Friday, 23 July 2010

An Introduction to Peterson Pipes.

Welcome to my 'Pete Blog',I hope you find it interesting and return often.I am an obsessive collector of a particular brand of Irish tobacco pipes called Peterson.I have been a collector now for around ten years, having taken up pipe smoking late in life.This site is dedicated to their history and collection.Please feel free to browse and comment on any of the posts,if you have a particular query or relevant question please do not hesitate to contact me by e-mail and I will do my best to answer.

An Introduction to Peterson Pipes
As an avid Peterson pipe enthusiast and collector, I am amazed at how little has been written in the past to chronicle the Peterson pipe history and the story of it's evolution.When I first started out with my obsessive interest in all things Peterson, I encountered major historical reference problems and like most enthusiasts,I was hungry for further dependable and accurate information which was just not there. Thanks to the dedication of the late Mike Leverette,a well known and respected expert collector of Peterson pipes, an attempt to rectify this historical anomaly was initiated in the early 2000's . Mike and some of his colleagues created the well known 'Peterson Pipe Project' web site.Unfortunately this wonderful reference tool was never to reach its full potential development, as Mike died in 2009, following a long period of illness.
I make no apologies for utilising and incorporating the following dating information from that great site and dedicate this compilation of Peterson references, respectfully to Mikes memory.
I have adapted the main text from Mikes dating work and married it to some additional information of my own.Including the section on the different modern Peterson grades and series,which should bring us up to the present time period.(Part 5).
The series groupings do not necessarily conform to those in evidence on the official Peterson web site.I have taken a certain amount of licence in putting together groupings, which I feel are more appropriate.There are some inclusions that are a mixture of series which are either made for or are specific to Europe and the US markets.
I have also attempted to place an approximate retail purchase price/value against various pipe groups to give a guide to the novice collectors.These prices are in US dollars and will be updated periodically.It is also worth bearing in mind that estate values would be approximately 50% of those prices quoted,proportionately higher for rarer pipes such as the earlier editions of the Mark Twain series,which are currently averaging $300-$400 for the un-numbered editions,to over $1000 for earlier low numbered editions.
My main aim is to help to clarify an otherwise chaotic Peterson history for other enthusiasts,especially the new Peterson pipe owner or collectors.

In the beginning .- Part One.
In 1865 Charles Peterson opened a small tobacco shop in Dublin. Later in 1875 Charles approached the Kapp brothers, Fredrich and Heinrich, with a new pipe design and with this, a very long-lived partnership was formed, Kapp & Peterson.
This new pipe design is the now famous Peterson Patented System Smoking Pipe. By 1890, Kapp & Peterson was the most respected pipe and tobacco manufacturer in Ireland and rapidly gaining followers in England and America.
In 1898 another of Peterson's remarkable inventions became available, the Peterson-Lip (P-Lip) mouthpiece, also known as the Steck mouthpiece. The Peterson System is the standard bearer of the Peterson pipe family, famous for the unexcelled smoking pleasure it provides.
Often imitated but never equalled, the Peterson System smokes dry, cool and sweet, thanks to the scientific effectiveness of the original design. The heart of the System is the unique graduated bore in the mouthpiece. This makes the suction applied by the smoker 15 times weaker by the time it reaches the tobacco chamber. The result is that all the moisture flows into the reservoir and, thus cannot reach the smoker's mouth.
The Peterson Lip further enhances the effectiveness of the graduated bore by directing the flow of smoke upwards and away from the tongue. This achieves a uniquely even distribution of smoke and virtually eliminates and chance of tongue-bite or bitterness.
Furthermore, the shape is scientifically contoured so that the tongue rests comfortably in the depression under the opening. Each "P-Lip" mouthpiece is made from superior quality vulcanite.
The Kapp Brothers made pipes as early as the 1850s and in many of the shapes we now associate with Peterson, the Kapp Brothers simply took their existing shapes and incorporated Charles Peterson' s patented design into them. From their inception, Kapp & Peterson's goal was to make a good smoking pipe that the ordinary, common working man could afford and they have, very admirably, lived up to this.
The vagaries of the Peterson's processes do not allow for an accurate dating guide so this guide is a 'rule-of-thumb' guide only. For example; Peterson did not take up the old Country of Manufacture stamps as new ones were issued so depending on which one the various workers happen to pick up, the stamps can and do cross over the boundaries of the various Eras. Some of the pipes of the Sherlock Holmes Series of the 1980s have pre-Republic stamps, as well as other pipes produced in 2000. However, there are not too many of these missed stamped pipes.
Today, Peterson, run by Thomas Palmer, makes about 100,000 pipes annually, distributed all over the world. After Europe, the United States is the largest market with 12-15% of Peterson's production.

Stamping of Bowls – Part Two
During the years of Kapp and Peterson's business operations, the country of Ireland has undergone several name changes and K&P's stamping on their pipes reflects these changes. Knowing these changes, a Peterson pipe can be roughly dated and placed in "eras."
The Patent Era was between the years of K&P's formation until the expiration of the patent; 1875 through approximately 1910. Though for our purposes we will list this era as 1875 through 1922. Peterson pipes made during the majority of this period had no "Country of Manufacture" (COM) stamped on them. However, later in this period, say around 1915/16, Peterson began stamping their pipes "Made in Ireland" in a block format.
The Irish Free State was formed on 15 January 1922. So the Free State Era will be from 1922 through 1937. Peterson followed with a COM stamp of "Irish Free State" in either one or two lines, either parallel or perpendicular to the shanks axis and extremely close to the stem.
Eire was formed on 29 December 1937. The Made in Eire Era will be from 1938 through roughly 1940? or 1941?. For dates with ?'s, see below. Peterson now stamped their pipes with "Made in Eire" in a circle format with "Made" and "Eire" in a circle with the "in" located in the centre of the circle. This COM was used during the years of 1938 - 1940?/41?. Later they stamped their pipes with "Made in Ireland" in a circle format (1945?-1947?) and still later with "Made in Ireland" in a block format (1947?-1949). The "Made in Ireland" block format came in either one line or two lines.
The Republic Era is from 1949 until the present. The Republic of Ireland was formed on 17 April 1949. From 1949 to present the stamp for this era is "Made in the Republic of Ireland" in a block format generally in three lines but two lines have been used with or without Republic being abbreviated.
English made Peterson pipes actually spans between the pre-Republic and Republic eras. In 1895, Peterson opened a shop in London England that lasted until the late 1950s or early 1960s. So the English Era, for a simplified date, will be from 1895 through 1959. The stamps Peterson used in London and that we have seen are:
Made in England - block format
Made in England - circle format
Made in London
Made in London England
Simply, London England
Great Britain
Though there are a couple of more, the above will give one the general idea. We believe the earliest stamp of this era was the "Made in England" in a block format since Peterson was using the "Made in Ireland" block format at about the same time on their Irish production pipes. The "Made in England" circle format was used during the same time frame as the "Made in Eire" and "Made in Ireland" circle formats.
As one can see this is pretty straightforward but there have been inconsistencies within this method of stamping. Peterson was never very energetic in removing their old stamps from the work stations so the older stamps can and did cross-over into the newer Era's.
The explanation for the question marks in the 1940's dates is, during the Second World War briar was hard to come by for obvious reasons, so no one can say for sure what years Peterson produced briar pipes and how many briar pipes were produced in those years. Why the switch from "Made in Eire" to "Made in Ireland" is anyone's guess since the country was still technically Eire until 1949. As a point of interest and due to the shortage of briar, Peterson did make clay and Bog Oak pipes during the war years though they had ceased clay pipe production in the Patent Era and Bog Oak production back in the early 1930s.
The "Made in Ireland" block format (above) can be another headache in dating Peterson pipes since this stamp was used in the late Patent Era as well as the late 1940s. So for a guide we must take into consideration the style of lettering Peterson used on their pipes. From the start of the Patent Era until somewhere in the early 1930s, Peterson used the "Old Style" lettering that used a forked tail "P" in Peterson.
From then until now, Peterson used the more familiar script "P" (above) intermixed with a plain block letter "P." Later in the 1970s, Peterson began production of "commemorative" pipes, often referred to as "replica" or "retro" pipes and these will also have the old style lettering but according to the pipes that we own and have seen, most of these will have a small difference in the original forked tail "P". Again, there appears to be a cross-over with the old style forked tail and the later forked tail P's(below). However, these commemorative pipes generally have a silver band with hallmarks so one can date these pipes by the hallmark.
Also, we must address the stamp "A Peterson Product." During the last few years of the Pre-Republic era and throughout the Republic era, Peterson began stamping their other lines, such as Shamrocks and Killarneys, with "A Peterson Product" over the COM stamp. So a pipe stamped thus will have been made say from 1948 to the present with the COM stamp identifying it as a pre-Republic or a Republic pipe.

Silver Band Dating – Part Three.
Silver hallmarks are placed on the silver after an assay office,the Dublin Assay Office, has verified that the silver content is indeed sterling, in other words 925 parts of silver per 1000 parts of the metal. The silver hallmarks on Peterson pipes are a group of three marks, each in an escutcheon; the first is a seated Hibernia denoting Dublin Ireland, the second is a harp denoting the silver fineness, and the third is a letter denoting the year. The style of letter and the shape of the escutcheon the letter is in, will determine the year in which the assay office stamped the metal band and not necessarily the year the pipe was made. Peterson orders these bands by the thousands and sends them to the assay office for hallmarking. The assay office will stamp the date of the year in which they received the bands and it may be a year or two or three before Peterson's employees happen to place one of these bands on a pipe though generally the bands are placed on a pipe in the year they were stamped. The Dublin hallmarks can be found in any book on silver markings or on one of several web sites.
For the one year, 1987, the Dublin Assay Office added a fourth mark to commemorate the City of Dublin's founding in 988. However, the Peterson pipes we have and have seen with silver dates of 1987 and 1988 generally do not have this fourth mark.
Here again, we must add a "maybe" to the above hallmarks. On 1 June 1976, certain countries attended an international conference on silver markings and decided to adopt an entirely different mark for sterling silver. This mark is an Arabian numeral, 925, located between the scales of a balance beam and in Peterson's case may or may not have the Hibernia and Harp marks to either side. These particular pipes can only be said to date between 1976 and the present, and were stamped as such for shipment to the different countries involved in the conference. For pipes shipped to all other countries, Peterson still uses the old style hallmarks. Peterson pipes with a sterling silver band that does not have hallmarks could have been made for the United States market since the United States only requires sterling silver to be stamped "sterling silver" or "sterling."
Before we close this section on silver hallmarks, we must address the marks that many people refer to as hallmarks. Peterson uses three marks on some of their pipes that are not silver hallmarks but are rather another Peterson logo (below). These marks are:
A Shamrock for the many shamrocks found in Ireland
A Prone Fox representing the famous fox hunts in Ireland's history, and
A Stone Tower for the many hundreds of stone towers spotted throughout Ireland
Again these are not genuine silver hallmarks: Also many of the newer pipe smokers think that Kapp & Peterson's official logo of "K&P," each in a shield shaped escutcheon, are hallmarks but, of course, they are not. They are simply Kapp & Peterson's initials.
Corrections:- There were three years Peterson's used four hallmarks.
In 1966, a fourth hallmark was added depicting the An Claidheamh Solis, The Sword of Light, to commemoratem the 50th anniversary of the 1916 Uprising.
With Ireland's joining of the European Community in 1973, a miniture representation of the Glenisheen collar was added to the right of the date stamp.
Lastly, to celebrate the 350th year of the Company of Goldsmith of Dublin, a small representation of the Company's sheild was added. The first and fourth quaters contain a harp and the second and third show a covered cup between two buckles.

Dating by Series – Part Four.
Dating by series or numbers is an area in which we are having a difficult time of establishing. For instance, the 300 series are all shapes used during the Patent Era and we believe Peterson started using this number system when the original patent expired. In the case of the 300 series and without looking at the COM stamp or silver hallmark, one can only say that they were made between 1910 and today. The 300 series was not in Peterson's 1905 catalogue.
Though we are still trying to find the start dates of many series, here are some that we are pretty positive about:
Centennial Edition - 1975 (for K&P's Centennial)
Great Explorers Series - 2002
Harp Series - 2002
Mark Twain Numbered Edition - 1979 (numbered 1 through 400)
Mark Twain 2nd Numbered Edition - 1981 (numbered 1 through 1000) Mark Twain Un-numbered Edition - 1983 to c1989 (There must be a fourth production of Mark Twain pipes for there a couple of men who own Mark Twain pipes with a silver date of 1998; we are still trying to pin down the dates of this fourth production.)
Emerald - c1985 to 2003
Millennium Edition - 1988 (for the City of Dublin's founding)
Sherlock Holmes Series - 1987 to c1989
Return of Sherlock Holmes Series - c1991
Sherlock Holmes Meerschaums – 2006
Charles Peterson 140 year Anniversary - 2005
Ebony and Ivory – 2006
Peterson Clay, Bog Oak and Cherry Wood Pipes
Peterson Clay, Bog Oak and Cherry Wood pipes were offered in the Patent Era with or without a formed case, as also offered with their briar and meerschaum pipes.
Peterson made clay pipes during the Patent Era with only two shapes being offered and depicted in their 1905 catalogue. During this period their clay pipes were stamped/moulded "Peterson Patent" and could be purchased with either a silver or nickel band. How long and in what years Peterson made these clays is not known but as stated above two shapes were offered in their 1905 catalogue. Then during World War II, Peterson again made clay pipes due to the understandable shortage of briar. The clays of this period are stamped "Peterson System" and were only offered with nickel bands. This later production of clay pipes ended with the closing of Peterson's London Shop in the late 1950s or early 1960s.
Also during World War II, Peterson again made bog oak pipes and again, this was due to the shortage of briar. They had previously ceased production of bog oak pipes in the 1930s during the Irish Free State Era. On the subject of bog oak pipes, Peterson's bog oaks will always have a metal band with either an amber (early production only) or Vulcanite stems and will have the appropriate COM stamp. As with their clay pipes, Peterson offered a silver or nickel band on their early bog oak pipes of the Patent Era and just a nickel band on their WWII bog oak pipes.
Peterson made pipes of cherry wood during their Patent Era in both the smooth finish and the bark-left-on finish; and as with their clay pipes, Peterson used both amber and Vulcanite stems and choice of silver or nickel bands. And like their clay pipes of the Patent Era, the introduction and termination dates are not known. Peterson Cherry Wood pipes were offered with or without a meerschaum lining.
Metal Ferrules of Military Mounted Pipes
As pipes get older, wear will, with all the handling, cleaning and polishing, take its toll on the nomenclature which will eventually disappear, thus, making it harder to determine the age of your Peterson. A good thorough cleaning of old hand oils, dirt and ash will sometimes bring out a faint outline of the nomenclature but sometimes the nomenclature has completely worn away and even this cleaning will not bring it back. So where do we go from here to determine the pipe's age? The shape of the metal ferrule on Peterson pipes with the military mount will give you some hint though not a precise date.
During the Patent Era, the metal ferrules of Peterson military mounts will have a more 'acorn-ish' shape, that is, the bend will have a larger radius as it turns down to meet the stem. This larger radius gradually(?) changes to a smaller radius, more abrupt bend, during the Irish Free State Era and even more abruptly after World War Two when the bend takes on the modern day shape.
The metal ferrules on Peterson clay pipes during the Patent Era are angular while their clay pipes of World War Two will have the bend shape as do most of the Peterson pipes from then until now.
As with everything pertaining to the dating of Peterson pipes, this method can only give us a hint to the age of the pipe but it is better than nothing at all. The years of these changes in the metal ferrule shape are, we are sure, lost to the ages. However, someone with a larger number of Peterson pipes than we, may be able to check the silver dates for more precise age boundaries Well, this is a very short dating guide and we hope that you will be able to date more accurately your favourite Peterson with this information.

Part Five.
Guide Listings of the Peterson modern series. - 1950 onwards.- Made in the Republic of Ireland.
The following lists and groupings are hopefully a tool to make it easier to come to terms with the huge array of Peterson's selection of modern pipes.I appreciate that their will no doubt be omissions from the list,however it should be considered a 'work in progress' project and further inclusions will be inserted as these become apparent.

Classic Range
These are primarily the basic 'entry' level Peterson Pipes, which vary in price between $55 and $200.depending on finish ie.smooth,sandblast,rustic and if any nickel or silverware etc.. These pipes will most certainly have some fills and slight flaws.
Captain Pete
Cashel,Rock of.
Flame Grain
Irish Made Army
Irish Whiskey
Kapp Royal
K Briar
Racing Green
Silver Mounted Army

Probably the most popular and famous range in the Peterson stables.All come with the famous P-lip stem.Prices start at around $80 for the basic standard and up to $400 for the large hand made House pipes.
Original Mark Twain

Usually these themed collections of pipes are boxed.They vary in price from the Ebony and Ivory at around $300 to $1000 for the River, 6 pipe set.
Antique collection
River collection
Irish sea collection
Mark Twain collection
Writers collection
Great Explorers collection
River collection
Castle collection

High Grades
The pipes in this range are amongst the best and most select briar's that Peterson produce.They vary in price from the Rosslare Royal Irish at around $150 to the Plato Freehand at $350.
Rosslare Royal Irish
Royal Irish

Straight Grains
Briar's are carefully examined for imperfections and selected briar's of exceptional grain, known as Straight Grains are carefully selected. They are hand crafted and the increasingly rare skill required to make them is unique. Craftsman shape, turn, sand and polish 150 year old roots of the Erica arborea tree. Only a very limited quantity of Straight Grains are available in any twelve month period.
Prices start at around $400 going upwards.

Deluxe Silver Mounted
Made from superior quality briar, in golden smooth polished finish with hallmarked sterling silver bands. Available in most of the classic shapes, subject to the availability of quality briar.
Prices vary but start at around $145 and up to $250.

Supreme Gold & Silver Mounted.
Exceptionally rich in grain, these pipes are made from the finest briar and are almost as rare as straight grains. Each pipe has a highly polished natural finish and is fitted with a slender gold or silver band. With Peterson lip or fishtail mouthpiece. Available in classic shapes subject to the availability of quality briar.
Prices can vary between $330 and $850.

Silver Caps & Lids.
The union of top grade mellowed briar and hallmarked silver combine to make this truly beautiful series. Using the highest grade bowls, the silver work is done by hand and fits the cap to each individual pipe. Available in most classic shapes with a Peterson lip or fishtail mouthpiece. Peterson also offer Silver Caps with a unique hallmarked silver hinged lid which is custom made to fit each individual pipe.
Prices start around $300 and on up to $450.

The Peterson Spigot is characterised by a sterling silver covering on the tapered end of the mouthpiece which compliments the sterling silver band of the pipe. The Spigot style evolved from the practice of soldiers in earlier centuries who repaired broken pipes by sliding a used cartridge case over the shank and reinserting the mouthpiece. In this unique spigot finished pipe, Peterson craftsmanship perfect the union of finest quality briar and precious metals. The silver or gold is spun to shape and then fitted to the pipe.
Prices start at around $200 and rise to $800.

Sherlock Holmes.
Original collection - The most successful series of pipes introduced by Peterson. First produced in 1987 to honour the most famous character in fiction, Sherlock Holmes. A 7 day set made from specially selected briar-wood in shapes most favoured by Holmes. Available in smooth, ebony, rustic and some sandblast. All extra large bowls. Sterling silver band. Peterson lip and fishtail mouthpiece.
Return of collection- Based on the success of the first series and made from specially selected briar-wood in the time honoured Peterson tradition. All seven pipes are mounted with a hallmarked sterling silver band. Available with Peterson lip or fishtail mouthpiece.
Sherlock Holmes Meerschaum collection.- Same seven shapes as the original collection.
Individual briar pipes start at around $200,with complete sets and rack at around $1500.
Individual meerschaum's start around $300 and complete sets plus rack at around $2000.

Belgique and Calabash - Two petite and lightweight Peterson shapes crafted with all the care and know how of century old pipe makers. From finest quality briar in red polish and rustic finishes with fishtail mouthpieces only.
Prices around $60 to $85.
Tankard & Barrel - Two attractively shaped pipes finished in red polish or rustic. A quality briar fitted with a nickel mount. Available with Peterson lip or fishtail mouthpiece.
Prices start from $45.
Churchwarden - One of the earliest pipe shapes and still remains popular. The overall length of the mouthpiece ensures a pleasant cool smoke, particularly suitable for an evenings relaxation. The Dublin, Billiard and Prince shapes come in smooth or rustic finish are available with long slender fishtail mouthpiece only.
Prices starting at $90.

Commemorative and Limited editions
Millennium- Dublin one of Europe's oldest capital cities celebrated its Millennium in the year 1988 and in honour, Petersons made a special tribute to the occasion, by creating prestige souvenir pipes known as "Peterson Dublin Millennium".These pipes are available in both an Oom Paul and a Dublin shape.
Prices are around $190 per pipe.

Mark Twain – 2 pipe set in honour of the great Mark Twain.The bent Mark Twain shape was produced for the american market only and attained cult status. The second pipe in the set is a poker shape, related to the Corn cob pipe that Huckleberry Finn used to smoke. The bent pipe is only available with the Peterson lip and the straight Poker is only available with a fishtail mouthpiece – they are sold as a boxed set.
Price estimated to be around $420 for the set.

Charles Peterson 140 Anniversary – in 2005 Peterson celebrated it's 140th Anniversary.To mark the occasion, they decided to produce an exact copy of Charles Peterson´s favourite pipe.The original of this pipe is kept in the Peterson museum in Dublin and the silver band is engraved with the massage;"When stolen, please return to 55. Grafton Street" and is signed by Charles Peterson.
Prices start around $280.

Pipes of the year - Each year Peterson's design and produce a select number of pipes in limited numbers. These products are particularly directed at the pipe connoisseur who can recognise the characteristics of the product which is unique in its material, workmanship and styling.
Prices start at around $200.

4th July- Made for the US market to celebrate Independence Day.
Expect to pay around $100.

Saint Patrick's day - Each year Peterson launches a range of pipes to celebrate Ireland’s national holiday when everyone in the world wishes to be Irish. Most years they gone with a very Irish colour – a shade of green.
Prices start around $80.

Ebony and Ivory - Ebony & Ivory 2-pipe set. One Bent meerschaum pipe and one straight ebony finished briar pipe in special presentation box, both with fishtail stems.
Price $320.

Fathers day - A classic pipe with a Walnut finish with matching ring. Available in selected classic shapes with fishtail mouthpiece only.
Price around $100

Christmas Pipe - Peterson's first ever Christmas pipe! Like the Peterson Year Pipe, a special limited edition, featuring a smooth finish, fishtail mouthpiece, and a Sterling Silver Band with a Christmas tree stamped on it. Bowl is stamped with the Peterson logo and "Christmas 2009".
Price around $150.


  1. Well done indeed Jim. I'm looking forward to more.

  2. What a wonderful continuation and extension of Mike's work. Thank you Jim

  3. Wonderful, Jim!!! Thank you!

  4. Great job Jim. Very interesting and informative. Looking forward to more.

  5. Excellent is all I can say, Jim. Please keep 'em coming.

  6. Can anyone help please. I would like to find out about a Peterson's pipe.
    It's marked 307.
    I am trying to date this pipe.
    The silver marks are a shamrock a cat and a sort of tree
    Thank you

  7. Thanks for the knowledge Jim. Bought my first peterson donegal 69 in Dublin in 2012.

  8. This comment has been removed by the author.

  9. Hi Jim,

    I've read through much of your blog and it's quite comprehensive! I see you don't do estimates or valuations.. I'm not looking to value the pipe as I enjoy smoking it and I don't want to sell it.. I have a rusticated Peterson System 3 357, with a circle "Made in England" on the briar. The mount has the shamrock, prone fox, and stone tower marks.. I'm unable to find much information about what I have or the age of it (and I admit your blog may have cluttered my brain a bit due to the abundance of information).. Can you provide any help or point me in the direction that may relate to what I have specifically..?

    Kind regards,