, once it arrived here in Thailand, it disapeared. Though SMOKINGPIPES was kind enough to refund the expense, I've not given up trying to locate it's whereabout's. I'm simply trying to find out which airport it arrived at, which would be a great start for me in trying to locate it. The pipe was a
      Danish Estates: Wengholt Unique Rusticated Freehand # 004-001-11902, sent USPS: First-Class Mail International Parcel**, tracking number UA643916008US.

      Have a GREAT new year..!
      Steve

    • Adam O'Neill on January 2, 2018
    • @KevinM Thanks for the input, Kevin!

    • Adam O'Neill on January 2, 2018
    • @Steven Leo Teves I'm so sorry to hear that, though I'm glad we made it right for you. I checked the tracking number, and there's no indication of where it came in, and unfortunately we don't get any more information there that you do.

    • Taki Voy on January 16, 2018
    • Yes, in the past I used to buy an estate pipe or two, one unsmoked and the other ...used --an excellent Dunhill piece-- but not today anymore, because these already smoked pipes by an other piper fellow, that means USED, are somehow disgusting to me...
      There are many things I don't like the used ones: the way another one smokes, quality or kind of tobacco he put in e/or my very thoughts that someone else has inserted in his mouth before me, sucked it etc, drives me away from an used pipe.
      However I think it's an excellent idea to look in the list of estate pipes, finding a good one, of a good brand, that buying a new one couldn't afford price, too high for him.

      Good day to everyone.

    • Adam O'Neill on January 16, 2018
    • @Taki Voy We take great pains to thoroughly clean and sanitize every estate pipe we sell, and all of our estates have a condition statement that will note any rim charring, etc, but we certainly understand that estates pipes won't be for everyone.

      Have a great day, Taki. And thanks for reading.

    • Philip Samuels on January 21, 2018
    • Hello,
      I thought I saw a set of four pipes from Canada in a box with the caption that had to do with how reasonably they were priced. One of them had a beautiful cherry finish and was a slight bent in its shape. I have looked on your web site but was not able to locate them again. Can you assist or is this the wrong pipe site?
      Thanks

    • Adam O'Neill on January 22, 2018
    • @Philip Samuels I'm not sure, Samuel. I've looked in our miscellaneous estates (where we put Canadian pipes) to no avail. Without some more info it'd be hard to track them down.

    • Tony Suvie on April 16, 2018
    • I view estate pipes as broken in already and all I need to do is smoke it and establish cake.
      Also my at a price that I may not afford otherwise in a new pipe from a certain pipemaker . Somke view estates as disgusting. I say to them , when you go to a restaurantor / fast foods tell me about the silverware, plates and such....hmmmm

    • Adam O'Neill on April 18, 2018
    • @Tony Suvie We couldn't agree more, Tony. Estates are a great way to fill out your collection or find pieces you otherwise wouldn't be able to afford or source!


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