Why collect briar pipes ?

Pipe caricatura - Collezione F.lli Rossi

F.lli Rossi collection

In the last years the interest of Meerschaum and clay pipe collectors has extended to include briar pipes.

The interest in them has reached such a high level that a future boom in specialization is expected: there already exist experts who monitor quotations and keep contacts with all collectors in the world.

In the US, magazines about the matter are published, informing collectors about exhibitions, auctions, prices, etc.

Briar collectors’ requests nearly exclusively regard brands known worldwide, characteristic pieces by established artisans, limited or numbered series, specifically made for the collector.

In the near future straight grain and freehand pipes will be further considered antiques: due to their original shape, proportions, perfection of dimensions, the prestigious name, and that breath of fantasy the artist’s soul transmitted into his masterpiece. Not to underestimate the attractiveness of these pipes given by historical events relative to the pipe itself. In this regard we cite a couple of examples: during the War between 1914 and 1918 French soldiers were given briar tobacco pipes called “la pipe du Poilu”, that were very popular and I’d say bon marché; today, these pipes are hard to find and have a high quotation.

In 1904 Tzar Nicholas Romanov commissioned in France a batch of pipes made out of ebony wood, Russian, and precisely made of a single piece, for the officials of the Imperial Russian Navy who were departing for the war against Japan. The Russian fleet, as it is known, was annihilated in Tsushima. Less than a hundred pieces of those pipes are in possession of collectors, and therefore have considerable historical value.

It’s important to remember that raw material in Meerschaum pipes is always almost identical and uniform, while Erica Arborea varies from pipe to pipe; while having two or more identical Meerschaum pipes is possible, it is not so with briar pipes, as each piece has its own characteristics of purity, grain, what at least determines its individuality.

A final comment: in a recent meeting with foreign experts it has been observed that the value of first class pipes increases by at least 30% each year; in short, today collecting briar pipes is a convenient investment, unaffected by inflation, a global curse, as well as a pleasant enjoyment.

A recommendation: pipes enthusiasts, at least at the beginning, should address trained experts or specialized shops to buy or sell, or to have a precise quotation of the pieces the market offers.

Antonio Paolo Paronelli