Blog by Steve Laug
A few weekends ago my friend John came to visit Vancouver from Calgary. When he visits we usually used the weekend to catch up and also do some pipe hunting at the same time. He brought a couple of pipes he wanted me to repair and also some tobaccos to sample and share. He arrived on a Friday afternoon and we had a great evening chatting with a mutual friend at an Irish Pub near the airport where we were dropping him off. On Saturday morning after breakfast we drove down to Bellingham and visited a few of the antique shops and malls that I check for pipes. I happened to find a bowl for a Custom-Bilt Billiard and he found a pipe that had a 14K gold band that we needed for a repair on a Stanwell pipe with a cracked shank that he brought along for me to fix. We also visited Mike at Senate Smoke Shop and each of us picked up some pipe cleaners and a tin of tobacco. After a great Mexican Lunch at Mi Mexico we headed home. We got their later in the afternoon and I repaired his pipe with the cannibalized band and fixed a second one that had a small drill hole in the bottom of the bowl.
On Sunday we went to a Flea Market here in Vancouver that I generally find pipes and pipe paraphernalia at. We looked at quite a few beat up old Grabows and Medicos with chewed stems and rough bowls and walked away wondering if we would be skunked. There is one booth that I almost always find something at. I have found Peterson pipe bowls, collections of stems and parts and a few Brigham pipes. I went to the part of the Market where that booth was only to find that it was gone. We wandered a bit more and low and behold we stumbled upon the guy. We chatted a bit and he said that he had been cleaned out of his pipes by a fellow who comes through often and buys everything that he can find. While we talked I happened to look in a glass display case that he had on the wall. On the bottom shelf I saw a stack of small Mac Barens tins. I have gotten into the habit of always checking tins to see if they had any tobacco left in them.I asked to see them and carefully shook the tins. To my surprise several of them seemed to have tobacco in them. The Dark Twist had enough for a few samples as did the Plum Cake. Both tobaccos were dry but could easily be rehydrated and sampled. The Golden Extra Tin was not even opened yet and was sealed with a tax stamp. I opened each of the tins and took out the insert that was in each one and took a photo of the paper liner and the insert.I wrote to Brian Levine who is the Mac Baren Representative in the US and also the radio host of Pipes Magazine Podcast. I asked if he could give me any information on the dating of the tins to get a bit of an idea of the age of the tobacco we were dealing with. He wrote back and said that his guess was that they were part of a sampler that was sold in the 1980s. So we were dealing with some age on the tins in the neighbourhood of 30 +/- years. Not too bad. John and I loaded out pipes with the Dark Twist and breathed into the bowl to rehydrate the tobacco enough for a good pipe. It was a nice flavourful smoke.
The next two photos show the tax stamp on the sealed tin of Golden Extra. It is a Canada Tax stamp for 25g tin. It is issued in the name of Harald Halberg of Denmark who was the president of Mac Baren in those days. I sent the tins home to Calgary with John to share with his Saints and Sinners Pipe Club. They had a meeting and these would provide some interesting smokes and conversation for them as they examined the tins.
Thanks for looking!