From the moment I saw them in a Tinderbox catalog back in the early 70’s, I’ve had a fascination and a love for Danish freehands. Arguably some of the finest were made by Preben Holm in the 70's & 80's, the heyday of the Danish freehand. Last Saturday, a fellow pipe collector asked if I would be interested in buying an ultra-rare, unsmoked, Ben Wade Nobel Prize 2000 from his personal collection. My heart went all aflutter when I heard his offer! He’s thinning his herd to make way for some very high-end Castellos. Since we’re friends and knowing my passion for Danish freehands he approached me first with this once in a lifetime opportunity.
The Nobel Prize were Preben Holm’s highest grade pipe and were only made from 1971 to 1974 after which the Preben Holm Private Collection series was introduced. Each pipe was hand-made by Preben Holm from only the largest, oldest, and finest grained blocks of Grecian plateau briar available. Fewer than 200 Nobel Prizes were made, accounting for less than 1/10 of 1% of the total output of the Ben Wade factory. Only one Ben Wade in a thousand became a Nobel Prize and very few ever made their way to the United States. And here I thought the Private Collection were pretty rare birds and seldom seen. These guys come around about as often as Halley’s Comet; especially one that’s never been smoked!
Preben loved big pipes and this one is no exception. Checking in at a commanding 8 inches long with a 2.5 inch tall bowl that is nearly 3 inches in diameter, it doesn’t really lend itself to walks in the park. Although large it is surprisingly lightweight for its size. The entire bowl is surrounded by some of the tightest, most uniform straight grain I’ve ever seen. The rim is densely packed with birdseye of such minute proportions that one needs a magnifying glass to discern individual “eyes.” Absolutely stunning!
For comparison here’s a more recent vintage Preben Holm Private Collection 404C grade I obtained six months ago. Both pipes are just gorgeous and have some of the finest grain imaginable.