Why are Dunhills so Expensive?

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GreatWhiteNorthPiper

Might Stick Around
Feb 3, 2022
91
100
Ontario, Canada
As a relatively new pipe smoker, I've been on the hunt for new pipes to fill out my collection. One of the things I just can't seem to get my head around is the prices of some pipes, particularly Dunhills. They don't seem to be much different from other, cheaper brands, such as Savinelli, Brigham or even Petersons, and yet they are insanely expensive. Are they really that much better at smoking? What makes them so "exclusive"? If anyone can shed any light, I would be grateful.
 
Aug 9, 2013
29,595
54,568
Helena, Alabama
Are they really that much better at smoking?
Not necessarily.
What makes them so "exclusive"?
Their history in pipes. Their branding, and their fan base.

Some brands are just more expensive than others. Adidas products always cost more, but same material, same craftsmanship, higher prices. And, people still buy them.

If you are wanting to buy just because you think it might smoke better, just shop cheaper. I think that paying the price is better appreciated by those who are into the history of the brand. They are great pipes, but the price doesn't just reflect quality. Their fan base won't let them down. Thousands will flock to their new releases. They really aren't that expensive. just compared to cheaper ones, makes them look expensive. So, if they seem expensive to you, they probably weren't meant for you. That is what "exclusive" means.
 
Dec 3, 2021
1,947
14,618
Pennsylvania & New York
Marketing and perceived value has a lot to do with it. Nike sneakers cost about two dollars to produce, but, sell for hundreds because people believe they're worth it and are status symbols of sorts. With Dunhill, there's a long, rich, history. You pay for that reputation and prestige if that's something you want a piece of.

Generally speaking, any well executed pipe will not smoke appreciably different than another. It comes down to aesthetics and what one is willing to pay.
 

dunnyboy

Lifer
Jul 6, 2018
1,176
12,991
New York
Dunhill, especially before the "White Dot" era was considered a prestigious brand. They were excellent pipes, sold in upscale pipe stores (including their own boutiques), always at premium prices. Their sizing and traditional British shapes became the benchmarks for pipe-making more or less around the world. Think Savile Row suits, not bespoke but classic styling and well made. Dunhills smoke reliably well but not necessarily better than many other pipes, including the ones you named. Yes, you're paying for the name and the legacy but that is not necessarily meaningless. BTW, there are plenty of pipes that are more expensive.
 

Puffaluffaguss

Starting to Get Obsessed
Jul 30, 2021
206
534
30
The City Different
Dunhill, especially before the "White Dot" era was considered a prestigious brand. They were excellent pipes, sold in upscale pipe stores (including their own boutiques), always at premium prices. Their sizing and traditional British shapes became the benchmarks for pipe-making more or less around the world. Think Savile Row suits, not bespoke but classic styling and well made. Dunhills smoke reliably well but not necessarily better than many other pipes, including the ones you named. Yes, you're paying for the name and the legacy but that is not necessarily meaningless. BTW, there are plenty of pipes that are more expensive.
All I know is when I first started my pipe journey, Dunhill was the first name I came across and read the whole pipedia page on. It's one hell of a story. BUT as I did more research I found that Castellos are my preferred "factory" pipe maker. If you really want to spend the BIG BUCKS check out any of the Ivarrson products, from Sixten to Nanna or any of the apprentices that came from the Sixten tree. Now that's expensive wood right there.
 

sablebrush52

The Bard Of Barlings
Jun 15, 2013
16,377
30,388
SoCal
jrs457.wixsite.com
From an historic standpoint, Dunhill is a Johnny come lately, BBB, Barling, Charatan, GBD, Loewe, etc were around for decades before Dunhill set up its pipeworks as part of a larger concern that offered luxury goods to a moneyed clientele.
They produced a top quality pipe, were innovative in their early years, provided full white gloved customer service, produced lavish catalogs, and marketed in a much more aggressive way than their competitors. They didn't produce products so much as fulfill aspirations of success. Pricing of their goods is part of that goal. People are hard wired to correlate price with quality.
Today, The White Spot - no longer Dunhill by name - continues the tradition of high prices if abandoning most of the rest of it.
 

mso489

Lifer
Feb 21, 2013
38,632
49,201
They are, mostly, good pipes, but not a world apart. The pricing is the result of brilliant marketing that slowly ratcheted up the price over the years, convincing people that a high-end factory pipe made in London was inherently the best pipe available.

A late member on Forums who worked in Manhattan pipe shops as a teenager in the 1950's remembered when the primo pipe in the shops was an American made Kaywoodie, with Dunhill coming in as second fiddle. And neither pipe was unaffordable to the average pipe smoker. Then came the Dunhill marketing campaign.

I like to remind people that with some critical minded shopping and rigorous study, you can get low-end pipes that can cost as little as 40 USD new, that smoke as well as any.

If the sense of luxury and status have appeal to you, go ahead and buy a Dunhill. And if you are persistent and lucky, you can pick them up for far less than their usual new and used prices. Just know that you are buying the aura and not an elevated smoking experience.
 

dunnyboy

Lifer
Jul 6, 2018
1,176
12,991
New York
I should add that vintage Dunhills are considered more desirable than the current production, which means you can get estate pipes in excellent condition for a lot less than retail. If you can't look at the pipe yourself, smokingpipes.com and a few other reputable online sellers are excellent sources of quality Dunhill estates. SPC in particular lists all the pertinent quality issues, including the condition of the stem and chamber. The condition of the stem is important because Dunhill uses vulcanite, a hard rubber that oxidizes. Vulcanite takes a bit of effort to keep shiny and black and shows toothmarks more easily than acrylic. SPC will let you know if the stem has been over-buffed, if the chamber has been reamed excessively or is out of round. It will also be thoroughly cleaned and sanitized ready to enjoyably smoked. You can even snag a Dunhill pipe manufactured in your birth year.
 

Donb1972

Can't Leave
Feb 9, 2022
415
1,066
Erie, PA
They are, mostly, good pipes, but not a world apart. The pricing is the result of brilliant marketing that slowly ratcheted up the price over the years, convincing people that a high-end factory pipe made in London was inherently the best pipe available.

A late member on Forums who worked in Manhattan pipe shops as a teenager in the 1950's remembered when the primo pipe in the shops was an American made Kaywoodie, with Dunhill coming in as second fiddle. And neither pipe was unaffordable to the average pipe smoker. Then came the Dunhill marketing campaign.

I like to remind people that with some critical minded shopping and rigorous study, you can get low-end pipes that can cost as little as 40 USD new, that smoke as well as any.

If the sense of luxury and status have appeal to you, go ahead and buy a Dunhill. And if you are persistent and lucky, you can pick them up for far less than their usual new and used prices. Just know that you are buying the aura and not an elevated smoking experience.
I found it fascinating that back in the '60's, one of my Jima pipes would have sold for more than a Dunhill.
 

cigrmaster

Lifer
May 26, 2012
19,743
52,905
64
Sarasota Florida
I think any serious pipe smoker should try a Dunhill at least once. I own one which is a 1966 LB model and to my eye it is the best proportioned Billiard ever made. It doesn't have a great blast as all my American artisan pipes have better blasts, but the shape is what drew me in as I love Billiards.
Here is my 1966:

Here is one of my American artisan pipes made by Jack Howell. I asked him to make a copy of the 1966 Dunhill and he did a great job I think. Normally I wouldn't talk about prices but in this case my Howell was 295.00. A new Dunhill almost twice the cost in the Shell series. My Howell smokes better and the stem work is superior.


I will keep the Dunhill just for the shape. I wouldn't keep it if it were a matter of smoking properties as my artisan pipes just smoke better and I prefer their stem work.
 

burleybreath

Part of the Furniture Now
Aug 29, 2019
618
2,121
Finger Lakes area, New York, USA
Some of Dunhill's straight billiard shapes meet my standards of perfection, like no other marque I'm familiar with. I know at least one billiard freak that has a highly critical eye for flaws in billiard shapes, a shape that the less sophisticated consider dull, plain, and even dorky, to use a technical term. That's mostly why I own three--the perfection, that is. They're a good pipe in my experience, but not superior to any other good pipe. Mine are Dunhills, not White Spots and never will be. If you're not enamored of something about Dunhills, save your money for a Punto Oro Savinelli or something similar you can live with. As an aside, have you priced any good British shoes lately?
 

Davy Jones

Starting to Get Obsessed
Feb 26, 2022
154
685
7 Seas
They are outstanding smoking pipes. Their briar is obviously excellent.
Finishing and engineering are also outstanding.
They are beautiful pipes. The sense of proportions at Dunhill is right on.
They now what they're doing.
The true test to understand is buying an unsmoked White Spot.
That's when you'll realize they stand apart from the rest.
A pre-smoked one is no good to grasp this and does not enable anyone to pass
judgement on the brand.
This being said, prices in Europe (specifically, in the UK and Italy) are much better
than on our side of the Pond.
 

MacMarty89

Starting to Get Obsessed
Dec 8, 2021
268
1,833
33
Greater Eindhoven Area, Netherlands
It already has been mentioned why Dunhills are expensive. But what I would like to add is that it’s also a marketing strategy. It’s called the ‘Exclusive Value Principle‘. It argues that positioning a brand carefully with a prestige pricing approach, reinforces a positive (even exclusive) brand image in the mind of the customer. And so people naturally assume that Dunhill is the most exclusive pipe brand.
 
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