Blog by Steve Laug
A second rule of the pipe hunt that I have learned over the years is that not all pipes and tobacco related items are in plain view as I walk around a shop. This took time to learn and by and large I learned it by asking sellers if they had any old pipes or tobacco items for sale. I used to do this after an initial walk through but now ask as soon as I enter a shop. It saves time and generally is a way of engaging in a conversation that may lead to more pipes. When the answer was affirmative I followed them to the stall or spot in the shop and watched where they had placed the items. This quickly taught me where to look. But they would also often have pipes or items at home or in the back room and they would gladly bring them out for me. I have learned that it never hurts to ask.
As a result I quickly look through a shop (I know quickly is a relative term but to me it is quicker than it used to be and way more focused). I walk through after my initial scan and open small drawers, cupboards, cigar boxes, and look inside revolving display cabinets. This may seem intrusive but trust me, it is not (well at least in my mind it isn’t). Small typography cabinets can hold pipes and tobacciana. Revolving display cases can hold pipes, tampers, lighters and other pipe related objects. I have found wind caps, tampers, Baccy Flaps, Bakelite stems, pipe holsters and other items too numerous to list by just going through these revolving cases slowly looking for tobacciana. Coffee cans, tobacco tins and old cigar boxes can often hide old pipe paraphernalia in their interiors. Don’t hesitate to have a look. Here is a tale of an old pipe I picked up by doing what I am suggesting – a nice older bent billiard for $20. I can tell you it was well worth opening drawers and digging deeper.
My wife Irene and I love doing an antique mall crawl on our days off. We generally visit as many as we can fit in before lunch and then have a good lunch at a neighbourhood pub before finishing the day with visiting a few more shops on our way home. Over the years one of our favourite spots is found not far from Vancouver. Just across one of the many bridges and upriver it is a spot with several antique shops and several larger antique malls. On the day of this tale we had visited several of them in the morning and so far had struck out on any significant finds of pipes or tobacciana for me or anything of interest for her. We had stopped for a great lunch at the local pub and were now visiting the last of the shops. We were almost finished looking and still empty handed. I had passed by some very high priced drugstore pipes – no deprecation intended here as I have many of them in my collection but I am not willing to pay the exorbitant prices that sellers mark these – $50 or more is an unacceptable price in my opinion.
I turned down the last aisle. It was lined from floor to ceiling on the right side of the aisle with display cases. These cases had drawers underneath that were labeled with different key items that resided inside. I did a quick walk by of the display cases checking them out. In one I found a couple of older Brighams that I noted. I would need to get the sales clerk to open the displays for me so that I could look at them more closely. That could wait. I turned my attention to the drawers beneath the cases. In the middle case I opened a drawer labeled miscellaneous collectibles and dug through it. There in the middle of the drawer, nestled among lots of unrelated items such as linens and doilies I found an older looking pipe that captured my attention. I stopped for a minute before picking it up. (I have a habit of trying to guess what the pipe might be before I actually look at. Quirky I know but it is what it is.)
I made my guess (a Dunhill of some sort) and then I picked it up. It was a sandblast bent billiard. I turned it over in my hands and noted a slightly darkened white spot in the top of the stem and then read the stamping on the underside of the shank. It read Dunhill Shell Made in England 8 and underneath that it was stamped Patent No. The number itself was obscured in the dirt and grime that accompanied the old pipe. It was caked with a heavy carbon buildup and the stem was oxidized and had several small tooth dents on the top and bottom of the stem. Other than that it was a good clean find. To say that I was excited is to understate the case. Here in the drawer under the display cabinet I had found not just a Dunhill pipe for $20 but a Patent Era Dunhill pipe with fairly clear stamping and in a condition that would easily be refurbished. I was ecstatic. I called my wife over to show her the cause of my ecstasy and she just shook her head – another pipe. Big deal. She wandered off and I was left standing there.
I almost totally forgot the Brighams and just stood there basking in the joy of discovery! This is what I always dreamed of finding one day in my pipe hunts. And now here it was in my hands. I could hardly believe my good fortune on finding it. I shook myself and carefully cradled the old pipe while I went and found the sales clerk. She brought the keys with her and opened the case so that could add the two old Brighams to the lot. I carried the three pipes to the counter and paid for them before they disappeared in my dreams. The clerk carefully wrapped them in tissue paper and placed them in a bag for me. She handed me receipt for my purchase and I went looking for Irene. I had my haul and I was finished. I just wanted to get home and do some research on this lot.
When I got home I went to my basement work table and used my jeweler’s loupe to check out the stamping more clearly. I had read the majority of the stamping correctly at the shop. I was also able to read the patent number on the bottom of the pipe. I looked up the information on John Loring’s Dunhill dating site and found that I had a 1938 Patent Era Dunhill Shell bent billiard. I could not have been more pleased. I cleaned up the old timer carefully and gave it several coats of wax. Here are a few pictures of the restored pipe.
It is this kind of find that keeps me pulling out the drawers and looking in the boxes and behind tins and displays. I am confident that there are other hidden treasures out there. So Rule #2 will always be right up there next to the first rule I posted about earlier. I will look in every nook and cranny while I am working my way through a shop looking for “treasures”. Will you join me in following this rule of the hunt?