Why Such High Cost on Some Pipes?

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toddryan84

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Aug 2, 2017
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I understand that there are artisan pipes and such, but why do so many of the pipe shops cater to pipes in the 350+ range....I mean, I've ever seen pipes for 5,000 dollars and I just cannot justify that cost for a pipe. Mainly, I don't make the kind of money to justify that purchase, but if I did, I could think of a lot better ways to spend that money.
Can you guys help me shed some light on this? What are your thoughts to some of these pipes?

 

cosmicfolklore

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Aug 9, 2013
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There are a range of different pipes prices, just like their are differences in prices of cars, and for the same reasons... almost. I love stylish pipes, and I may not ever be able to afford a Porsche or Lamborghini, but if I save up or use layaway, I can easily afford the Lamborghini of pipes. At way over 100 pipes, I do not need a rotation any more, so I only buy pipes that I find extremely attractive.

There are always teenagers in line at the mall to buy the newest released tennis shoes for over $500, there are ties that cost over $200, and most eye glass frames are over $500, and you have to rebuy a new pair after a few years on those.
Some guys are happy with a corncob, and some guys like to have a little more style in their life. And, there are many in between.
So is the way of life.
As far as pipe shops go, if I was going to open a pipe shop[, I'd have a no brainer decision to make. Do I buy and resale cheap pipes, or the high end pipes. I hang out at The Briary which is Alabama's high end pipe shop. The people range in all types, and the discussion is amazing. The cheap pipe shop outside the mall, never has anyone hanging out there, and it looks like he is always struggling to stay in business. Whereas the Briary has been a famous shop since the early 70's.
Different strokes for different folks.

 

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sasquatch

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Jul 16, 2012
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What should a pipe cost?
In a retail setting, a markup of something like 100 percent is pretty typical. So the store is paying about half of what you see as a price.
So a 100 dollar pipe is probably worth.... something like 25 bucks at the factory door. By the time it gets shipped across the ocean, unpacked, distributed, trucked across 17 states and put up on display, you can probably add another 25 bucks, and the retailer sells that thing and collects 50 bucks for doing so - a guy with a shop better sell about 10 pipes a day to keep the lights on!
An Artisan made pipe in a retail environment suffers much the same - the shop has to make money, that's what being a shop is about. But the artist also needs to eat, so more likely he is selling product for 100-200 dollars and it is selling for 200-400 in a store.
For myself, what should my cost equation be if I pay something like 25 bucks for good wood, there's 10 bucks worth of stem material, sometimes silver etc. I have a dedicated building with about $10,000 in tooling much of it specific to pipes that I need to run and maintain. I can make a pipe a day if I'm fast. Down the street, a large woodworking outfit charges 70.00/hr for shop time, and mostly what they do is router hinge-pocket on doors. Not that hard. Nothing specialized that's for sure. So let's just take that number, hey? 70.00 an hour to run my shop x 8 hours and damn, my pipe is 560.00 and I haven't paid for materials yet.
So I don't make 70.00 an hour in my shop at pipes. But I do have to charge around 300 to make it worthwhile, otherwise I am losing money, should be doing book-keeping or shoe-making or... anything else at all actually.

 

toddryan84

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Aug 2, 2017
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@cosmic
You do raise some good points, I guess I'm just a little disappointed that the less expensive pipes all seem to be mass produced and the quality control on some is not very good. Even some of the Tsuge pipes which I like very much are well into the 500-1000 range and I just could never afford that. I had to save for over 2 years just to buy my Gibson Les Paul Custom.....and even then I put part of that cost on the credit card.
I guess I just wish they made some great pipes at an affordable budget

 

toddryan84

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Aug 2, 2017
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@sasquatch
That was a great response and really put things into perspective, I guess I didn't take the labor involved or anything into consideration.

 

warren

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Sep 13, 2013
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One reason is, such pipes help the customer validate the store was they walk around. I worked in a photo store years ago. There was a Hasselblad section, We didn't sell many but, as we had Leicas also, the two German brands were displayed, taking valuable space to let the customer know that we were, in fact, a camera store, not a "photo section" in a Long's or some such. Having such means, in the customer's mind, more knowledgeable staff, serious questions can be asked and answered. And, if you didn't have it, the expensive cameras/lenses, you couldn't sell it to the rich, impulse buyer.
Retailers feel the need to have a marque or two to impress a segment of their customer base. Years ago it was Dunhill or some such. A Mercedes dealer has to have one of those big, square 4wds on the floor or a "black" Mercedes.

 

briarblues

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Aug 3, 2017
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Toddy, Michael has offered a pretty solid answer.
In pipes there is a certain threshold in which grain, size, and carvers reputation come into play. This holds true for factory pipes as well.
Savinellii, Castello, Radice, Stanwell etc have a variety of grades. The briar is the same ( maybe different regions of harvest ) but basically the same. Rusticated pipes and smooth flame grains are sourced from the brands "vaults" of briar. The higher quality the grain pattern and size of finished pipe, the prices increase.
I can't say for all the brands above as I have not smoked all their various grades, but for Castello I can solidly say that my Sea Rock's, ( rusticated ) Old Antiquari's ( sand blasts )and smooth finishes ( through a variety of grades including a Fiammata )they all smoke very similarly. My Fiammata is not the best, nor is it the poorest. Nor do my Sea Rocks compare poorly with any of the others. My Fiammata cost me triple what my Sea Rock's cost. It is however my pride and joy. It is the center piece of my collection.
For individual carvers a whole lot depends on carvers reputation. I have been lucky enough to smoke a Bo Nordh, a Lars Ivarsson, a few Jess's, and a variety of "artisan" carved pipes, from all over the globe. This may ruffle a few feathers, but I can safely say that the current group of North American artisan carvers rival the best from the rest of the world. In the high quality price range I can name probably at least a half dozen carvers, based in the US, that are offering pipes at prices that are well below what they would be, if they were based in Denmark, China, Japan, or Russia.
Plus saying that you don't need to blow a months salary to get an exceptional hand made pipe from a number of US based carvers.
IF I did not personally collect Castello's, and decided it was time to alter my collecting direction I would immediately go to the North American carvers. The quality if very high. The price paid compared to the end good acquired is excellent.
Regards

Michael J. Glukler

 

toddryan84

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Aug 2, 2017
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I feel like I completely overlooked all of this and just thought it was some crazy markup for pieces of wood that you smoke out of. Lol, I mean, I love the aesthetic of some of the more expensive pipes, but I guess since I live on a pretty meager budget, it depressed me to see that nearly all of the pipes I'm really fond of, are completely out of my price range.

 

toddryan84

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Aug 2, 2017
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@briarblues
What are some North American carvers that offer reasonable pipes? Is there anything under 200? 100 and under is generally my price range, unless I REALLY like the pipe or it has some limited edition, or rarity to it.
I do tend to really like Peterson's POTY and St. Patrick's Day lines, or anything that is limited edition.
I have 4 pipes, none of them are very high end, I'd say the highest end one I have is my Rattray's and even that is just decent at best (I say this comparing it to the more artisanal pieces I've seen)
What are some good "Entry level" artisan pipes?

 

mso489

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Feb 21, 2013
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I shop factory pipes, pipe sales, and what I calculate are pipes well beyond their price point, and occasionally break for more expensive pipes, but I'm not into the hundreds of dollars purchases, just as a personal decision. But looked at a different way, some higher prices, at least at the $350 level, begins to make practical sense. Figure the cost of carefully selected premium materials, which is what you assume you are getting at the $350 level. Most importantly, figure in the man or woman hours of labor invested in the pipes; once you do this you will find that some master crafts people are making fairly modest sums. Add to that the cost of the shop machinery and supplies as overhead, and the maintenance of work space. Then add the cost of time and effort to market the pipes whether to retailers or individually. I think you would discover that these people are not making big money, or even enough money. I buy from an in-state carver who sells hand carved pipes of briar, Mountain Laurel, Cocobolo, and maple, and sells them for factory pipe prices. Maybe he inherited the family farm, and he doesn't spend much time marketing, but I still have no idea how he turns a profit. So are these artisan pipe prices overblown? I don't think so. Some of the renown crafts people who turn a thousand or two, or more on each pipe have simply attained that level of recognition. People believe in the product, and some have the money to buy them, and as with any high-high-end item, the value is determined by the market. You can find t-shirts priced at hundreds of dollars, and in that market, the items are valued that way. That gets into the psychology and economics of marketing.

 

briarblues

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Aug 3, 2017
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Toddy;
There are a few. Mark Tinsky ( American Smoking Pipes ) has pipes priced under $200.00. There are a number of carvers that post here and others that have their names mentioned often in the under $350.00 range.
sasquatch posted his pipes begin at $300.00. IMHO that is a great deal. I've seen a few pipes he has carved. I'd have no qualms spending that for one.
I used to collect guitars, when I played allot. Do not even think to compare guitars and pipes. A new LP will cost most people more than a months wages ( and is factory built .) Anything from the custom shop ( which would relate to a hand carved pipe ) will cost you a few months wages. Find out what a top flight luthier charges to custom build you a guitar. The last electric guitar I had custom build was 20+ years ago and at that time cost me over $3000.00. Yes it took more time to create than it takes to carve a pipe, plus the electric parts cost, but in the scheme of things ...... a top quality hand carved pipe is still a bargain. I'd hate to think what that custom built guitar would cost me now.
Regards

Michael J. Glukler

 

saltedplug

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Aug 20, 2013
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When I started I was so surprised at the cost of pipes. I remember looking at a Don Carlos smooth on Synjeco for $300.00 and being completely taken aback. I called my pipe mentor and asked what he thought. He was very critical of me for even considering it. Much taken with the idea of getting double the value, I often bought estates.
Now I don't even blink at prices but neither do I buy what I can't afford. . .well, at least for the last 6 months.

 

pipesmokingtom

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May 4, 2015
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My wife considers anything not a corn cob "expensive." I try and show her some Chonowitsch or S Bangs from time to time for some perspective. Especially when I'm trying to convince her I need to drop a meager $100 on a pipe.

 

georged

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Mar 7, 2013
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A shrink-wrapped block of ten Bic pen 10-packs for $14.99 at Costco, vs a hand-turned, exotic wood fountain pen for $800. They both make marks on paper, so WTF?
A gimme ball cap from a C-store rack for $3.99, vs a hand woven grade 20 Panama hat for $1000. They both block the sun and rain, so WTF?
A pair of knock-around running shoes made in Bangladesh for $29, vs bench made, full-grain leather wingtips for $700. Both protect your feet from wear and tear while walking, so WTF?
A plywood acoustic guitar from Malaysia for $79, vs a handmade Greenfield for $10K. They both make sound over the same musical range, so WTF?
A plastic digital watch for $19, vs a Patek Philippe Nautilus for $33K. They both strap to your wrist and tell time, so WTF?
And on.
And on.
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And on.
And on.
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And on.
And on.
And on.
And on.
And on.
And on.
And on.
And on.
And on.
And on.
And on.
So why has the same pipe cost question occupied so much bandwidth on every Internet pipe forum there's ever been, without resolution?
Hell if I know.
I understand that the hobby has a constant influx of newcomers, and that it's a common and completely legitimate beginner's question. The ASKING isn't the issue. It's that the ANSWER, for some weird reason, never "sticks." It must be hashed out anew every time.
I've visited any number of other hobby/product boards, from shoes, to guitars, to pens, to watches, and the "teflon answer" situation simply doesn't exist. For some reason humans seem to be born knowing, appreciating, and understanding the quality range of those objects. Pipes, though? Not even slightly. Until proven otherwise---and often not even then---pipes are a chunka wood ya burn leaves in, and anyone who thinks otherwise is a fool.
We have a mystery here, fellow boardlings. :puffpipe:
Could it be something the anti's put into the water supply or the air? Or some sort of subliminal message being broadcast from the moon, designed to deplete our energy by making us answer the same question over and over again amongst ourselves, so we're less able to fight anti-tobacco legislation?
Enquiring minds want to know.

 

cosmicfolklore

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Aug 9, 2013
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Helena, Alabama
Georged, I think it's mostly a new people thing. I had never ever ever heard of a Dunhill, until after I had been smoking pipes for quite a while. But, when I started coming to forums, visiting online stores and pipe shops, I was rather dumbfounded at first. But, quickly enough, I caught on. Some guys don't, the hardcore working man, "it's only a tool" folks.

 

pitchfork

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May 25, 2012
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Mostly beginners are the ones charging less than $200 for good, handmade pipes. I don't know who these are at the moment. But if you're looking for a great hand-made pipe, and you're willing to pay $300-350, Ryan Alden might be your man. They smoke great and you get a lot of bang for your buck.
I haven't smoked any of Sasquatch's pipes (BST Pipes), but they're very affordable, and I've only heard good things about his work.

 
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