Does the Quality of a Pipe Increase with its Price?

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Piping Abe

Part of the Furniture Now
Oct 27, 2021
529
1,461
Georgia, USA
Italian pipes are a good starting point yes. But their stems are so wide and they have ginormous buttons, you may not like it.

One of the most important parts is how it feels in your mouth. You’ll find out what you prefer in time.
 

OzPiper

Lifer
Nov 30, 2020
5,830
31,012
71
Sydney, Australia
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.
^^^^^
And how many blocks/stummels get rejected in the process because they are not up to standard.
 
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OzPiper

Lifer
Nov 30, 2020
5,830
31,012
71
Sydney, Australia
There is a world of difference between a bottle of 2 buck chuck and a $2000 bottle of 1st growth Bordeaux
A friend is always telling me of his AUD$20 per case auction bargains
If he’s happy drinking those, then it’s a win for him.

This Ebay estate cost $30
IMG_1074.jpeg

This IB Loran Polonius cost a whole heap more
IMG_1225.jpeg

Both have very nice grain
And both smoke equally well
 

PipeIT

Lifer
Nov 14, 2020
4,453
26,766
Hawaii
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?

Price does not always equate to a better smoker.

Read this article, ‘The Myth of Brand and Maker in Pipesmoking’, by Dr. Fred Hanna.


Here’s also a good article on who Dr. Hanna is.

 
Last edited:
May 2, 2018
3,848
29,496
Bucks County, PA
As I mainly enjoy MM cobs, I’m probably not the best person to opinionate on this subject. However, imho I’ve not found any significantly better smoking experiences with a briar once I’ve gone over the $300 range let’s say. And, my most enjoyable experiences with briar have been found with smokers that were considered basket pipes….which is why I mainly smoke 🌽s…a consistently cheap & reliably enjoyable tool to enjoy the 🍂. ☕
 

kcghost

Lifer
May 6, 2011
13,457
21,998
77
Olathe, Kansas
It depends on what you want in a pipe. Some people enjoy a very expensive pipe because it was carved by someone special to them. And when you want that you have to pay for that.
And remember that when you say "it isn't worth it" you really mean it isn't worth it to yourself. There are people in the world who will disagree with you.
 

JackOrion

Can't Leave
Feb 3, 2023
307
2,912
West Yonkers California
Absolutely, but that doesn’t mean it’s going to smoke much better. So much of a good smoke depends on much more than the pipe. I’m sure there are a few pipers that wouldn’t give up their favorite cob for anything.
That said, tangible quality is easily measured and it’s always going to come at a higher price.
 
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senkosam

Lurker
Dec 2, 2023
23
40
Walden, N.Y.
Dr. Grabow is one pipe I've owned and still enjoy after 20 years. Looks I could care less about. (note: I've taped up the vent on the stem because I don't have a source for filters. Smokes fine.)

Being able to keep on puffing without relighting every other minute, light enough so I don't have to hold the pipe and not having too fast or slow a draw makes all the difference - price notwithstanding.

I used to own a Mersham but wasn't impressed as with my wood pipes; same for corn cob - not a fan.
 
Dec 3, 2021
4,902
41,392
Pennsylvania & New York
When it comes to the mechanics of the pipes, an inexpensive pipe that is well made and drilled properly will only likely differ in aesthetics with an expensive counterpart. The biggest differences that will occur take place in that grey space between the ears and in the heart—intangible things like history, sentimental value, pride of ownership—qualities that are immeasurable and might make the super expensive pipe be considered (dare I say?) priceless; those qualities might also apply in the reverse: a cheap, beater pipe that a relative smoked might be far more meaningful than a rare, one-of-a-kind, limited edition, unobtanium pipe, and give a more satisfying smoke because of that. Sometimes, less is more, sometimes, more is more.
 

Sigmund

Lifer
Sep 17, 2023
1,479
12,600
France
Due to diminshing returns I have my own price point limits. Everyone will and they will be different. If you are just simply looking for a nicotine delivery system then by all means go cheap. If the feel, experienece, aesthetics etc...are part of it for you then a nicer pipe will most often continue to offer returns on your investment. For me picking the pipe I want to smoke is as important as picking the tobacco. I enjoy having choices from the rack and even if no one else looks at them it pleases me.
 

pappymac

Lifer
Feb 26, 2015
3,301
4,348
Anecdotal:

I own a Santambrigio I paid $79 for. I consider it to be one of the best smoking pipes I have. The first week I had it, I used it to win the first long smoke competition I entered. I used it for the local competition four out of the next five years - a second win and two top two finishes. The year I didn't use it, I finished fifth.

It doesn't matter what tobacco blend I load into it but I can always count on it to deliver a good, long smoke with no relights.
 
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Sigmund

Lifer
Sep 17, 2023
1,479
12,600
France
Im smoking a Neerup right now. I guess price point depends on what you consider expensive. Most are under 200...some close to 150. I have a few and I have never found one to not be a great pipe. Also every one of my ser jacopo pipes as estates bought under 160ish are fab. I also have cheap pipes that smoke well too. Would I bother with a 50 dollar new pipe...probably not. It might be just fine but Id rather take my chances refurbing a batch of beater pipes and find a winner.
 

Sgetz

Lifer
May 21, 2020
1,365
1,852
74
UK
If we allow cake to build up are we not smoking in a cake pipe regardless of its style or materials. But looks are a different thing altogether. I happen to love smoking cobs. They taste great but don't look great. Smoke pipes look fantastic, works of art, but I smoke for taste.
 
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Zlyner

Lurker
Aug 17, 2022
20
330
I'm smoking my 30$ pipes much more often than those 200$ ones, and I'm really happy about it.
Because its fine to drop a 30$ pipe or bite the stem really hard. But when smoking 200$ pipes, I tend to smoking more carefully so my pipe will not get hurt.
It may sounds stupid, but at least for me, cheap pipes can give me more freedom and relaxation when enjoy the pipe tobacco. Personally I like to focus on the tobacco rather than the pipe.
But if you can enjoy pipe itself, I think a expensive pipe will enhance the smoking experience to some degree. And it is said that expensive pipes are made of better materials, which will lead to better smoke.
 

briarblues

Can't Leave
Aug 3, 2017
395
620
This age old question remains an interesting and entertaining debate. Does price dictate better? In some articles it does and in some not. With pipes ....... well ..... it all begins with briar. It does not matter an iota who made the pipe, or the price, if the briar was not "prepared" correctly at the mill. It does not matter an iota who carved the pipe if after being "prepared" it was not given the "correct" amount of time to reach peak humidity levels.

Now let's take in the "engineering" of any pipe. If the things required to create the "right engineering" that fits with the buyers method of packing, it doesn't matter the price or who carved the pipe.

Much of how a pipe "smokes" remains on the pipe smokers shoulders and their abilities to adapt "their style" of packing and puffing to fit within the "engineering specs" of the pipe chosen.

The above being what it is ..... meaning that the number of variables makes the topic one that will never have a concise answer.

IF all things are equal ... which they rarely are ..... price does not dictate how well any given pipe will smoke. You might find a lowly basket pipe that just has everything done "right" and it will knock you out on how well it smokes. Or you might spend a mortgage payment on a fabulous artisan made pipe that does not smoke well, for you. Or the opposite occurs. The basket pipe smokes terrible and the artisan made pipe smokes famously.

The chances of the artisan hand made pipe smoking better is greater than the basket pipe though. The reason being the artisan has complete control of the briar once it reaches them. Care is taken through each and every stage of creating a pipe. Any little issue that might come up is quickly seen, and adjusted for, or the block can be discarded as it may not reach the "quality standards" set by the artisan. A factory made pipe is just that. Yes there might be stages in which grade and quality are reviewed, but that review in rarely in depth as much as the artisans.

Bottom line .... buy what you like and enjoy what you have.
 
May 2, 2018
3,848
29,496
Bucks County, PA
This age old question remains an interesting and entertaining debate. Does price dictate better? In some articles it does and in some not. With pipes ....... well ..... it all begins with briar. It does not matter an iota who made the pipe, or the price, if the briar was not "prepared" correctly at the mill. It does not matter an iota who carved the pipe if after being "prepared" it was not given the "correct" amount of time to reach peak humidity levels.

Now let's take in the "engineering" of any pipe. If the things required to create the "right engineering" that fits with the buyers method of packing, it doesn't matter the price or who carved the pipe.

Much of how a pipe "smokes" remains on the pipe smokers shoulders and their abilities to adapt "their style" of packing and puffing to fit within the "engineering specs" of the pipe chosen.

The above being what it is ..... meaning that the number of variables makes the topic one that will never have a concise answer.

IF all things are equal ... which they rarely are ..... price does not dictate how well any given pipe will smoke. You might find a lowly basket pipe that just has everything done "right" and it will knock you out on how well it smokes. Or you might spend a mortgage payment on a fabulous artisan made pipe that does not smoke well, for you. Or the opposite occurs. The basket pipe smokes terrible and the artisan made pipe smokes famously.

The chances of the artisan hand made pipe smoking better is greater than the basket pipe though. The reason being the artisan has complete control of the briar once it reaches them. Care is taken through each and every stage of creating a pipe. Any little issue that might come up is quickly seen, and adjusted for, or the block can be discarded as it may not reach the "quality standards" set by the artisan. A factory made pipe is just that. Yes there might be stages in which grade and quality are reviewed, but that review in rarely in depth as much as the artisans.

Bottom line .... buy what you like and enjoy what you have.
Thanks Mike! 👍☕