Estate Pipes

The Danish Pipe Shop and the story of Estate Pipes

"I'm not gonna sell old, smelly pipes in my shop!" – my father's exact words when people approached him with their pipe collections for sale in the shop back then. And for a while after I took over the business, my answer was also a blank no.
But then I got wiser.

 

Today, I almost always say yes to helping people appraise their pipe collections – it makes my work both more fun and also more educational.

With over 50 years of experience, we, The Danish Pipe Shop, have tried a little bit of everything, and as far back as I can remember, we have always received inquiries about used pipes.


Used pipes are also referred to as 'estate pipes', which is a term used in the US who also started the focus on estate pipes. For many years we received inquiries from people who contacted us about their estate pipes, and until 2014 my answer was "Thank you, but no thank you!".

 

I clearly remember in the 1980s, when I was a teenager, that my father Steffen Nielsen said, "I'm not gonna sell old, smelly pipes in my shop!”. Well then.

Made a 180-degree turn

But after my father's passing in 2011 I took over the management of the business and shortly after we got new and younger employees. Two employees in particular caught the many inquiries on estate pipes and asked me about it. Unlike me, they were up to date with what was happening in the pipe world at the time.
I, on the other hand, was trained by my father and my answer was the same as his – no thanks to old pipes.

 

After bugging me for a few years, I was finally persuaded to test it out. I think it was in 2013-2014. At that time, we were located in smaller premises, and there was no room for showing estate pipes, so they were mostly sold online. And since then we have sold almost 8,000 estate pipes, and we usually have 2-500 for sale – in fact, in our current store we have an entire department only for estate pipes.

 

I often think about how often my father and I said no to estate pipes, and now I am incredibly grateful that someone persuaded me into selling them.

 

However, I think that the general interest in estate pipes is due to the increasing interest in new pipes which especially started from the year 2000, when the internet really took off. The internet has made it possible for you to be a pipe smoker anywhere in the world and you are not dependent on a local pipe shop anymore.

"I will say I have made a 180-degree turn for several reasons.
One is that I can see a business in it, but another reason is – more importantly – that it feels nice to restore the old ones instead of just throwing them out. 

We give new life to the pipes. Many don't think about the fact that a pipe easily can reach 50-100 years old, if you treat it well"

 

What defines an estate pipe?

In this blog, I will try to describe how we work with estate pipes and at the same time answer many of the questions we receive on an ongoing basis.

 

But firstly, I want to clarify what an estate pipe really is:

 

  • An estate pipe does not come directly from the manufacturer – it comes from a private person.
  • An estate pipe is appraised by us and categorised on the basis of a grading system that we have established ourselves, and which you can read more about here... 
  • An estate pipe can actually be unsmoked, ie. as new.

 

It happens in larger collections that we find unsmoked pipes, which is due to the fact that many pipe buyers do not actually smoke them – they just admire them. The reason why we don't sell an unsmoked pipe as a new one is that there is no warranty from the manufacturer. In addition, an old unsmoked pipe will often show small signs of not coming straight out of the workshop.

It is typically the color that has taken off a bit, and they might have a bit of surface scratches from being touched and moved around.

Recently we added a filter to the website so you can search for used unsmoked pipes – which makes it easier for you to find them online.

 

Where do you find the estate pipes?
Our estate pipes come primarily from Denmark. We rarely buy from abroad, because it requires a certain volume, as otherwise everything goes up in shipping costs. But roughly you can divide them up like this:

 

  • We find estate pipes at markets, flea markets, etc.
  • People contact us because they have inherited collections, and we drive around the whole country to appraise collections.
  • Pipe smokers and customers who want to change and exchange their pipes.
  • Auctions.

Who to buy estate pipes? And why?

In general, all types of pipe smokers buy estate pipes, but I will divide them into these categories:

 

  • Collectors. Pipe smokers who collect on specific models, year or brands.
  • Pipe smokers who want a good deal. Typically, one can get an estate pipe for half the price of the new price.
  • New pipesmokers who like the fact that it is ‘second hand’.
  • Pipe smokers who are looking for a design that is no longer produced.

 

Danish Stanwell is a great example of a good estate pipe. Until 2009, they were produced in the small town, Borup, on Zealand, Denmark. These Stanwell pipes are marked with serial name, registration number (from before 1970), and then ‘Made in Denmark’. A new Stanwell pipe is marked ‘Danish Design’, so for that reason alone, there are many who buy used Stanwell. They want ‘Made in Denmark’.

 

Another great example is the fine pipes from Georg Jensen's pipe factory in Lille Skensved, Denmark, which closed in 2001, so for obvious reasons their pipes, especially the unsmoked ones, are more and more attractive.

 

Another thing I really like about estate pipes is that you can find handmade pipes from Danish pipemakers, who have stopped making pipes or have passed. Just to name a few, names like Ilsted, Ivarsson, S. Bang, Gert Holbek, Loran and many more are in high demand. Personally, I like to find pipes from Ph. Vigen and Finn Andersen. Especially Finn's pipes are a bit of a mystery, which I've actually spent a lot of time getting to know. You can read more about this on pipedia.org.
Another funny story is Jørgen Dam. He was probably not the best pipemaker in the world, but I have been able to follow in his footsteps to where he worked and lived when he made the pipes. You mostly find his pipes in a fairly small area, because he would sell his pipes from hand to hand and not online as today. You can also read more about him at pipedia.org.

How do you estimate prices?
As in any other business, it is all about supply, demand, purchase price and market price.
In addition, it costs us at least EUR 15,- per pipe to restore it, produce text, upload images, etc. This doesn't include the money that the website is costing us – both establishment and maintenance – shop rent, employees, etc. Of course, we also look at the condition of the pipes and the brands, and then – with all of the above in mind – we set the price.

 

Estate Rejects
When we buy a collection of pipes, we are already well aware of the condition of the pipes. If there are pipes that have visible cracks or are completely rattled, they are discarded. If they only have minor defects, they are taken off as 'Estate Rejects'.

These are pipes that we can't sell individually, as the selling price becomes too low compared to the work, we put into them. So estate rejects are sold from a basket in the store at a very low price or as a 'Estate Box Set' on the webshop.

How do you prepare a pipe for sale?

Before any of the estate pipes are sold, we send them to a pipemaker.

 

The pipemaker see them up close to catch any cracks or other things that cause the pipe to be discarded or sold as an estate reject. The pipemaker reams, polishes and coats the tobacco chamber (it is marked on the pipe). If there is a lot of charring on ​​top, it is polished off, but we have some internal rules:

 

  • We never change the design.
  • We don't remove stamps, engravings or the like.
  • We try to keep the original stem. Even if this makes a gap in the original stem, which is sometimes seen on very old ebonite or vulcanite stems. This is due to wear, oxidation, and age.

 

Some might say "Well, I once saw an estate pipe from your shop that was changed!", and yes, it may very well be, but the change will never be from our hands. For good reasons, we do not always know the history of the pipe, and the change may have happened because the original owner had a new stem made.

So, the change happened before it came into our possession.

 

Do the pipes get sanitized?
Many have asked if we sanitize them on the inside or give them a salt treatment, and the answer is no. Many people do not care about this and the price will increase significantly if we were to do it with all the estate pipes.

We know many of our customers dip a pipe cleaner in their favorite liquor and wash the inside of the pipe before use.

 

Can you get infected with Covid-19?
After Covid-19 took over, we have been asked about this again and again, and the answer is that the restoring of the pipes has a long time coming, so it is unrealistic to think that one can be infected by the previous owner.

 

Coating
Regarding treatment of the tobacco chamber (coating) we do this on most pipes. We do this in order for you not to taste of previous owner's tobacco. At the same time, it is my experience that it removes the odor. Sometimes I am amazed at how much the estates smell if they are not coated – this even from semiprofessional sellers.

By the way, if you find that the new coating peels off a bit, don't worry. This can happen because the wood absorbs differently depending on age and condition. However, we saw more of this years ago when we weren't as experienced as we are today, where we have found a better consistency of the coating.

1-2-3-online!

When the pipes come back from restoring, we check them again. This is the fourth check since we see them the first time.

 

The pipes are then categorised, priced, and made ready to be sold online.
Then we write a little description of the estate, and we sometimes have to perform a 'who, what, where' from Google or ask around in our network.
When the description is ready, the estate pipe is weighed and measured. The magnifying glass decodes the stamp which is entered under 'marking'. We only write what we can see.
Now the estate pipe is taken through the photo studio, and 4-6 pictures are taken. The image is then cleaned, cropped and saved. The 4-6 pictures are now compressed and uploaded to the estate pipe – and you and the whole world can now see the pipe.

"We do not remove defects, scratches or the like in Photoshop.
It is incredibly important for us to point out. What you see is what you get"

What do I gain from all this?

 

As you can figure out, I have purchased many pipes over the last 6-7 years, and this has given me many incredible meetings with people from all sorts of places in Denmark.

 

Some are shocked because they have unrealistic expectations of what their collection is worth, while others are shocked because they find out that they have a pipe worth DKK 50,000. That makes my job both interesting and amusing.

 

I've never been the big gambler but making a two-hour drive to a seller who couldn't tell me anything over the phone about the collection, because they inherited them – that feels a bit like gambling to me. The outcome is unknown. For the same reason, I almost always say yes, because I'm hoping to find the Holy Grail of pipes.

 

Another fun thing is to unravel the history of the pipes. In particular, I think it is exciting to find the story behind more unknown Danish pipe makers, and we give all this information to pipedia.org (Wikipedia of pipes).

 

Over the years, we have seen the wildest pipe collections, and the largest to date was at around 2,000 pipes. Recently we acquired a collection of 500 pipes, but normally we receive collections of 20-50 pipes.

 

On the picture you see me, Nikolaj, taking a selfie on the way home with the car full of estate pipes...

The future of estate pipes

No one knows what the future holds, but here and now my guess is that the interest in estate pipes will continue. Today our sale of estate pipes accounts for about 10 % of our overall pipe sales, but I expect it to increase.

 

Furthermore, I think other factors will have an impact. Future pipe smokers will become more and more nerdy like myself – and if they want a pipe from a certain pipe maker they don't care that it is used.

Another and probably more surprising factor is that I expect the price of new pipes to rise due to increasing prices of the raw briar. The reason is simple: supply and demand. The number of professional companies harvesting briar can be counted on one hand. Harvesting briar sounds easy, but it is an extremely hard and difficult job, which requires access to the wild briar, manpower and know-how.

 

The United States and Europe continue to have excellent sales of pipes, but at the same time the production of pipes in China is on a sharp increase. This demand is affecting the price of briar and in the end I think it may make more people look towards the estate pipes.

I hope this blog has given you a better insight into the sale of estate pipes and our handling of them. If I have left something out, please write a comment! You can see our current selection of estate pipes here.

 

This blog was written in September 2020.


Comments

Georgios 17/09/2020
Very interesting insights! I got an estate pipe from you and it really was like new.

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