Blog by Steve Laug
I just can’t get around fitting in a pipe hunt on my trips. There is something intoxicating about hunting for old estate pipes in whatever city I am traveling to or visiting. When I am traveling in Europe for work it is a bit harder to have time to go pipe hunting but on the most recent trip to Paris, Berlin, Sofia and Athens I had a little time. In Paris the hunt was almost an accident. My colleague from work and I were walking in the Latin Quarter to meet some friends for a dinner at a Belgian Mussel’s Restaurant and I came across a fellow selling items on a table-cloth in a doorway. It was like the sidewalk sales that spring up here in Vancouver where a person put a table-cloth down and puts items for sale on it. I looked in an archway as we walked by and I happened to see a pipe on the cloth. I picked it up and it was a Hilson Double Ecume Sandblast Dublin 5. The stain was dark and the blast was deep and craggy. The stem was in great shape with the Hilson H stamp on it. It had minimal bite marks. As I looked at it I noticed that it was a meerlined bowl. I asked the seller what he wanted for it. He said he had another as well and pulled out a second Hilson Double Ecume Sandblast with a meerlined bowl. This one was a stack with a saddle stem stamped 95/S. It also had a nice sandblast. The stem was in better shape than the Dublin and also bore the Hilson H on the left side of the saddle.He said he would sell me both of the pipes for 10 Euros. I handed him the Euros and the deal was done.
The pair of pipes is shown in the next four photos below. They are in pretty nice shape and should clean up easily enough. I was pretty excited to have found this pair of pipe when I really was not hunting for them and figured I had my finds for the trip. I wrapped them and put them in my bag for safe keeping while I continued on my trip. I did not expect to have more time to go pipe hunting. But I would be proved wrong.
I left Paris for Berlin and had quite a few days of meetings with no time for pipe hunting. We left Berlin and flew to Sofia, Bulgaria. We were met by a colleague and her husband at the airport. After a quick trip to our hotel they took us for a walk about in the city centre. The two women went looking for gifts that my colleague wanted to bring home with her and the husband and I went pipe hunting. He is a newbie pipe restorer (I just posted his first blog on rebornpipes today – Dal Stanton). He took me to one of his haunts – an outside antique market in the shadow of Sofia’s largest church building – Nevski Cathedral. We visited the same vendor where he had purchased the Dr. Plumb Oom Paul he wrote about restoring (https://rebornpipes.com/2016/06/10/a-newbie-restore-of-a-dr-plumb-9456-oom-paul/). He asked the vendor to show us his pipes and after looking through them I picked out three.
The top pipe in the photo is stamped Primus over 2. It appears to be made of an alternative wood rather than briar and has a silver rim cover and windcap. It is missing a band that must have disappeared previously and the stem is an obvious replacement that is poorly fit to the shank. The second pipe I purchased from him was a bowl sans stem that is stamped Shell Pipe 141. The combination sandblast and rustication give the pipe a great look. I paid about 15 Lev or $11 Canadian for these two. We left behind a lot of pipes with cracked shanks and a bag of pipe bowls and assorted stems. Who knows maybe Dal will pick some of them up at a later date? We went on to another seller and I found a nice looking oval shank billiard that was stamped Alko Old Briar on top of the shank. It had an inner tube from the tenon extending into the bottom of the bowl. The briar had some nice grain and the finish, thought dirty was in decent shape. The stem was lightly oxidized with some tooth chatter but otherwise it was in decent shape. It looks like an older pipe by the shape of the stem and the button. This one cost me about 5 Lev or just over $3 Canadian. We wandered around the market and visited as we walked along. We went to another seller that Dal had bought things from in the past and I picked up a nice little straight sandblast saddle stem Dublin. The bowl had a nice blast that was lighter than the one on the pair of Hilson pipes from Paris but it was pleasing nonetheless. The finish was worn but redeemable and it was stamped on the underside of the shank HEIBE in an arch with the number 430 next to the shank/stem junction. The stem was lightly oxidized and had no tooth chatter on the surface. This one also cost me about 5 Lev or just over $3 Canadian. From the market we walked to a shop Dal called the hole in the wall – a place he had found some nice pipes in the past. We went through many of the pipes that vendor was selling and left them behind. Dal spoke to the vendor about some pipes that he had seen when he had been there previously and the man took out a pipe bag and opened it for us.Inside there were some beautiful pipes. We looked them over carefully– there was a bent sandblast Stanwell Vario, a Savinelli Tortuga, a Butz Choquin Rocamar and a bent Capitol Apple. All of these were in a pipe bag with a tamper and filters in the pouch. The seller was asking somewhere around 140 Lev or $102 Canadian for the four pipes and the bag. I bypassed them by Dal went back and picked them up the day I flew to Athens. I think he got a great deal on four beautiful pipes. When I got to Athens I did not have time to go pipe hunting. I did see some promising antique shops that will have to be checked out the next time I am there. It was a great trip with great meetings and people and it ended with me bringing home these six pipes. I am happy to have found them and had a great time in the process of hunting. Until I get to go back and do some more looking, I will have many fond memories of the trip and the hunts that will come to mind as I clean and restore these pipes.