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Saturday, December 30, 2006

Value and Mystique

The last pipes of 2006, or the first pipes of 2007? We'll see, depending on how much work I can get done tomorrow. If all goes well, these two will finish out to be a gorgeous freehand morta semi-poker, and a nice ring-grain briar. Trying to get anything done around the holidays is always an adventure in "maybes" - Maybe I'll get them finished, maybe we'll end up at a dinner or a party or something. But, I'm hoping to pass a quiet New Year this year, just like Christmas.

For those who might be interested, there's also an unsmoked example of one of the 2003 Ligne Bretagne Yule pipes available now on ebay. Check it out!

There's a discussion going on a private pipe forum I frequent that put this topic into my head. Perhaps I'm feeling nostalgic with the end of the year approaching, but it occurred to me to post something about what part of a pipe's perceived value comes from mystique. It often seems that at some time or another, every pipemaker gets accused of being overpriced based on hype, and Dunhill catches a lot of regular flack about this (Usually from people who would never spend more then $200 on any pipe regardless, but c'est ├ža).

On the one hand, you have the guys who want to value a pipe solely based on observable criteria - They've got their checklists and they'll sit and examine it under a magnifier looking for flaws and they're ready to obsess if they find this or that detail not quite right. But there's another school of thought that actually has more influence on pipe pricing and resell values through the years, and that is mystique. History, mystery, aura, influence, you name it - When you buy a Dunhill, you're buying a little echo of the man who refused to give up during the bombing of London, and went and set all his pipes up on tables in front of his ruined shop, and did business like that. There's a family history and a tradition there that adds value that's more than the quality of grain on the pipe, or whether they happen to make shapes in the Flavor of the Moment.

For those who enjoy mystique, their pipes are more than a cold recitation of techniques, they're a living connection to stories of adversity, adventure, tragedy, passion.... To all the things that make us human. I know that when I make a Talbert Briar, it isn't just an object, it's a little remnant of me that will (hopefully) be here when I'm gone, and carry with it a little of our adventures in entering the pipe world, moving overseas, the horrendous difficulties that we've endured, the wonderful friends we have made, the very strange sights that we've seen - In short, it isn't just a molded utilitarian object, it's a pipe that's been somewhere. A creation with depth that isn't in the thing itself, but rather in the story of how it came to be made.

And that's why mystique will always play a role in the wonderful world of pipes!