Thursday, January 8, 2009

Price vs. Value

Like anything else, when one is considering a pipe to purchase price is one of the factors that comes into play. Apart from whether a pipe’s price fits into your budget or not, is it possible to establish if the cost of the pipe determines its smoking quality? Up to a point, I would say yes. I believe that there is a world of difference between a $25 pipe and a $100 pipe in terms of how the pipe smokes. But the difference between a $100 pipe and a $500 pipe is probably negligible.

What you find in a $500 pipe that you may not find in a $100 pipe (and you certainly don’t find in a $25 pipe) is that the craftsmanship and aesthetics are taken to the next level. The attention to detail, grain pattern, etc. is superior in a high-priced pipe, and you’re also paying partly for the name on the pipe.

Out of the 50 or so pipes I have in my collection, the best smoking pipe I own is a Peterson that I paid $65 for. It’s a rusticated straight bulldog and from day one it has smoked completely down to white ash, never hot, never wet. I own a $400 Ser Jacopo that I love, but it doesn’t smoke quite as good as that Peterson. Do I regret purchasing the Ser Jacopo? Not at all! Its one of my favorite shapes (a Canadian), fits my hand perfectly and gives me consistently good smokes. But in terms of smoking quality only, the Peterson has the edge.

And that’s where the other factors come in when deciding on a pipe. It’s not just smoking quality or price, but the looks of the pipe, its weight, how it feels in your hand, the shape, etc. All those elements and more add up to provide the overall value of the pipe.

When I worked at a pipe and tobacco shop, I always recommended new smokers to try an inexpensive basket pipe just to see if they liked the overall experience. If they did, I urged them to upgrade to a more expensive pipe once they could afford it. For those that stuck with pipe smoking, they never regretted it. The overall experience was that much better with a quality pipe.

And with that, I think I’ll fire up…an Ascorti. It was my first “good” pipe which I’ll write more about later.

- Bob

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