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Trends Discovered At Recent West Coast Pipe Show

The recently completed West Coast Pipe Show at the fabulous Palace Station Hotel & Casino in Las Vegas was an absolute blast! The $65-Million Dollar upgrade that the hotel has undergone over the last year and a half has made this hotel (most famous for being where O.J. Simpson was arrested after his Nationally Televised SUV trip in LA), a pure pleasure. It boasts a movie theater, the largest buffet in all of Las Vegas, an enlarged casino, many top notch restaurant choices, etc. It is the only pipe show in the country that still allows smoking in the show room, and even boasted a smoking lounge next to the show room where the old buffet used to be located.

My wife (Beverly), and I always treat this show as sort of a mini-vacation. She helps me take care of the traffic at my vendor’s booth during the weekend – I always make more sales when I’m wandering the show room floor and she’s manning the booth solo. Go figure – and then when the show ends on Sunday, we have a tradition of going to Caesar’s Palace where I sit and watch Sunday football games, smoking my pipe while drinking a margarita or two at the famous Casa Fuente Bar & Cigar Lounge while she snatches my credit card and goes shopping. The longer she’s gone the more nervous I get and the more I drink!

As for the show itself, Steve and Linda McNeil (now in their 11th year as the show organizers), and their terrific staff of volunteers, ensured the success of the show from start to finish. The show opened Saturday morning with over 100 vendor tables and traffic was heavy and a lot of sales were made. I sold 36 pipes at my table and other vendors and pipe makers were also doing well. One of the things I noticed immediately was the large number of American pipe makers who were making sales. Prices on their pipes seemed to be holding steady and those with recognizable names were keeping prices about where they’ve been the last several years. The newer pipe makers without name recognition were pricing their pipes in the same range and went back home with most of the inventory they brought. I think they’ll learn that marketing and name recognition over a period of years will earn them the prices for their pipes that they wanted immediately. But again, the trend here was that the established pipe makers were making sure that they were keeping their prices fair to both themselves and their customers.

As usual, the pricing on pipe tobacco was all over the map. Many of those who brought well aged old classics and rare tobacco to sell kept their prices affordable, but there were some who had unbelievably high prices on their offerings. One gentleman had a $250 price tag on a 100g tin of Frog Morton from 2007. Say what?! Conversely, another individual had a $75 price tag on a 50g tin of old Balkan Sobranie. I did a double take and told the fellow that if he would price it at $200 it would sell before the day was over. His eyes bulged as he asked me if I was joking. Long story short, he changed the price and sold the tin before the day was over.

Another trend that seems to be the norm at many of the pipe shows that I’ve attended this year, if not all of them, was to see so many younger people participating in the hobby. The under 40 crowd just keeps growing. Us old folks were there, as usual, but seeing couples in their 20’s and 30’s as well as singles in that age group, having such a great time at the show sure made me feel great. I hope the trend continues! Those young people were full of energy, asked lots of questions, and I received a lot of feedback from other vendors that the younger participants really made the show special for them, too.

The Saturday evening West Coast Pipe Show Dinner was also a blast. I served as the MC for the event and Shane Ireland of smokingpipes.com spoke with me about several subjects regarding our hobby and his comments were well received by the crowd. There were 14 American pipe makers in the audience and at one point I called all of them up to the stage to introduce themselves and then take questions from the audience. That was very informative and a lot of fun, too. At that dinner, American Pipe Maker David Huber was presented with the “Best Pipe in Show” award, and boy, was it ever a beauty! The included photo here does not do that pipe justice. It looked like a piece of art!

 

 

Although he is now retired, Mike McNiel of McClelland’s fame (seen in this photo with Bev & I at the show), shared his thoughts during a long visit regarding current tobacco trends. Probably the biggest change over the last decade is the way collectors have focused more on quality Virginia tobaccos rather than Latakia laden English blends. Quality Virginia leaf is not as easy to find as it once was, and when you find a blend or two that you enjoy, cellar it because the future of tobacco farming is unclear. Growing Virginia tobacco and processing it is very labor intensive and there just are not as many farmers eager to spend so much time on growing and harvesting a plant with an uncertain future. Let’s just hope that our battle with the tobacco Nazi’s of the world is a winning one!

Finally, Bev and I always take in a show each year on our Vegas trip. Since she is so accommodating and helpful at the pipe show, I treat her to whatever show she decides she wants to see. This year it was Gwen Stefani’s “Just a Girl” show at Planet Hollywood. Definitely not  the country music that I enjoy, but Gwen is not unpleasant to look at and she was full of energy. And since she dates country music star Blake Shelton, I was the forgiving sort and somewhat enjoyed the pop music that she is famous for.

 

Happy puffing,

Steve

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Much Needed Pipes & Tobaccos Inventions For Our Hobby!

Just between you and me, I don’t often just sit around and think. That sounds too much like work. “Anywhoo,” as my Pipestud’s Consignment Shop webmaster Andrew Wohlmuth likes to say, I recently did put my not often worn thinking hat on to see if maybe I could invent something that would be of value to the members of our pipe smoking hobbyists. After much pondering, I did come up with a list of items that I think I could sell for good money, but unfortunately, have no idea of how to actually make and sell these products. If you come up with a plan just let me know and I’ll split the profits with anyone who wants to follow up on any of these brilliant ideas that would certainly keep us in fancy pipes and tobaccos for the rest of our lives.

 

Here are some things that I would like to see on the market at some point in the near future:

The Warp 10 Mouse – I could easily sell this item to all of my First Responders members who would then be able to load their shopping carts and check out faster than anyone else once I publish the new listings each Saturday morning. No more discovering that you’ve been “robbed” when you are ready to pay for the items in your cart. The clicking speed of your mouse would be ten times the speed of light! 

 

The $100 Pipe Lighter that Actually Works – I don’t know about you, but every time a new pipe lighter hits the market I buy one. They all work great for about ten minutes, then the fuel tank starts to leak, the flame goes into hibernation, the striker and the flint don’t get along, the finish wears off, etc, etc, etc. I’ve got a drawer full of those sucker punching things! Would somebody please invent a lighter that is as faithful as the family dog?

 

Pipe Smokers Fire Proof Shirt & Britches – I’ve spent a fortune buying handsome shirts and pants to take to my next pipe show only to find out when I get home that they look worse than an old molded bag of Swiss Cheese. I promise you that I try to be careful, but somehow I manage to burn holes in whatever I am wearing and wind up chunking them into the nearest trash can when I get home, and then waste a bunch of good packing material – wadded up newspapers – to put on top of the clothes so that the wife won’t see my sloppiness and waste of good money. Would somebody please invent fire proof shirts and pants to stop the madness?

Heat Proof Tongue Sheath – And while on the subject of heat, just how hard would it be to find a way to cover the tongue while smoking? I’m out in my shop working all day listing tobaccos for my website that make my mouth water. Naturally, that makes me want to load up a pipe and smoke it. So I do. And when I’m at a pipe show everybody in the place invites me to try one of their special blends. So I do. Home or away, I wind up going to bed every night with my tongue in a sling. HELP!

Babe Magnet Pipe Tobacco – This invention would be especially nice for those of us who enjoy Latakia. Instead of having those good looking ladies running for the exit every time you light up your well aged and delicious old Latakia blends, wouldn’t it be nice, if instead, they were fighting over each other to cozy up next to you for a whiff? Of course it would! Would someone please invent a Latakia blend that smelled like Kalvin Klein’s Obsession? Naturally, I don’t want the blend to taste like Obsession, just smell like it. Wouldn’t it be wonderful if your wife was inviting you to spend a spellbinding night in bed with her instead of her telling you to go sleep out in the the barn or garage?

 

Tooth Mark Proof Titanium Pipe Stem – I don’t know about you, but I can put a tooth mark on Acrylic, Vulcanite, Bone, and even paper mache’ stems. I once had a consignor who sent me a batch of his pipes to sell that had tooth marks all over the place and he didn’t even have any teeth. I think he was from Arkansas. I don’t want anyone from Arkansas to get mad at me but their state is where the toothbrush was invented. How do I know that? Well, if it was invented in any other state it would be called a teethbrush. Anyway, is there somebody out there in cyber-space who can invent a comfortable stem that doesn’t act like those molds that dentists use for impressions of our teeth?

Bowl Cake Remover that works in seconds! – I don’t know about you, but I’ve had to purchase new pipe reamers about once a month for the last 20-years. Not only do my own pipes build up cake quickly, I sell about 40 pipes a week on eBay from consignors. And for many, their idea of a clean bowl is way different than my own. When I get otherwise nice pipes in here to sell and see a cake build-up that would rival the stalagmite at Carlsbad Caverns, I am not happy. Talk about working up a sweat and dulling blades! I’d sure like to treat cake build-up easily by just squirting a bit of Mr. Clean Bowl Cake Remover into the bowl and watch it all fall out. Can anybody out there help me, please?

 

Spit Wad Pipe Tobacco – Wouldn’t it be great if when you opened a tin of tobacco the leaf would be in perfect little wads so that all you had to do was pull one out and put it in your pipe? Those little wads would be pre-packed just right (not too loose and not too tight). And you could purchase the tins with the gauge on the label. Example; let’s say that you smoke group-4 sized pipes, so the next time you order a tin of G.L. Pease Haddo’s Delight, you just order a 4-gauge tin of the weed. If you’re like that famous guy who smokes gargantuan pipes (Rich Esserman), order the Haddo’s in the 10-gauge size. Simple, right?

 

Blenders Stamp all tins and bags with date of production – This one would save me untold hours of work. Over the years I have amassed countless files to help me date tins. I often get in tins to sell that the owners say are at least 10-years old but they can’t remember exactly when they purchased them. I have no problem with Pease, McClelland’s and other blenders who date stamp or date code their tins, but as you know, there are plenty of them who don’t. Instead of having to search through my files to check things like changes in the tin labels, weights, sizes, recipe, etc, it sure would be nice to just look at the tin bottom to get the year of make by the date stamp.

 

Pipe Tamper Necklace – I never lose a pipe (well, there was that one time in Vegas when I had one margarita too many… ), and I never lose a lighter, but I darned sure can lose pipe tampers. Those little buggers can escape with no trace at any time. It doesn’t matter whether I’m toting around an expensive tamper or a ten penny nail, they’ll just flat disappear on me. I’m sure a lot of you suffer the same fate with your tampers. Why can’t someone invent a handsome necklace that will always keep the tamper secure, yet have a little latch of some sort you can clip the tamper on and off of in an instant? I’d sure buy it!

Again, if any of you want to take one of my superb ideas and run with it, feel free to do so. Just remember to split your profits with me!

Happy puffing,

Steve

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Current Trends in the Pipes & Tobaccos Market

I have spent quite a few years as a member of the pipes and tobaccos hobby. In fact, quite a few decades (despite my obvious youthful appearance), and I have seen all kinds of changes in the hobby since I first jumped in back in the early 1970’s. The biggest change, without question, has been the amazing battle we are having with those who actually want to do away with our hobby. I simply fail to capture the vision. Why is the legalization of marijuana sweeping the country while at the same time the “anti-smoking” crowd is trying to snuff out our pipes filled with simply pipe tobacco? And some of those people are the ones regularly taking tokes on hemp weed! And did you know that there has NEVER been a single certifiable study done on nicotine that says that drug is dangerous or hazardous to your health? Yes, it is addictive. But no one in the history of mankind has overdosed and died by smoking a pipe filled with pipe tobacco. No one has crashed their car and killed innocent people by smoking a pipe filled with simply pipe tobacco because it impaired their judgement. Can the same be said for marijuana? No! My oldest son is a police officer and he says that over the years that he has been in law enforcement, there have been many reports of serious accidents caused by individuals who were high on weed, but that he’s never seen or heard of a single report of an auto accident with injuries (or even without injuries), caused by someone who was impaired because he/she was smoking a pipe filled with nothing more than pipe tobacco. Have you?

Another major change that I have noticed occurred just a couple of years ago when McClelland’s shut down. All of a sudden, the collectors were (and still are), hoarding Virginia leaf because they discovered what McClelland’s had known for quite some time, quality Virginia leaf – particularly the sweetly tart and high sugar content Red Virginias – were getting scarce. I could use up a lot of cyber space going into all the reasons why, but suffice to say that Mike and Mary McNiel (owners of McClelland’s), knew what they were talking about when they said that the quality of the Virginia leaf they needed to continue the high standards that their blends required was just too hard to find to stay in business. Plus, they were just worn out fighting the “anti’s” who were making it harder and harder for them to stay in business without being tobacco taxed through the roof. Don’t get me wrong, there is still quality Red and other varietals of Virginia leaf still being grown, but because so many long-time tobacco farmers have spit the bit due to mounting losses, the quantity has diminished.

Now for some good news; there is still some very nice, quality tobacco being harvested in the USA and elsewhere according to the blenders that I have talked to, and enough buying power is still out there to keep them in business. Oriental tobacco of exceptional quality is still being imported from other parts of the world, and the USA, in particular, is still enjoying relative success in growing and harvesting outstanding Burley leaf – although in lesser numbers than the roaring 20’s through the 1970’s. As for Perique, Mark Ryan has helped that special processed tobacco enjoy a renaissance due to sheer dedication and willpower. The Perique he is producing in Louisiana is nothing short of spectacular, especially considering his daily battles with the FDA, the anti smoking Nazi’s, etc. With the likes of Mark, Gregory Pease, Russ Ouellette and several other blenders of quality and character both here and abroad, I think we will be just fine.

Why am I so optimistic that we’re not going away anytime soon? One of the main reasons is that at all the pipe shows I attend, I am seeing great resolve from the younger pipe smokers. Let me tell you something folks, the Gen-X and Millennial’s are a lot tougher than you think. They are getting “in your face” with the vocal and wimpy anti smoking crowd, telling them that they have equal rights and don’t need to be told what to do or what not to do when it comes to their pipe smoking. Just recently at the Kansas City Pipe Show I had the opportunity to visit with pipe makers in their 20’s and 30’s (and simply pipe smokers in that age group, too), and they were fiery and determined to enjoy what they are doing and ready to fight the old guard with all the vibrant energy that they have in order to continue to enjoy the wonderful hobby that they have chosen to be a part of.

One of the young folks that I thoroughly enjoyed visiting with was a big, strapping young man by the name of Alexander Hasty. One of his pipes was selected for the annual North American Pipe Makers 7-Day set that was actually won by his father. Alex is a former major college basketball player, was a starter for four years, and while friendly, I could see that he was a fighter. I’d hate to go toe to toe with him, and as you can see by this photo of an Alexander Hasty pipe that I purchased from him at the show, I would rather smoke one of his pipes than do battle with him any day of the week and twice on Sundays! That young man has talent and I predict that his pipes will soon be among the elite.

Ever heard the expression,”Don’t feed the trolls”? “Trolls” refers to a problem in today’s digital world – online users, who repeatedly post intentionally inflammatory and hurtful comments on news or social media discussion boards. But ignoring such comments – not “feeding” the trolls – makes it harder for them to derail a conversation. Of course, it’s nothing new to encounter people who aren’t genuinely interested in productive conversation. And all of this certainly applies to our own P&T hobby. Instead of focusing on the negatives, I like to focus on all of the positives. And attending the most recent Kansas City Pipe Show on Sep. 21 & 22, further solidified my love for this hobby. Being able to share positive and fun P&T stories with like minded individuals, and being around literally dozens of classy ladies and gentlemen who share our hobby, was once again a blessing to me. Kudos to the Greater Kansas City Pipe Show organizers and club president Quinton Wells for their efforts to put on a fun show for everyone who attended. If you want to experience a pipe show that epitomizes hospitality, put that one on your calendar!

Happy Puffing,

Steve

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Rating Pipe Tobaccos and Being Spotted in Lego Land

At the recently completed NASPC Pipe Show in Columbus, Ohio I spent a lot of time talking pipe tobaccos with many of the attendees and vendors. Since I’ve been putting tobacco in pipes and then smoking the contents for over 45-years, and because I run a website that features pipe tobacco,  and especially because I look old and harmless, people just seem to gravitate towards me when they want to share their pipe tobacco experiences. And I love that. Seeing how excited so many of our fellow hobbyists seem to be when discussing pipe weed gets me excited too! I was especially thrilled to discuss  pipes and tobaccos with so many younger people who attended the NASPC Show. Those young folks are the future of our hobby, and to be able to share in their youthful enthusiasm made even me feel more youthful. My only regret is that it didn’t help me look more youthful, too (insert heavy sigh here).

 

At the NASPC Show I had several very kind comments about my reviews over the years on https://www.tobaccoreviews.com/ and questions regarding what methods I used to rate tobaccos. That was actually a discussion I had several years ago with world renown blenders Greg Pease, Tad Gage, and Dr. Fred Hanna. Pease has created some of the world’s finest ever blends such as Bohemian Scandal. Hanna is the inventor of two very special blends that were top sellers for McClellands – Wilderness and Legends. And Gage gave us his famous and delicious 3 Oaks recipes. We visited at the year 2013 Kansas City Pipe Show and I love this picture of those three famous blenders sitting together at that show as I photo bombed them in the background! Pease is on the left, Hanna is in the middle with Gage on the right. Pease has such a scientific approach to judging blends that it would take someone who understood Einstein’s E = mc2 theory to figure out how he does it. Hanna, because he has a doctorate in Psychiatry and could already get into other people’s minds, found a way to get into their taste buds too, by coming up with a formula for normal people like you and me to chart our own tobacco ratings. It is a fabulous formula that I follow religiously and maybe you will, too. Here it is and it has been very helpful to me: http://www.naspc.org/images/tobaccoratingform.pdf

 

In my last blog post, I lamented the loss of one of our hobby’s great pipe makers, Bruce Weaver. And now I must lament the loss of another wonderful man. This time a gentleman who had been in the hobby for decades and appreciated the artistry and functionality of smoking pipes as much as anyone that I’ve had the pleasure to know. His name is Mitch Michelson and he resided in San Antonio, Texas until his untimely death (heart attack), at the age of 65 just recently on August 28th of this year. This is a photo taken at a Steak House in Chicago this past May, where I had the pleasure of dining with Mitch and several of his closest friends in the hobby while attending the Chicago Pipe Show. From left to right in the photo – Mitch, myself, pipe maker Jeff Gracik (J. Alan Pipes), and well known high grade pipe collectors David Wrubel and Dr. Fred Berger. Mitch, although a very highly successful businessman, was always very humble and gracious. He was always first in line to give generously of his time and enjoyed life to the fullest. While greatly saddened by Mitch’s death, it reminded me of just how wonderful the pipe and tobacco hobby is because it is loaded with good folks like Mitch Michelson. And I have been blessed to be around people like him every time I go to a pipe show. We’ll sure miss you, Mitch!

Finally, I opened my Facebook page the other day to see this photo staring me in the face. It was sent to me by Sally Gottliebson, know in our hobby’s circles as The Pipe Tart. She has a great website where she sells beautiful pipes: https://www.thepipetart.com/ and she is another person this hobby is blessed to have around. Anyway, accompanying this photo was a note from Sally saying, “Hey Pipestud, is this you at Lego Land?

Happy puffing to all,

Steve

 

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Bruce Weaver & My Magic Pipe

I have a magic pipe and I am sure many of you do, too. You know what I am talking about; a pipe in your collection that no matter how much or how little you smoke it, the pipe performs beautifully.

My magic pipe is this amazing early production Bruce Weaver sandblasted Lovat that I purchased from Bruce at the 2008 Kansas City Pipe Show. It broke in easily and quickly. This pipe is so amazing that it has been my first pipe of the day smoker every day of the week since 2008. Folks, that’s 365 days a year for the last 11-years! Well, except for about a two week period when I showed the pipe to Bruce a few years after the purchase when he told me that he makes thinner and more comfortable stems than back when he made mine. He told me to give it to him and he would make an even better stem for it – at no cost. I cried a little when I handed the pipe to him but two weeks later when the pipe came back with the new stem, I was overjoyed as it was indeed more comfortable.

This is a photo of the other Bruce Weaver pipes that I have added to my collection over the years. All of them are terrific smokers in their own right, but none have hit the magic pipe category. I am of the opinion that true magic pipes may show up in one’s collection once or twice in a pipe smoker’s lifetime. I’m still hunting for my second magic pipe and maybe one day I’ll be lucky enough to find one.

 

 

 

Bruce Weaver was called home to Heaven a week ago (dec. July 27, 2019). He had died peacefully in his sleep at the age of 67. Bruce retired a few years ago from pipe making after a near death experience when an aortic aneurysm was discovered to be leaking near his heart. He wanted to spend more time with the three children that he raised by himself. The world lost a great pipe maker when he retired. As many of you know, Bruce Weaver pipes were considered to be among the best in the world. Whether smooth or sandblasted and no matter what the shape, Bruce made his pipes perfectly with only the finest wood available and the drilling was always perfect, too.

Bruce’s favorite tobacco was the old Murray’s era Three Year Matured, and I can’t count the number of tins of that blend that he purchased from my website over the years, but it was a bunch. I sent him some complimentary tins of that blend once a couple of years back, but he’d have none of it and paid me for them despite my protestations. He was sneaky; he just deposited the funds into my PayPal account and told me that I better not return the money.

Bruce Weaver’s story is a fascinating one. He was a world class swimmer in his younger days, he was a world class father, he was a world class pipe maker, but most importantly, he was a world class human being. I will miss our phone conversations greatly, but am placated by the fact that Bruce is now in Heaven with the parents he greatly loved and respected, as well as his Lord. Bruce’s story regarding how he lived and many of his accomplishments can be found in his obituary here – https://www.dignitymemorial.com/obituaries/nashville-tn/bruce-weaver-8793144

I am now headed off to sit and reflect on my wonderful and way too short friendship with Bruce Weaver by smoking my magic pipe filled with a bowl of Murray’s era Three Year Matured.

Happy puffing,

Steve

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The Top-10 Pipe Questions Sent To Pipestud

I sure received a lot of emails from those of you who read and enjoyed my blog of a month or so ago where I let you see my list of all-time greatest pipe tobacco related questions that have been sent to me over the years. And now, I’m following up with my top-10 list of funniest pipe related questions that I’ve ever received. As I’m sure you will agree, many of these questions are so off the wall that it’s hard to believe that they were even asked. I am always happy to respond to questions even if I have no answer myself or can’t find one.  In those instances I just cross my fingers and do my best.

Some of these questions and responses have appeared over the years in the NASPC Pipe Collector Magazine, as I have been a regular columnist for that wonderful P&T hobby publication for at least 10-years, so some of those may already be familiar to you. I have listed the ten questions in no particular order and if you find yourself on this list, congratulations!

  1. Question– I won that Castello Great Line eBay auction from you a couple of days ago. Don’t worry, I’ll get payment to you in a couple of weeks or so. My wife needed some pharmacy stuff which cleaned me out of the cash that I was going to use to pay for the pipe with.

Pipestud – I sell on consignment and would rather not tell the owner of that pipe that he’ll need to wait a few weeks to get his payment because of the winning bidder’s wife’s pharmaceutical needs. I have a great idea! Why don’t you just tell the pharmacist to give you your money back and pay me? You can tell the pharmacist that he’ll get paid in a few weeks.

  1. Question– Pipestud, I’m the guy who won five of your pipe auctions yesterday and I got my combined invoice. I guess I didn’t realize that I’d spent over $900 for those pipes. Anyway, I have a couple of other pipes I won from other eBay sellers right now and can’t pay all of you as I am a little strapped for cash in my PayPal account. But don’t worry, I’ll get you paid in a couple of weeks.

Pipestud – I don’t want to sound rude, but am not concerned about the other auctions that you have won. How about paying me for the deals you just consummated with me? I’m so greedy I just can’t stand myself.

  1. Question– I just received the Peterson’s pipe that I won on your eBay site and you sold me a pipe that has obviously already been smoked! It has cake in the bowl and tooth scratching on the stem. Nobody wants to buy an already smoked pipe and I demand an immediate refund!

Pipestud – What part of the item description did you not understand? Was it the part where I listed the pipe as used? Or, maybe it was the part where I said the pipe has been well smoked and retains light tooth marks on the stem? I note that you just joined eBay a month ago and have a feedback rating of (2). Here’s a tip. In the future, reading the seller’s item descriptions should be helpful to you. And for the record, more used pipes are sold on eBay every day than new ones.

  1. Question– Dear Seller, I bought this pipe a month or so ago but want to return it for a full refund and I am warning you that you will receive NEGATIVE FEEDBACK if you do not agree to do so. I bought this pipe for a friend in Russia and sent the pipe to him at his address in Kazan, but he never received it. Apparently, it was lost in the mail, which is certainly not my fault and you need to make good on the loss.

Pipestud – You must be writing to me from an asylum for the insane. But thanks for the heads up. I forwarded your email to eBay and fortunately, they assure me that any negative feedback you leave will be removed as I am not responsible for your shipping issues. And just a quick question; How’d you manage to get out of your straight jacket to bid on my auction?

  1.    Question– I am going to return this Aldo Velani pipe. I am an expert on this brand and have over 60 of them in my collection. This pipe is an obvious forgery. The writing on the wood, which we in the pipe collecting business call “nomenclature,” has a totally different font style than any of the others. This is just another sad indication of eBay allowing people who have no expertise in what they sell to sell anyway with reckless abandon.

Pipestud – Forgive my ignorance and please return the pipe for your $27.50 refund. I should have known that a pipe that expensive would be a prime target for potential forgeries.

  1.    Question– Pipestud, I am sorry but am going to have to return this Stanwell pipe. I know that you listed the size and weight but you need to be more careful when taking photos. Your pictures made this pipe look a lot bigger than it really is.

Pipestud – Oh sure, just send that pipe back for a full refund. And thanks for the heads up on the photos. It sounds to me like I need to buy a smaller camera. Do you think that will fix my issues with the pictures coming out so big?

  1. Question– I read in your eBay terms/conditions that people with (0) feedback must email you first before bidding. I was going to email you anyway because I like that Cavicchi Canadian. Rather than payment through PayPal, would you accept a pipe of equal or greater value in trade? I have a rare, unsmoked pipe that my late father owned. I believe it was made by a famous doctor and even has his name stamped on the pipe, Dr. Grabow. I can send you pictures if you want to do the trade.

Pipestud – Sorry for my delayed reply to your email. I had to think long and hard about your trade offer but in the end, have decided to take a pass.

  1. Question– I have seen many eBay auctions, including some of yours, where pipes are described as “nose warmers.” That style of pipe must be popular and there’s no doubt a good reason that pipe smokers want to keep their noses warm while smoking. Can you tell me what that reason is?

Pipestud – Thanks for your question. I’m really not sure why pipe smokers want to keep their noses warm while smoking. Maybe to prevent the formation of buggers up their snouts that could fall into the bowls?

  1. Question– Just curious; I see that you have a no questions asked return policy. If I buy an unsmoked pipe from you and smoke it and decide that I don’t want it, can I return it for a full refund, too? I ask because I am thinking about bidding on that new Jeff Gracik pipe of yours that still has a couple of days before the auction ends and the bidding is already over $400. That would be a lot of money to spend on a pipe that I decided didn’t smoke well enough and wanted to return it.

Pipestud – There is a caveat to that policy. If you read further you will note that it has to be returned in the condition you received it in. If you won the Gracik pipe, it would be sent to you unsmoked and would need to be returned to me unsmoked.  If you do smoke it and don’t like it you can send it back to me to re-sell as one of my consignments. I love double dipping to make money twice on the same pipe.  (-:

  1. This is not really a question but an occurrence – A few years ago a consignor sent me a very nice Pre-Trans Barlings EXEXEL Billiard pipe to sell. It arrived in a plain brown box and when I opened the box, the pipe was carefully wrapped up in a male Depends diaper! I carefully pulled out the diaper wrapped pipe (I say carefully because I wasn’t sure whether it was a new or “estate” diaper – thank goodness it was new), and found a note. It said the following – “Steve, here is the pipe that I want you to sell for me. I would like for you to return the diaper in this same box and please don’t ask any questions.”

Pipestud – I did as I was asked and sent the diaper back in same box and sure as heck didn’t ask any questions, mainly because I didn’t want to know the answer!

Happy puffing to all,

Steve

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“Yes Santa Claus, there is a Virginia” and a Stinky Story

Although it is certainly true that quality Virginia tobacco is harder to find these days, there is still a lot of really good Virginia leaf out there. G.L. Pease, for example, uses terrific Virginia leaf of all types in his blends. Although harder to locate these days since production is nowhere near the level it was even a decade ago, I am still hearing good things from blenders regarding our sacred Virginia leaf and I sure do continue to sample as much variety as possible.

Not too long ago a customer of mine gifted me some Virginia tobacco that he thought was superb; John Aylesbury Sir John’s Broken Virginia. I’ll tell you about it in a moment, but first, John Aylesbury is not a real person. It is a company in Germany that represents, among other things, the tobacco blending house, Planta, located in Regenstauf, Germany. Aylesbury also represents a “small batch” of tobacco growers that has Planta make their blends under the John Aylesbury name. In turn, F&K Cigar is the USA importer of many of those blends. The Sir John’s series of tobaccos is made and imported irregularly. Until my customer’s gift, I’d only smoked one other Aylesbury Sir John’s blend, Curly Cut. I liked it but didn’t think it was special enough to purchase more. A totally different story with Sir John’s Broken Virginia. Here is my review of that one just a month or so ago on www.tobaccoreviews.com after I’d smoked a few bowls –

“The color of the leaf was both bright and dark, and the tin aroma was heavenly; sweet over ripe plumbs comes to mind. At the match there wasn’t much to brag about, but after the first layer had been consumed I detected more depth and the nicotine hit came through a little stronger than what I expect from Virginia Bright. The depth of the Virginia flavor got a little better once I reached the halfway point but never blossomed fully. I suspect this one will age well as the sugar content was halfway up the ladder. I was impressed by the overall presentation after the first couple of bowls I smoked, and think this is a very fine mid-range Virginia for those who prefer sweeter leaf and some of that good old Vitamin N. No worries if you have a sensitive waggler either. This one does not bite which tells me the leaf is of good quality.”

I have since tried to get the Sir John’s Flake Virginia, but it seems to be sold out everywhere I’ve looked. Not surprising, as again, it is produced and imported sparingly. I may not be frugal with my spending when I do finally locate it! I personally think that it’s delicious even fresh, and seems to be a type of tobacco that will age well.  So, don’t give up on finding quality Virginia leaf as it’s still out there!

Continue reading “Yes Santa Claus, there is a Virginia” and a Stinky Story

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Pipestud’s Top-10 All-Time Favorite Pipe Smoking Tips

I don’t know about you, but I’ve tried just about every pipe smoking tip ever offered to me – and that’s a lot of tips since I’ve been puffing on my briars for over 45-years. Some tips that I tried were so off the wall bad that I’m too embarrassed to even tell you about the ones in that category that I was suckered into trying. I will, however, share some with you that I consider to be “tip worthy,” and use myself either all the time, frequently, or sometimes. And by the way, those of you who are members of my First Responders email group will find some of these tips to be familiar since I have shared some of them in my weekly Pipestud’s Consignment Shop Newsletters over the years. These tips are offered in no particular order of importance to me. I just numbered them so that I would know to stop typing after I completed tip No. 10.

Tip #1 – Did you know that it is easy to tell the difference between a vulcanite and acrylic stem? There are, in fact, two sure fire ways to do it, even if both stems look shiny black. Take a bright penlight and put it right up to the acrylic stem. You will note that as you run the penlight up and down the length of the stem, the color is a uniform slate gray. Now, do the same thing with a vulcanite stem. You will immediately note that the color of the vulcanite stem looks brownish under the bright light. And, depending on the sulphur content, the color may vary a little as you move the light up and down the stem. Another easy way to tell the difference between vulcanite and acrylic stems is what I call, “the smell test.” First, grip the vulcanite stem firmly in one hand and then place the thumb on your other hand firmly down on the top of the stem and rub back and forth vigorously for  about  ten seconds. Then, put the rubbed part of the stem up to your nose and take a whiff. You will immediately note a burnt rubber smell. When you do the same thing with an acrylic stem, there will be no smell at all.

Tip #2 – One tip that was taught to me many years ago that added to my smoking enjoyment as much as any other tip that I’ve ever received was learning to dry out tobacco that was too moist. Different blends dry out at different speeds, so there is a learning curve. But, when you think you’ve dried out your tobacco just a little too much, that is when it is probably just right. Moisture produces flavor robbing steam to the smoke and steam is a lot hotter than the actual smoke, too. So, the more dry the tobacco the less heat on the tongue. When you pinch a wad of tobacco between your thumb and finger, if it springs back quickly then you have just the right moisture level. If it stays stuck together then dry it some more.

Tip #3 – In a year 1996 issue of Pipes & Tobaccos Magazine, there was a story on famous American pipe maker Michael Butera. In the article, Butera said he used a one speed food processor to chop up all of his tobacco as it aided in mixing all the components evenly which made packing easier and presented a more even burn for a cooler smoke. It also enable the smoker to relight less frequently since there were fewer gaps between tobacco and air. So, I purchased one of those gizmo’s and was an immediate believer. Just make sure that you purchase a one speed food processor and not a mixer that has a much higher resolution speed or all you’ll get is tobacco puree’.  * Please Note – Make sure the food processor is your own. Before mine arrived I was eager to start the process and snuck the blender that my wife used to make her morning orange juice/banana drink. Due to the high resolution speed of the blender, my tobacco was almost soup. I thought I had cleaned the mess up pretty well, but she was none too pleased the next morning when, while drinking her concoction, she found shards of Latakia mixed in with her drink. I’m not sure that I’m out of the doghouse yet for that one!

Tip #4 – Keep your pipes clean! I can’t count the times that I have had consignors send me pipes to sell who say the pipe or pipes they were sending just don’t smoke as good as they used to. And, 9 times out of 10 those pipes arrive looking nice on the outside and the tobacco chamber is nicely reamed, BUT, when I run an EverClear soaked pipe cleaner through them to check for internal cleanliness, I often find out that the pipe is absolutely filthy on the inside with a nasty build up of gooey tars and even cake that has nearly clogged up the air hole entrance to the tobacco chamber. Not only is the draw restricted, but all that build-up of nastiness destroys the true flavor of what you are smoking. Most of those “pipe sweeteners” that you purchase online are junk. They have little alcohol content and only cover the sour taste of a dirty pipe for a bowl or two. It’s best to use the highest proof alcohol you can get your hands on and most of the professional pipe refurbishers suggest 190 Proof EverClear (some states only allow 150 proof), and either one is outstanding. After every 10-20 bowls of tobacco you smoke, just run EverClear soaked cleaners through the stem down to the chamber opening until they come back clean. Then twist a paper towel down into the bowl to dry and clean it. I also take my pipe apart and use an EverCear soaked Q-tip to clean the mortise. 24 hours later, grab that clean pipe and commence to smoking again!

Tip #5 – I learned this trick many years ago regarding the easiest and most simple way to re-hydrate dry tobacco. Simply load your pipe with the tobacco, then take a deep breath and put your mouth over the top of the bowl and slowly exhale down into the bowl as your breath moves down through the leaf and then up the shank and out the stem. You will be absolutely shocked and amazed. Your bowl of tobacco will be perfectly re-hydrated. It is best to practice this first on your wife or girlfriend.

Tip #6 – Layering your tobacco can produce really fun results! Here is a quick example of what I like to call a “Parfait smoke” – I recently decided to try a new style of Virginia/Perique smoking experience. I have a Jerry Crawford pipe that seems to smoke VaPer’s very well. It is a straight billiard tanblast with a medium sized, thick bowl. I loaded the first two thirds of the bowl with some old McCranie’s ’96 Vintage Crop Red Ribbon and then topped it off with the final third of the bowl being some old year 1994 McClelland’s Blending Perique. Once lit, the straight Perique traveled down the bowl through the Red Virginia which softened the Perique’s flavor and actually gave off a little flavor of its own as the Virginia leaf began to “sweat” a bit from the heat above. The rich bottom notes of the Virginia became more pronounced as the fire began consuming it, yet the Perique presentation remained noticeable throughout the remainder of the smoke even though the Perique itself had been totally consumed. A really fun smoking experience!
Tip #7 – Flake Fun! For long lasting cool smokes, try tightly rolling your flakes and stuffing them down into the bowl of your pipe. Take a small portion of the flake and fully rub it out and put it at the top of the bowl to help get the fire going when you light up. You will discover that while you’ll probably need a lot more relights than with a ribbon or shag cut tobacco, the smoke will be cooler due to all the free flowing air down in the bowl that will join the smoke as it travels up the shank and stem into your mouth. There is a downside; the depth of the flavor of the tobacco that you smoke will not be as pronounced as it would have been had you fully rubbed out the flake and put it into your pipe that way. Such a presentation gets more of the flavorful smoke and less air into your mouth as you puff. So, if you prefer a lighter tasting blend, don’t rub out the flakes and if you prefer a stronger tasting blend, rub out to your heart’s content.
Tip #8 – How to properly tamp your pipe? Well, there are more ways to tamp your tobacco as you smoke than one might think. I recently learned of a trick that has worked wonderfully for me. Thanks to well known pipe maker and pipe repair man Tim West for this one. As you smoke, tamp down directly into the center of your bowl. This pushes down the burnt leaf and causes the unburned tobacco around the inner edges of the tobacco chamber to “cave in” to the center so that with your second tamp, you are forcing the unburned leaf to evenly cover the center so that when you relight, it gets the flame’s heat first so that you are consuming all of your tobacco, and most importantly, helps keep the pipe lit as you continue puffing.
Tip #9 – I strongly agree with the thought that specific blend types should always be smoked in a pipe that has been reserved exclusively for those types of blends. If you smoke Latakia in a particular pipe and then smoke a straight Virginia in the same pipe the very next bowl, you will taste the remnants of the Latakia no matter how well you clean the pipe before making the switch. To get the true taste of the Virginia blend you are smoking, make sure you smoke that blend only in your pipes that are dedicated to Virginia tobaccos and vice versa. Perique and aromatic blends also leave heavy “ghosting,” and should be treated in the same manner. Burley and Orientals don’t really do much ghosting, but still, try to keep the blend types separate in order to get the truest taste from each blend that you smoke.

Tip #10 – Puff as slowly as possible. When you “sip” rather than puff like a runaway freight train, two things occur and both of them are good. Number one, the slower the cadence the cooler the smoke and less heat means more flavor. Number two, you have less chance of getting a case of nasty old tongue bite!

It is my hope that at least one of the above tips will improve your smoking enjoyment. If so, then blog post mission accomplished!
Happy puffing,
Steve
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The Top-10 Pipe Tobacco Questions Sent To Pipestud

As many of you know, I keep a file of some of the greatest pipe and tobacco questions that I have ever received over my almost 20-years of online selling. Most of them are truly well thought out and a pleasure to respond to. On the other hand, I get in a few that are so outlandish that I can’t believe they were even asked. I am always happy to respond to questions even if I have no answer myself or can’t find one.  This pipe and tobacco hobby of ours is chock full of mysteries and while I am no Sherlock Holmes, I actually love to try to find answers to all the questions I receive, or, at least make up a good one. Hey, why let the facts get in the way of a good answer?

I recently went over my long list of pipe tobacco questions that have been emailed to me over the years and after much contemplation, have come up with the Top-10 list of greatest questions that I’ve ever received to share with you. I have listed the ten questions in no particular order and if you find yourself on this list, congratulations!

  1. Question– I hear people talking all the time about Hobbit Weed from the Lord of the Rings Movies. What exactly is Hobbit Weed?

Pipestud – It was grown and smoked by the hobbits of the Shire and enjoyed by both men and wizards alike. It had disappeared for centuries before G.L. Pease uncovered a large batch and began processing and blending it for the annual NASPC Shows in Columbus, Ohio.

  1. Question– I know this is probably a far out question, but I am sort of a history buff and have read that late 1700’s frontiersman Daniel Boone was a pipe smoker. If that is true, have you ever heard of his favorite kind of tobacco to smoke back in those days?

Pipestud – Oh sure. It is pretty common knowledge that Dan particularly enjoyed the old Elephant & Castle blend named Deerstalker.

  1. Question– I am 22-years old and just starting to smoke a pipe. I saw where you have reviewed thousands of tobaccos on the website tobaccoreviews.com, so, I figured you would be a good person to ask this question. My mom was not very happy when she found out that I was smoking a pipe and told me that doing so could actually cause Herpes. Have you ever heard that?

Pipestud – No. But it can give you tongue bite if you don’t practice safe puffing.

  1. Question– My girlfriend hates my pipe smoking because she says it gives me bad breath. Is this a problem for other pipe smokers? And if so, is there a solution to this problem?

Pipestud – Yes, it has been a problem for some pipe smokers and my advice has always been for them to dump their girlfriend and find another one who has Anosmia. Or, brush your teeth prior to kissing, whichever is easiest for you.

  1.    Question– I know this probably sounds crazy, but I try to make my pipe smoking as safe as possible for me. Is there a way to make pipe tobacco safer before smoking it?

Pipestud – Absolutely. I stick all of my full and sealed tins that I am going to smoke into an autoclave machine and run it for two minutes. That will eliminate any chance of you catching everything but the common cold.

  1.    Question– I want to try some of the tobaccos that are on your website but they are pretty expensive. Do you offer a money back guarantee if I don’t like something I buy from you and return it?

Pipestud – I’ll make you a deal. If your local grocery store accepts a return on the next can of beans you purchase and then return because you didn’t like the flavor, I’ll do the same with any tin of tobacco you try from my website. Deal? * Update on 6/22/19 – Crawfish time! – I recently learned that some grocery store chains actually will accept returns on certain items if the customer did not like the taste. So, I am officially and publicly withdrawing that offer. I don’t want to return  $300 of one of my consignor’s money because the customer didn’t like the taste of his Balkan Sobranie 759!

  1. Question– I’ve read on the Internet (especially on a couple of pipe forums that I’m a member of), that Latakia is actually smoked over piles of camel dung. Is that true?

Pipestud – I actually have gotten that question several times over the years and it’s a big bunch of poop. Latakia is actually smoked over piles of smoldering old car tires and that’s why it smells the way it does when you are smoking it.

  1. Question– This might be a dumb question, but are there any tobacco blends that have beef or chicken in it?

Pipestud – You are right, that is a dumb question. In fact, one of the dumbest questions that I’ve ever heard.

  1. Question– Just curious; if you couldn’t smoke pipe tobacco what would you smoke?

Pipestud – If you don’t mind, I don’t think I will answer your question because in some states my answer could get me arrested.

  1. Question – A few days ago I purchased one of those limited edition Lord of the Rings tobaccos made by Greg Pease from your website. I got it today and thanks for the fast shipping but I have a question. In the tobacco description on the back of the tin it says that this tobacco was found in an oak barrel that had washed ashore from the sea. I was wondering if you think that maybe sea salt seeped into the barrel and if so, would that maybe make the tobacco not good for consumption?

Pipestud – Yes, sea salt did infiltrate the tobacco, and on the contrary, it made it better and that’s why those tins are so collectible. Whenever I purchase one, after opening the tin I also add a little Tabasco Sauce to spice up the contents a little. Please try that with your next bowlful and let me know how that worked out for you.

Stay tuned for a future blog post when I run down the Top-10 best pipe questions that I’ve ever received. People sure are funny critters.

Happy Puffing,

Steve

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Thoughts on the Just Completed 2019 Chicago Pipe Show

Another Whirlwind Trip to the Windy City

First, you can blame Neill Archer Roan for the photo of me. Not only is Neill an accomplished professional photographer, many of you will remember him from his many years of running a very popular website called A Passion for Pipes. While his business career has blossomed to the point where he no longer has the time to run a website, he is a fixture at the Chicago Show every year and his book about the history of the famous Comoy’s Blue Riband pipes, titled simply – Comoy’s Blue Riband – not only is a very interesting and entertaining read, his color photographs of many of those old classic pipes made by the original Comoy’s factory over the decades made for some very fascinating reading and I highly recommend it. Copies can still be found on Amazon and elsewhere.

 

The 2019 Chicagoland Pipe Show was held again this year at the Pheasant Run Resort, which is actually in St. Charles, Illinois, just outside of Chicago. It is an expansive hotel resort with a golf course, workout facilities, several bars, restaurants and coffee shops, and the huge “Mega Center,” where the annual pipe show is held. At full capacity, the Mega Center can host over 300 vendor tables and there is still plenty of room to walk around and check out the literally thousands of pipes displayed as well as plenty of tobacco and other hobby accouterments. As is the case every year, I haunted the showroom floor literally for hours and still missed seeing several old friends who were in attendance. The presentation of 300 vendor tables and 3,000 – 4,000 people inside the Mega Center can truly be mind boggling for an old country boy like me. And I can’t count the times I encountered fellow hobbyists who were attending for the first time who told me that they were overwhelmed by the experience. For people like you and me, who love the pipes and tobaccos hobby, it’s heaven on earth and you may want to put the show on your bucket list if you’ve never attended.

I arrived at Pheasant Run last Friday, and as usual, was treated to genuine great hospitality by not only the hotel staff, but also by several Chicago Show volunteers who made sure my room was ready, that my dinner needs were taken care of and then gave me a rundown of some great pre-show sales going on in several of the rooms that were being hosted by various vendors. Really good deals can be made in those pre-show rooms and I admit that I consummated a few of those deals myself before heading off to dinner with a couple of friends of mine – high grade pipe collectors David Wrubel and Fred Berger – at a marvelous steakhouse in St. Charles. I ate a delicious thick and juicy prime rib while enjoying David and Fred’s company and decided that eating that steak while visiting with old friends was almost as fun as smoking a good pipe.

I made it to the Mega Center Saturday morning just a few minutes before the doors were opened at 10:00 AM, and it was like a calf scramble watching thousands of people trying to get onto the showroom floor at the same time. Once I finally made it inside, I wore myself out walking around and meeting and talking to long time friends in the hobby, vendors, and the best part, meeting so many of my customers that I had never had the pleasure of shaking hands with before.

I spent a lot of time in the monstrous  400 x 400 foot smoking tent visiting and smoking. It seems like almost every time I turned around someone was wanting me to try one of their tobaccos that they’d just picked up. After awhile, I’d smoked so much leaf that my palate was no longer able to tell me whether I was smoking a Latakia blend or an Aromatic! But hey, I was smoking, talking to a bunch of great folks, having a drink or two, etc, so life was good.

On Sunday, it was a replay of Saturday and I was there until the final whistle blew at 5:00 PM. Kudos to the vast number of volunteers who made the show exceptional for me and everyone else in attendance, and to the employees of the Pheasant Run Resort who were also very helpful and friendly. In fact, I had such respect for the efforts put on by the hotel staff that I even booked my same room for next year before leaving!

Before wrapping up, I want to make you all envious by telling you about a showing I was invited to attend on Sunday afternoon. A small herd of well known high grade pipe collectors hold a “show and tell” in a collector’s room each year (I was sworn to secrecy and can’t say who he was), and they lay out their Chicago Show acquisitions on a king size bed for everyone to see. Can you imagine what kind of wood was laying on that bed? I spent a couple of hours actually holding and admiring pipes made by the likes of S. Bang, Bo Nordh, Jeff Gracik, Ernie Markle, Teddy Knudsen, Castello, Dunhill, etc, etc, etc. They were some of the most amazing pipes I’ve ever personally seen and held and I’ve seen a lot of pipes over the years.

On Monday evening I flew back home and on the flight I fell asleep and dreamed about pipes and tobaccos until we landed three hours later at the Austin airport (about an hour and a half drive from my home in Robinson). I must have been one tired cowboy!

Before closing out this blog post, I thought you might like to see one of the great wonders of the world. It was made by Danish pipe maker Erik Nording many years ago and is the first thing that the patrons see when walking through the Mega Center doors into the Chicago Show arena. Nording made this “pipe statue” out of hundreds of smoking pipes. Now, that’s a work of art!

 

Happy puffing,

Steve