Does the Quality of a Pipe Increase with its Price?

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Briar Lee

Lifer
Sep 4, 2021
4,835
13,901
Humansville Missouri
Here is a five dollar machine turned but unfinished briar pipe I bought on eBay a couple of years ago. There were lots of these sold, and maybe they are all gone to new homes.

IMG_6708.jpeg

Mine is made from excellent briar. There’s lots of grain figure, no pits, and it broke in easily, and it’s an excellent smoker.

If you want to discuss smoking quality, the selection of the briar is paramount.

After that add skill and artistry and labor.

And the larger the pipe the price goes up exponentially, due to scarcity of larger burls and more waste and more labor.

But what you are buying is a hunk of wood on a rubber stick.

The brand name gets stamped the last thing.
 

Coreios

Lifer
Sep 23, 2022
1,624
2,685
41
United States Of America
I have a bent Dr. Grabow Free Hand I swear smokes exactly the same as my bent Peterson System. Price difference 40 bucks more for the Peterson. I would not say a cob smokes as well as a Peterson but they do smoke well and the prices are wow. I do believe for about 50 bucks you can get a new pipe that smokes like a really expensive pipe. The real money's in eBay finds. A lot of great pipes for really cheap. Some look rough but clean up like almost new fairly easy.
 

anotherbob

Lifer
Mar 30, 2019
15,782
29,601
45
In the semi-rural NorthEastern USA
yes and no. If it wasn't worth that much more to somebody or enough somebodies they'd go out of business with those prices. Will you get a better smoke? Too much personal preference but while different pipes smoke differently you'll get more mileage out of learning how to pack and smoke a pipe better (debatable what that means, but you'll know if you're enjoying it more).
 

proteus

Lifer
May 20, 2023
1,160
1,935
53
Connecticut (shade leaf tobacco country)
In my experience, potentially the quality of the briar in briar pipes, the aesthetics mainly, and the artisan craftsmanship play highly into pipes with prices subjectively above about $125 USD. Lots of a solid smokers in the $5 to $125 range. Between $125 and $275 to maybe low $300's the craftsmanship starts comes out and above that in the high $300s or more it's really about the maker and the name. As far as usability goes I see not much difference between my high end pipes and low end in terms of smokability. In terms of feel in hand, beauty, craftsmanship, attention to detail, and some other subjective criteria there is a difference to me in the higher end.
 

telescopes

Pipe Dreamer and Star Gazer
No, but your odds of getting a better pipe increase as the price increases. My Lees, Marksmans, Grabows, Yellow Boles, Willards, Kaywoodies, and others pipes such as LHS, etc often are very good pipes. My Castellos, Radice, and Dunhills have all been great pipes.

Despite what someone in an expensive looking suit might try to persuade you about quality not being dependent on a financial variable, labor, materials, and craftsmanship all come with a price.
 

senkosam

Lurker
Dec 2, 2023
23
40
Walden, N.Y.
Dr Grabow and my cedars smoke better than my meerschaum and corn cob. I also don't care for large bowl pipes and rotate my pipes daily.
Alcohol on a rolled-up napkin refreshes the bowl and a pipe cleaner dipped in it for the stem seems to improve the smoke. Guess I'll check Ebay for some more cedar pipes.
Sutliffe make some great tobaccos and I'm sticking with that brand.
 
Not always. But, in my experience, there are certain brands that always seem to be good smokers. puffy
What makes a “good smoker” in your opinion? I’m interested because my cheap Amazon purchase, seems to me anyway, to be a good smoker even though I wouldn’t call it perfect in its construction. It cost me £28 and is made of ebony, but I’m looking to upgrade to either a Peterson, Baring or Rattray so I’m interested in what to look for.
 
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jguss

Lifer
Jul 7, 2013
2,475
6,448
I’ve looked at this a great deal and an analysis of the relationship between quality and price yields a scatter plot with an R² of almost zero. Interestingly enough if you plot price against price the correlation is virtually perfect.
 

bluegrassbrian

Your Mom's Favorite Pipe Smoker
Aug 27, 2016
6,095
53,639
41
Louisville
Dr Grabow and my cedars smoke better than my meerschaum and corn cob. I also don't care for large bowl pipes and rotate my pipes daily.
Alcohol on a rolled-up napkin refreshes the bowl and a pipe cleaner dipped in it for the stem seems to improve the smoke. Guess I'll check Ebay for some more cedar pipes.
Sutliffe make some great tobaccos and I'm sticking with that brand.
I hope you aren't smoking pipes made of cedar.
 

Papamique

Part of the Furniture Now
Mar 11, 2020
790
3,959
I read this in a magazine once, A well-made, brand-name pipe can cost as little as $35 and can also give you a fantastic smoking experience, but will usually average out to about $65 to $130 for a decent piece of machine-turned briar. Of course, as you get into the better grades and finishes of wood, hand-turned or carved designs, and gold or silver mountings, you can easily max out on your credit-card limit.

How much effort does it take to build and maintain a reputation of excellence over the course of 10 years? How about 50 years? 100? I think some underestimate the time, effort, and money that hoes into a companies reputation in today’s grab and throw world. We complain about shoddy work, poor customer service and the like and then tend to belittle a good reputation of a company that has been around for decades as hype. Not so! At least, not always. To me, a good reputation is hard to acquire and even harder to keep. So I pay for it when I find it whether it’s a reputable plumber, carpenter or pipe maker.

A completely hand made pipe takes hours to make. Hours of skilled labor. What is that worth? What do we pay other skilled laborers with a good reputation?

So a hand made pipe, from quality materials, from a reputable carver will cost you more money. They also tend to taste like well cured briar from the start, can be more comfortable, look beautiful and last longer, partly due to the extra care given them by the owners that paid more for them and partly the quality materials.

This will all generally cost you more money. Are these things worth the extra money to you?

Again, you can get a well made factory turned briar pipe that can give you a great smoking experience for much much less money. Even a cob which are cheap and smoke/taste amazing.
 
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The only correct answer to such a question is:

No.*
___
* Exceptions may vary.
I look at something like a Dunhill ‘White Spot’ and I think how can it be worth more than 4X the price of say a Peterson which, by my book, is still quite expensive? If you have the money great, but if not I don’t think it does anything better than something a fraction of the price.
 
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jbfrady

Can't Leave
Jul 27, 2023
338
1,212
South Carolina
I look at something like a Dunhill ‘White Spot’ and I think how can it be worth more than 4X the price of say a Peterson which, by my book, is still quite expensive? If you have the money great, but if not I don’t think it does anything better than something a fraction of the price.
My apologies, but I'm about to give you way more of an answer than you asked for, but I'll try to keep it easygoing.

At the core of it, pipes are like cars: If you're looking for the best car to get you from A to B for the price, you'll probably buy a 90's Camry. Inexpensive to obtain, maintain, or replace if needed.

The unseen cost of buying a 90's Camry is that, no matter the situation, when somebody sees you get out of a 90's Camry they'll make assumptions about you which you can neither know nor change. He's poor, his career isn't where he hoped it would be by now, etc.

Anybody who drives a Bentley, meanwhile, has multiple cars. You don't want the wear and tear of regular use, nor do you want to risk scratches, dents, and dings. You keep a nice but economical car to drive through the week, then you whip out the Bentley on weekends or when you think people might see it. And sure, sometimes you'll drive it on a whim for fun.

While the analogy isn't 1,000% accurate, most of the themes hold. I have a Dunhill Tortoise and I have pipes by artisans new and well-known alike. (Not many, mind you, but enough to have a top 3, and to have had one burnout experience so far.)

My best smoking pipes are those I've made myself, but I'm going to dismiss this out of hand as I can't control the bias. That aside, I have two pipes which outsmoke all my others to a margin that isn't even close. One is a standard bent by Stefano Santambrogio - it's a seconds line by an Italian brand and it set me back maybe a hundred bucks  after shipping. The other is a poker with a bamboo stem, made for Tobacco Pipe Exporters by a maker I'll never know, which ran $125.

If I'm going to a pipe society meeting, I'll take those with me, but they probably won't leave my bag as I'm much more likely to smoke my Dunhill. When I'm around a group of people, smoking prowess takes a back seat because I might get to talking and let the pipe go out. Or I might want to try something else, giving me an excuse to pull out an artisan pipe, or one of my own.

Not only that, but I smoke a Dunhill when I'm around other pipe smokers because I'm an introvert, so it's a hack; I know I'll get approached and I'll be asked a question that promptsa conversation. Namely, "Hey, is that a Dunhill?"
 

Searock Fan

Lifer
Oct 22, 2021
1,905
5,299
U.S.A.
What makes a “good smoker” in your opinion? I’m interested because my cheap Amazon purchase, seems to me anyway, to be a good smoker even though I wouldn’t call it perfect in its construction. It cost me £28 and is made of ebony, but I’m looking to upgrade to either a Peterson, Baring or Rattray so I’m interested in what to look for.
By "good smoker" I simply mean it tastes better. If ebony made a good pipe more makers would use it. And if you really want to good pipe try a meerschaum or one of the high grade Italians. In my 60+ years as a pipe smoker I think they're the best. puffy
 
My apologies, but I'm about to give you way more of an answer than you asked for, but I'll try to keep it easygoing.

At the core of it, pipes are like cars: If you're looking for the best car to get you from A to B for the price, you'll probably buy a 90's Camry. Inexpensive to obtain, maintain, or replace if needed.

The unseen cost of buying a 90's Camry is that, no matter the situation, when somebody sees you get out of a 90's Camry they'll make assumptions about you which you can neither know nor change. He's poor, his career isn't where he hoped it would be by now, etc.

Anybody who drives a Bentley, meanwhile, has multiple cars. You don't want the wear and tear of regular use, nor do you want to risk scratches, dents, and dings. You keep a nice but economical car to drive through the week, then you whip out the Bentley on weekends or when you think people might see it. And sure, sometimes you'll drive it on a whim for fun.

While the analogy isn't 1,000% accurate, most of the themes hold. I have a Dunhill Tortoise and I have pipes by artisans new and well-known alike. (Not many, mind you, but enough to have a top 3, and to have had one burnout experience so far.)

My best smoking pipes are those I've made myself, but I'm going to dismiss this out of hand as I can't control the bias. That aside, I have two pipes which outsmoke all my others to a margin that isn't even close. One is a standard bent by Stefano Santambrogio - it's a seconds line by an Italian brand and it set me back maybe a hundred bucks  after shipping. The other is a poker with a bamboo stem, made for Tobacco Pipe Exporters by a maker I'll never know, which ran $125.

If I'm going to a pipe society meeting, I'll take those with me, but they probably won't leave my bag as I'm much more likely to smoke my Dunhill. When I'm around a group of people, smoking prowess takes a back seat because I might get to talking and let the pipe go out. Or I might want to try something else, giving me an excuse to pull out an artisan pipe, or one of my own.

Not only that, but I smoke a Dunhill when I'm around other pipe smokers because I'm an introvert, so it's a hack; I know I'll get approached and I'll be asked a question that promptsa conversation. Namely, "Hey, is that a Dunhill?"
So, basically buying an expensive pipe does nothing other than improve one’s image? A Rolex and a Casio both tell the time. In fact the Casio will probably do more than the Rolex but it doesn’t have the same panache or style or indeed, branding.

The Dunhill probably has more handwork and craftsmanship and might be made of slightly better materials but at the end of the day does it smoke better than a less expensive pipe or does it just deliver tobacco smoke in the same way?

There is nothing wrong whatsoever with enjoying luxury items by the way. If one can afford them, why not? I can actually see why owning and smoking a Dunhill would be a joy BUT the question was “Does the quality of a pipe increase with the price?” It’s Just my opinion, but I think after a certain price point it’s possibly one of diminishing returns. Is a £1500 Dunhill a ”better” pipe than a £500 one?
 
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anotherbob

Lifer
Mar 30, 2019
15,782
29,601
45
In the semi-rural NorthEastern USA
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?
a lot of pipes that are 500 are made by hand by one person. Not always. But compared to a factory that can put out a very high number of pipes in a day, one person might take a longer then that making one pipe. But the big advantage is that they can take that time and work to show off the grain or remove imperfections such as pits. Where a factory pipe is made more by template and graded after the carving by how the grain and imperfections turn out. Then even with factories a lot of times the price is increased by some brands because of their quality control process. They have less pipes that leave the factory doors which means that as far as whatever their specific standard is you have a much better chance of getting a pipe with less flaws more of a flowing or striking grain pattern. The Q.C. can apply to the internals of a pipe too, however most companies seem to keep that standard to a modicum over the whole price spectrum.
The thing to remember with a pipe is it's a tool, a fashion accessory (it effects your looks and style while smoking [even if you don't care that it does]), and a display carving when it's sitting on a shelf. You are paying for all three of those factors as well as how the pipe got there.
Like a lot of products is it worth it? Is the price justified? Depends on if the maker needs to eat and also how much value do you place on certain things. Including exclusivity how likely are you to run into another person smoking a pipe like that at a convention?
 
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