A Man and His Pipes

A photo of what looks to be a New England sea captain with his clay pipe. The negative was purchased in New England.

Recently I had a friend pass away rather suddenly with cancer. He was in his 60’s and in the middle of his career.  His quick illness was a surprise to him, and like most of us, he and his family were not prepared for the events to come. My friend was a collector of many things, but the collection that most typified him was his collection of tobacco pipes. It was quite common to see him grab a pipe after a meal, have a bowl of his favorite tobacco, and perhaps a scotch.

With his passing, his widow asked me if I would help organize the pipe collection. I was only too glad to help, and I thought it was a good time to try out the personal vault/organizer that WorthPoint has in Beta. It was a real world opportunity to try out our new tool!

I flew out to their country house and was quite surprised by the size and breadth of the collection. I also was about to learn a lot about pipe collecting, as well as find out how much information we have in WorthPoint about pipes. There were about 300 pipes in this collection and WorthPoint had 180,000 sales for tobacco pipes, with some selling in excess of $1,000.

The first thing I wanted to do was to get a good picture of each pipe in the collection. This included taking a picture of each side of the pipe.  We needed one against the ruler to document the length and another showing a detailed image of the marks or maker’s inscription on the pipe. The length of an item is usually very relevant, as are the marks. The marks on pipes are possible clues to the brand, model, age, material and such. I also found this site that helped me to identify the pipe style for use in the description. We took about 4 pictures of each pipe, so there were over 1,200 high resolution photographs made with a Canon EOS SLR. Here are some examples:

A nice Burak Connoisseur vintage pipe.

A nicely toned and gently used Stanwell pipe from Denmark.

Generally, to keep track of the pipes, we kept tabs with numerals next to each pipe while photographing and would photograph in sequence, getting all 4 of the pipe sides and marks clearly photographed before moving to the next pipe. I also reviewed the image that I took in the camera window prior to moving on to the next image, making sure the picture was of the quality I could use. The process took many hours to complete, but when done, I had everything I needed to catalog the vault into WorthPoint when I got home.

Photo of a Edwardian era dandy relaxing in a chair smoking his pipe.

Once I was back, I built a simple Excel spreadsheet with the pipes and was able to catalog the pipes into the spreadsheet by using the numbered images.  Each pipe had an entire row in the spreadsheet with the first column listing the pipe brand, then an additional column for model, length, condition, and comments, as well as value. I was actually able to find almost every pipe and model in the Worthopedia.

The favorite brand of pipe featured in the collection by far was Burak. This was a pipe store owned by Ed Burak on the Avenue of the Americas in New York City. Burak pipes are very collectible today, and because some of these in the collection were unique and difficult to value, we gave those pipes value ranges. One of my employees then transferred the spreadsheet input into the WorthPoint Vault TM, and now my friend’s widow has her husband’s collection preserved online for her to do with as she would choose.

For those of you who want to know the WorthPoint of the collection–about $65,000.

Photo of a young boy in dress (common for the time) posing with a pipe that likely belongs to his father. Not uncommon and I used to do the same.


Will Seippel is the founder, president, and CEO of WorthPoint. Will has been an avid collector since 1974 and dealer of just about all things antique—with an emphasis on ephemera— since 1984. He is also the creator and founder of HIP, a website devoted to recording the best of the world’s history that has been saved on film.

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