I started collecting during a time (1960-70) when pipe makers looked at the grain of a pipe before making the first cut.
Dunhill, Comoy, Charatan all produced beautiful pipes. The only thing to choose was how the mouthpiece felt. Comoy had a delicate feel to the mouthpiece...light and gentle..perfect!...others were a little stocky and felt awkward. I chose Comoy as they were the most beautiful, in my eyes, as far as grain and color. I have a limited collection and the thing I've noticed is that each has its own feel, taste and style if you will. The meerschaum has an old time elegance to it..the calabash takes time and "mood", but they all are like family to me. Reeming the cake is like surgery while holding these old boys..being careful and treating them with respect. Wish I had kept the vulcanite cleaner over the years, but a mild buff and they will be gleaming once again. Folks often replace the stem when the mouthpiece gets cracked and broken...I just work around it and remeber back when I did it.
I keep about 25 in rotation. Have about 150 collecting dust and maybe another 75 setting in my shop waiting for refurb. I do have too many !! Every now and then I'll sell off a few but always end up buying more than I sell.
After smoking pipe for 30 yrs., 5 to 10 bowls a day, pound a month, I've finally settled on 60 pipes. Reason I need a big stable is that I smoke a lot. All 60 get smoked regularly. Mainly Dunhills, Comoys, Ashtons, Petes, Stanwells and Falcons. Plus some high end artisan pipes by Parks, Negoita, Cooke & Downie. I put most of my effort these days in leaf acquisition and cellar development.
As a smoker and collector... I guess I have 300+. I have my favorites, and some I don't plan to smoke. But it's kinda cool to re-find a pipe once in a while and enjoy it for the first time all over again.
A man and his pipes are like a woman and her shoes, there's never enough lol.
Personally I'll probably keep somewhere around 50 pipes and when I reach that point I'll only get a new one if I trade/sell away an old one.
Currently my collection is around 17. I usually smoke around 2-3 bowls a day and sometimes 4 on the weekends so they all get smoked fairly often. I totally understand the feeling of having too much though. For me I'm at the point where it really has to catch my eye or be high quality for me to buy it.
I'm in the same boat as Mike. I used to have a huge collection that I ended up smoking less than a third of at any given time. I whittled it down to a couple dozen and then quit smoking entirely for a few years. Since Coming back to the briar I have further weeded and added to the collection to keep just over a dozen pipes that I regularly smoke. I am starting to notice neglected pipes again though so I may do some more weeding. When you first start smoking you get that rush of excitement that caused you to buy a lot of pipes to try things out. then you learn about properly resting pipes so you feel the need to build a rotation. Then you learn of the joy of dedicating pipes to tobaccos or to tobacco types so you buy more pipes...etc...before you know it you are left with a whole bunch of pipes that tell the tale of you refining your tastes. Only now am I buying pipes that I KNOW I like.
Frank Burla, who started the Chicago Pipe shows, had similar thoughts and got rid of eighteen thousand pipes he owned. Now, he's down to a collection of merely twenty thousand pipes (from formerly thirty eight thousand!)