Meerschaum Pipe. Photo from House of Pipes
As a young man, I remember looking at a magazine ad of a man sitting in a large comfortable chair beside a roaring fire, his dog at his side, smoking a large pipe. What could be better than that, I thought? I looked at the spiraling smoke climbing toward the ceiling, and I dreamed that would someday be me.
I never did start smoking, but that doesn't mean that I can't feel the satisfaction that picture has embedded in my mind.
At one time a man's prized possession was his pipe. He chose the right pipe as diligently as he would choose a wife. His pipe had to be made of the finest wood, clay, ivory or meerschaum. It had to feel just right and draw with perfection. No, nothing was too good for a gentleman's pipe.
How times have changed, and today, having lost their dignity, it is not surprising to find twenty, thirty, or even forty pipes in a box lot. But, there are still people that appreciate a great pipe and are willing to pay handsomely for a special pipe. They're the collectors, of course. And pipes are highly collectible. Just take a quick run through the completed sales on eBay and see how many bids certain types of pipes get, and at what price they're selling for.
This is where you come in. With a little research, you can come to recognize the ones that the true pipe connoisseur is searching for. Yes, among those discarded pipes could be a real treasure. In fact, I have been fortune enough to find several of these treasures in a single box lot.
At one auction, I allowed someone else to out bid me for a box lot of pipes. I later approached the winning bidder and asked about the ones I was interested in. They sold them to me for a couple of dollars. And here's the clincher -- the ones I bought were worth $300-$600, while the ones remaining in the box were worth about $5-$10. Yes, knowledge is King, and I will be showing you this as long as we work together.
Some pipe bowls are often carved with a great deal of artistry. The stems can be made of Bakelite, Vulcanite, Lucite, or just soft plastic. Expensive pipes once had stems made of amber.
Just a few examples from Kovel's price guide. A carved wooded pipe with a figural bowl, Dutch figures $1440; Ivory and wood crowned head and glass eyes $545; breaded man head silver mounted $260. These can be found in box lots for $2-$5 dollars each.
The Meerschaum pipe is a much different pipe, and you may have to pay up for them. The fact that few people really know their worth still can provide you with wonderful surprises. Here is an example. A helmeted warrior with a mother of pearl design $750.
This is where my theory comes in handy. I just say "I will take them all." This works out pretty well for me. I once bought a box lot of pipes for about $200. I sold them all and made about $2,250. There are people who work all month long to bring home $2,250. With knowledge, you can make that amount and not have to work all month for it. I see treasures everywhere.
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There's a couple of good books put out by Schiffer Books about collecting pipes. I recommend Collecting Antique Meerschaum Pipes and A Complete Guide to Collecting Antique Pipes , both by Ben Rapaport, and The Ultimate Pipe Book by Richard Carleton Hacker
Look at some beautiful and interesting antique pipes here:
House of Pipes
This is an older article, but the history is not outdated:
The Art of the Antique Pipe
Ruby Lane has some more common antique pipes that will familiarize you with the more common item and can help you assess value.