Does the Quality of a Pipe Increase with its Price?

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senkosam

Lurker
Dec 2, 2023
23
40
Walden, N.Y.
I just noticed the topic posted below and read the great replies. Sorry for the redundancy. I need some new pipes and will try some of the cheaper ones for $50 or less.
Thanks
 

sablebrush52

The Bard Of Barlings
Jun 15, 2013
19,765
45,326
Southern Oregon
jrs457.wixsite.com
I looked at the prices of the pipes listed on this site - some around $500! Are they really that much better than pipes selling for far less?
It depends on what matters to you. More expensive pipes feature more handwork, especially with regard to the stem and bit. If a thin flat bit is more comfortable for you then the extra cost may be worth it. From a purely mechanical standpoint, most pipes smoke similarly, as long as the drilling is done properly. Higher prices will get you more customization, custom shapes, custom finishes, more pleasing esthetics, better fit and finish.
Maybe you develop an interest in a particular subset of pipes, like classic Britwood, or the work of a particularly highly regarded artisanal carver. Those interests often come with a price tag.

Some smokers really like the artistry, style, and history and others consider their pipes a mere tool for delivering a nicotine fix. Depending on what you want from pipe smoking it can be very inexpensive or the opposite.
 
Jan 28, 2018
13,068
136,835
67
Sarasota, FL
Maybe. Maybe not. At some point, you're paying for aesthetics and name of carver. It's possible a $100 pipe may smoke fantastic. There's a chance a $500 pipe may smoke like crap. If smoking quality is the ONLY thing you're concerned about, spend $100 to $200 on a number of Italian pipes that smoke fantastic. And most look nice as well.
 

Cloozoe

Part of the Furniture Now
Sep 1, 2023
949
18,657
Until someone figures out how to do a double-blind smoking test, your question will remain (accurately/definitively) unanswered. What seems hard to argue against, though, is that there is at very least a really steep diminishing returns curve once you get past a price that gets you properly-seasoned briar, a stem/bit you like, and competent drilling. My biggest challenge with cheap-ish pipes is the stem, but that's an individual judgment.
 
Oct 3, 2021
1,103
5,106
Southeastern PA
I guess the question can be answered simply by asking, is a Maybach better than a Honda Accord? Both do the job of getting you from point A to point B and both are reliable, but 1 was carefully designed and special attention was given to aesthetics. Those are/were carefully created for the luxury aspects in mind, better materials, better details, better comfort, etc. Sure, you may encounter the occasional lemon, but the higher end models have a look and feel that are different then the mass-produced.

All said, it's a matter of wants. I have plenty of MM cobs that are workhorses. I also have a good amount of Savinelli's and Peterson's, but I also have a handful of more expensive pipes that are just as good, but because of brand name, briar grain and material, they were more costly. And I'd say of the numerous pipes I own, only 1-2 of them are meh smokers. The rest are good to great. For me, as much as I would love to own a top-end designer pipe (and someday, I may pick 1 up) I can't justify the cost right now.
 

LeafErikson

Lifer
Dec 7, 2021
1,929
16,521
Oregon
I can’t speak to $500 pipes as I don’t own any. There are brands that increase the likelihood of getting a good smoker, but it’s never a guarantee. IMO, you’re much likely to get a good smoking Savinelli than you are a $40 basket pipe. I cannot speak to artisan pipes, as I don’t own any. In my experience, the pipes that have the highest likelihood of being fantastic smokers are made of meerschaum, so that’s what I tend to gravitate towards. That does not mean that I don’t have briars that I enjoy, because I do.
 
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Sparcdude

Lurker
Feb 9, 2023
41
181
New Hampshire
It's a matter of expectations and what you're looking for. Are you collecting? If so, you're probably looking for looks, among other things.

I couldn't really say if they smoke better. A couple of my best smokers are my Dr. Grabow Omega and my Savinelli Trevi. As others have said, I can't justify spending a lot of money on a pipe when I have some perfectly good ones for under $100.
 

LeafErikson

Lifer
Dec 7, 2021
1,929
16,521
Oregon
It depends on what matters to you. More expensive pipes feature more handwork, especially with regard to the stem and bit. If a thin flat bit is more comfortable for you then the extra cost may be worth it. From a purely mechanical standpoint, most pipes smoke similarly, as long as the drilling is done properly. Higher prices will get you more customization, custom shapes, custom finishes, more pleasing esthetics, better fit and finish.
Maybe you develop an interest in a particular subset of pipes, like classic Britwood, or the work of a particularly highly regarded artisanal carver. Those interests often come with a price tag.

Some smokers really like the artistry, style, and history and others consider their pipes a mere tool for delivering a nicotine fix. Depending on what you want from pipe smoking it can be very inexpensive or the opposite.
Not to derail the thread.. In your experience Jesse where do you fall on the briar vs engineering discussion? Do you find them to be equally important in a quality smoker? You’ve smoked many more pipes and for much longer than I have so I’d be curious to know your thoughts.
 

Briar Lee

Lifer
Sep 4, 2021
4,836
13,904
Humansville Missouri
I looked at the prices of the pipes listed on this site - some around $500! Are they really that much better than pipes selling for far less?

If they were not worth $500 they’d not exist long. There’s a market for pipes like hogs and cattle, just no sale barns for them.:)

If made today, this pipe would sell (if at all) for $500. It’s a 1940 Marxman 400, each freehand made, of the select plateaux briars of the highest smoking quality on this earth. It was turned and carved and finished by the most experienced hands at Marxman. The coloring on the pipe came entirely from smoking about six or seven bowls, it was the most expensive factory cataloged pipe on earth in 1940, and of course it’s an excellent smoker—-if you prefer the taste of centuries old Algerian briar. It was serial numbered D 334, the owner’s name was registered, it came in a hand made silk box, and was guaranteed a lifetime. I paid $100 last month for it and it’s likely worth about twice that. No, it’s not for sale. It weighs 125 grams and the briar was likely aged over a decade before carving.

IMG_6335.jpeg

This is the largest Sea Rock Castello sold today. What looks like sandblast is actually hand carved rustication. The briar is the finest Italian (or perhaps Greek) that Castello can buy, it was at aged at least ten years and likely much more, the hands that made it were extremely skilled and experienced, and it will be an excellent smoker, likely much milder than the Marxman 400.

IMG_6337.jpeg

There are other similar, but never identical, used Castello Big Line Virgin pipes out there. For several years they’ll be worth maybe two thirds of $600 if they’ve been smoked.

Where the true value is, lies in factory production pipes like this new Rossi.

It’s a good sized hunk of cured and seasoned Italian briar on a piece of hard rubber or acrylic stem. The briar wasn’t as high grade as the Castello and it likely will take longer to break in. There were lots of machines and short cuts used to sell it for $58, at a profit.

But you get what you pay for, but it’s not all that much more the more it costs.

Most of it, is like other things in life.

A little better costs a whole lot more.

IMG_6524.jpeg
 

Briar Lee

Lifer
Sep 4, 2021
4,836
13,904
Humansville Missouri
Rossi is owned by Savinelli. You can find almost any shape Savinelli by placing a (8) in front of the model number of the Savinelli pipe and that will be it’s corresponding Rossi shape model number.

Try it and see. Rossi are fine smoking pipes for less than $80.

Savinelli seconds.

I rave every day about 400 year old Algerian briar with lines as close as razor blades.

I think it tastes a little better.

But on the rare occasions I have a beer I’ll ask the waitress for a Papst Blue Ribbon.

If they don’t have Pabst, maybe they have Stag.

And usually I wind up with a Budweiser or a Coors and I like it.:)

So long as it’s beer, you know?

Good briar, is good briar.
 
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georged

Lifer
Mar 7, 2013
5,537
14,225
Disregarding fashion, trends, coolness, The Latest Thing, and personal efficiency, there's a universal law that applies to virtually anything made by hand, pipes included.

Getting to 80% of perfection---the goal---takes one unit of work. Halving the remaining distance---getting to 90%---takes two units of work. Getting to 95% takes four units. Getting to 97.5 takes eight. And so on.

While perfection of form is absolutely NOT the only reason that "famous maker" pipes cost so much, it definitely factors into it. Anyone who has tried to copy their work discovers that very quickly. (How hard can it be to play international-class concert violin? Those musicians just wiggle their fingers, right?)

An interesting domino effect of becoming a famous maker is access to top-grade briar. The best blocks have always been set aside for them at the briar wholesale level.