Ashton Pipes Question

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ChuckMijo

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Sep 26, 2020
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I have been working on a British pipe collection trying to find nice examples of most of the makers. Ashton, it’s seems from a collector point of view, has 2 eras. Early Bill, late Craig. I have my own opinion. From just the standpoint of collecting why is early Bill Taylor pieces moon money? Or just not available.
 
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tschiraldi

Lifer
Dec 14, 2015
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I got into Ashton pipes a few years ago. Just my own observations, mind you, but Bill Taylor made some really good pipes! With Jimmy Craig, it was a bit more of a crap shoot. Some were great, but I would occasionally find some that were not, almost like they were rushed to market. I've had some issues with fit and finish, drilling, etc. It was obvious to me that Jimmy was capable of making a great pipe, but didn't always do so. That's when my focus switched to Castello. Again, just my own experience.
 

ChuckMijo

Part of the Furniture Now
Sep 26, 2020
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Thanks I don’t know much about them. Just reading everything I can. Fantastic story about his beginnings and the company.I have herd that before about quality. I read if you can find a early first decade pipe. They seem to be his best work. Seems however those early pipes are hard to come by and out of my price range.
 
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lochinvar

Lifer
Oct 22, 2013
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1,634
I'm not sure the Taylor pipes are more than the Craig ones. I recently picked up a Taylor Ashton, it had been restemed but had the briar dot and was done well, for under $100. Now very early unsmoked examples are commanding pretty sporty prices (there's even some dreamer looking to get $43K for an early unsmoked Canadian on the Bay of E), but I have Ashtons from the '80s up to Bill's death and they all are excellent smokers. I would like to try a Craig but I haven't seen to many estate offerings. I will say I like the way he executes a bulldog much better than Bill's take.

PS The Sovereign is the smooth, natural finished Ashton. There is Sovereign, Pebblegrain (dark blasted), Old Church (tan blasted), Pebble Shell (semi-rusticated and blasted), Brindle (oxblood blasted), and I think Jimmy Craig may have added a designation or two.
 

ChuckMijo

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Sep 26, 2020
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Thank you. I’m really liking these, The more I read. I was talking with a few collectors on Instagram. They seem to have a big following but aren’t much talked about, at least on here. And don’t appear to be on eBay. I did see that 40,000 dollar pipe you mentioned. No way. I seen a few examples of early straight grain that I loved. I think Al posted one with silver . I seen some of one guys pipes he had been collecting them since 86. He had a stunning collection. I did receive some good advice from a few collectors. And what to look for what to avoid. Early single digit pipes are the most desired. So I guess We see. Just trying to learn all I can about them.
 
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tfdickson

Lifer
May 15, 2014
2,181
42,522
East End of Long Island
I wrote this elsewhere but I think it applies here:

I have some thoughts but they are hopelessly and probably unfairly biased, especially when it comes to currently produced pipes that bear the Ashton stamp.

I think of Bill Taylor’s pipes in three time periods. The first period was 1984 (the first full year of production) through the very early 1990s. I have no idea if it was the briar or the methods, but the sandblasting during this period tended to be fantastic. Wonderfully grained, very deep and craggy but without really distorting the shape. Bill had left Dunhill to start Ashton and you could tell from the pipes made during this period that he was motivated- he not only was making pipes that were far superior to Dunhills made at the time, he was making pipes that really could be compared to pre-WWII Dunhills. The stems in this period were very thin, very flat, and a little wide. I think they are very comfortable but probably a little too thin for clenchers. He had two men working for him during this time, Frank Lincoln and Sid Cooper, who probably deserve a lot of the credit for these pipes. It can’t be a coincidence that after they left (I think they both passed away in the early 1990s) the pipes changed.

The second period (in my mind) was from the early 1990s to 2003. The blasts were still excellent but maybe not as frequently well grained and not quite as deep. The stems changed, not quite as thin and not as wide. At some point “Ashtonite” was introduced as a stem material and I’m still not sure exactly what it is. I think it’s just a slightly softer than usual lucite but I’m not sure. I love these pipes and I think it was the Ashtons of the 80’s and 90’s that spurred Dunhill to get their act together and back to making great pipes in the 1990s.

The final period (again, just in my mind) was 2003-2008. Bill dissolved his partnership with RD Field, his US importer and who closely collaborated on the creation of the brand, in 2003. I think Field was a critical check on QA, for all the great pipes that Bill produced he could get very sloppy and a lot of them needed to be returned rather than passed on to retailers. After 2003 this check didn’t exist and I think the pipes that made it to stores suffered for it.

I think that the idea of the brand continuing after Bill‘s death is ridiculous. There was a man behind those pipes and he’s gone. That said I did buy two of the new JC pipes thinking that a good pipe is a good pipe no matter what the stamps and my biases say, so I should give them a shot. Both smoked terribly and the stems were uncomfortable. I also don‘t like the fact that the JC pipes run small for the size and Bill Taylor’s Ashtons ran big. I wouldn’t care except that they are priced on size.

I‘ve done a lot of generalizing here and I don‘t mean to say all X are good and all Y are bad. Just my general thoughts.
 

ChuckMijo

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Sep 26, 2020
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Fantastic write up!! A lot of what you said i got on Instagram in bits and pieces that didn’t tie together for me. Till your explanation. I don’t know why but the whole history and the beginnings is fascinating to me. I was reading on Bills early start up and it took a lot of moxy, especially with a family and the pressure of making it work. I guess he was truly a master pipe maker. Things seem to go south after his death.
 
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ChuckMijo

Part of the Furniture Now
Sep 26, 2020
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@tfdickson one more question. We’re all early Pipes graded? With a stamp? Or is the Sovereign for example the grade. I saw the one @ssjones posted in closed Ebay auctions thread. and it was a straight grain 4 I believe., but no date stamp. I seen others early SG that were date stamped but no grade
 
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ChuckMijo

Part of the Furniture Now
Sep 26, 2020
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Sorry I ran out of time for edit. I guess I understand Sovereign is what you said natural or smooth. Were the very early pieces graded I guess is my question. I seen example of no date code graded, date code no grade. I concluded, and am 100% unsure, the very earliest weren’t numerical graded.
 

mingc

Lifer
Jun 20, 2019
4,037
11,330
The Big Rock Candy Mountains
The final period (again, just in my mind) was 2003-2008. Bill dissolved his partnership with RD Field, his US importer and who closely collaborated on the creation of the brand, in 2003. I think Field was a critical check on QA, for all the great pipes that Bill produced he could get very sloppy and a lot of them needed to be returned rather than passed on to retailers. After 2003 this check didn’t exist and I think the pipes that made it to stores suffered for it.
A search for "Bill Taylor" on alt.smokers.pipe on Google Groups might be worthwhile for folks looking at Ashtons. There's a trove of information on that newsgroup and a lot of the discussions here were discussed back in the day in that group.

I've not seen any JC's in the flesh, but the current ones on SP and elsewhere look nice (some very nice).
 

tfdickson

Lifer
May 15, 2014
2,181
42,522
East End of Long Island
A search for "Bill Taylor" on alt.smokers.pipe on Google Groups might be worthwhile for folks looking at Ashtons. There's a trove of information on that newsgroup and a lot of the discussions here were discussed back in the day in that group.

I've not seen any JC's in the flesh, but the current ones on SP and elsewhere look nice (some very nice).

I remember a lot of those discussions, I was just a lurking bystander in those days. Alt.smokers.pipe really is an amazing collection of knowledge and experience.
 

tfdickson

Lifer
May 15, 2014
2,181
42,522
East End of Long Island
@tfdickson one more question. We’re all early Pipes graded? With a stamp? Or is the Sovereign for example the grade. I saw the one @ssjones posted in closed Ebay auctions thread. and it was a straight grain 4 I believe., but no date stamp. I seen others early SG that were date stamped but no grade

@lochinvar and @Mr_houston are right, the only ones that were graded where the SG’s and those were straight grained Sovereign’s. SG1- SG5 in ascending order of grain quality. On everything else you have the finish stamp and the size stamp- X, XX, XXX, LX, ELX, and Magnum. I’m not sure if it’s true but I’ve read that Bill lost the date stamps for a year in the mid 90’s so those pipes are not dated.
 

mingc

Lifer
Jun 20, 2019
4,037
11,330
The Big Rock Candy Mountains
I remember a lot of those discussions, I was just a lurking bystander in those days. Alt.smokers.pipe really is an amazing collection of knowledge and experience.
I was just a lurker then too, having joined only in '05, when things were, in hindsight, starting to wind down there. There were so many luminaries who posted; Greg Pease, David Fields, Trever Talbert, etc.
 

ChuckMijo

Part of the Furniture Now
Sep 26, 2020
775
2,351
Was his production numbers low in the first few years? You don’t see many anywhere. It’s odd to see so few.
 

tfdickson

Lifer
May 15, 2014
2,181
42,522
East End of Long Island
I remember when David Field's Ashton pipes were sold on ebay by Rob Cooper some years back (9~10 years ago or so). Some beautiful pipes!
Those were incredible pipes. It really was a shame when Field took his website down, he had close up pics of each individual pipe in the collection as well as details on a few of the standouts. I was lucky enough to get one unsmoked via Marty Pulvers, #196 I think. A XXX Old Church made in 1995, plenty well smoked now.

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