By Chuck Wright
We all know the story of the Kapp brothers and Charles Peterson so I won’t bore you with it. Most are also familiar with the Peterson system pipes, so the same will hold true there. I intend to focus on the classic Peterson pipes beginning with the entry level pipes like the Aran, Irish-Made Army, and then working up to the higher grades.
I wish to thank Mike Leverette and James Lilley from whom I will liberally borrow information. As a confirmed Peterson nut, I have always been surprised at the lack of accurate historical information and Peterson’s lack of record keeping. It seems they just wonder along, changing series names, dropping a series, starting a new series and not keeping track of when they did it. When I first started collecting Peterson pipes, I wanted to know all I could about them.
I received a lot of contradictory information from various sources and was left in a quandary as to who and what to believe. Then I discovered “The Peterson Pipe Project” and many things became clearer. Unfortunately, that resource never reached it’s full potential and has just about died on the vine with Mr. Leverette’s passing. We now have the ongoing work of Jim Lilley to use as a reference. Peterson pipes have been around for more than 145 years now. That’s impressive compared to some other brands that began in the mid 19th century. Many of the shapes they have today can be traced back to those origins.
Entry level Peterson’s, such as the Aran, Donagal Rocky, Kildare, Killarney and Sterling Silver series, can all be bought at retail for less than $100, and make a decent introduction to the brand. Some people dislike the long break-in period that these pipes seem to take, sometimes 20 bowls or more, but once they are broken in, they are a fine smoking pipe.
One needs to try to see and handle these pipes before purchasing because there have been fit and finish issues, especially with pipes made in the 1980’s and on into the1990’s. I’ve noticed a marked improvement in quality control in the newer made pipes I’ve bought. You can expect to find fills and/or pits in these lower grade pipes. Peterson is one of the best at hiding fills. You may think you have an unusually fill free Aran, but somewhere down the road a pink or black fill will make itself known. Again, these are entry level pipes and one cannot expect a perfect straight grained pipe for $100.
Moving up to Premier quality – again, one can expect fills and pits but only minor ones in these pipes. Usually there are very few, maybe only one or two pinpoint sized flaws. The briar is of a higher grade and you can expect a pipe that will break in somewhat more quickly the the lesser grades. The shapes are the same as the lesser quality pipes but the smoking experience is enhanced. One can expect to pay in the neighborhood of $125 to $175 for these pipes, depending on the shape and size.
Now we get into the “good” stuff, the Deluxe series and above. Don’t bother looking for fills or pits in these pipes. There aren’t any. This includes the Deluxe System, Deluxe Classic, Army Spigot, Celtic Natural, Rosslare Natural, Grafton, Hinged Cap Natural and Silver Caps. You may find small root marks in these pipes but no putty. These are about as good as it gets from Peterson as far as pipes that can be found on a somewhat regular basis. Retail prices on these pipes can range from about $150 to $250.
Moving on to the top of the line pipes, we have the Straight Grains that may or may not be mounted with sterling silver or 9ct. gold. Also, there are the Supreme pipes that may have sterling silver or gold mounts or may be plain. There are also the gold and silver spigots. These pipes are flawless both in fit and finish and, except for the straight grains, possess beautiful birds-eye grain. They are usually furnished with a light contrasting stain that darkens with use. Depending on the size and precious metals used, these pipes will run as high as $900.
Peterson also produces what they refer to as Series pipes. The Great Explorer series is a set of four pipes dedicated to Admunson, Shakleton, Scott and Crean. They are rather large pipes with acrylic stems. The Writer series pipes are dedicated to the likes of Yeats, Wilde, Joyce and Shaw.
The new Mark Twain set consists of a new Mark Twain pipe and a poker. The poker, although not a cob, is meant to honor Huck Finn. The Castle series pays homage to some of the historic castles in Ireland. The River series for it’s rivers. The list goes on and on.
All in all, Peterson makes pipes for every budget, from the beginner to the experienced pipe smoker and collector.
You can visit The Peterson Pipe Project at http://thepetersonpipeproject.blogspot.com and Jim Lilley’s The Peterson Pipe Collector at http://thepetersoncollector.blogspot.com/
Peterson’s home page is http://www.peterson.ie/pipes/index.html
Sit back, select your favorite Pete, load it up and enjoy. That’s what I’m about to do. Let’s see, I think some FVF in the silver mounted 999 Classic will do just fine.
– Chuck Wright
By Chuck Wright