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X - SOLD - "Blue Chip" Estate Pipe: 1895 BBB Cased Churchwarden - Over 14" Long!!

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Product Description

1895 Silver Hallmarked BBB Dublin Churchwarden in Hard Case; Amber is over 7 1/2" long Alone!!


Description, Markings, Measurements:

BBB (Blumfeld's Best Briars, and later, Best British Briar) has a long and distinguished history in English pipes. Created in 1847, they are one of the oldest pipe companies from England.  Though never gaining the "status" of Dunhill, BBB did what they did best, making affordable quality pipes at a fair price. It is rumored that Dunhill actually purchased bowls from BBB in the early years, which wouldn't surprise me, as BBB utilized from some of the finest Algerian briar to be had at the time.

There is rare, and then there is "Oh My God, I May Never Have Another Chance At This" rare, and this is one of those OMG pipes.  I have never seen anything quite like this gorgeous pipe.  It is, as you can see from the pictures, a cased BBB Churchwarden with a long shank, long silver band, and even longer one-piece block amber stem.  The pipe is in near-mint condition, save one small detail which I will get to later, but first off, let's just talk about the pipe.  First off, this is from 1895, one of the earliest BBB's I've seen.  The hallmark on these 1895's is a stylize lower-case "V" which, at first glance, is nearly identical to the 1876 lower-case "B".   However, after careful analysis and the realization that prior to about 1882 there was a further 'tax paid' mark that wasn't on this pipe, it could safely be dated to 1895.  The pipe bowl itself is in really spectacular condition, with super-sharp, deep stampings, only the slightest of tiny handling marks, and an impressively long 5 1/8" shank all by itself.  The wood is clean, with no fills of course, but also very few sandspots of any kind.  The grain is not particularly spectacular, a basic crosscut, but it really wasn't until the 1900s that grain quality was even something that was thought about much.  Stampings are simple, with "BBB" in a diamond, an "AD" stamp (no clue what that was for, but it is also on another early pre-1900 BBB I have), and of course the L-B silver stamping with solid, deep, unbuffed hallmarks for Birmingham.  The case, too, is a work of art, a beautiful deep cordovan leather that, outside some random darker spots (likely water stains), is in impressive condition with some fraying along the edges of the seams, but a solid clasp, great hinges and a re-assuring 'click' when closed.  The inside of the case is even more impressive; a rich blood red velvet that has no staining whatsoever, is still "plush" without much mat-down, and sports the "BBB" logo prominently in gold leaf.  During this time, case-making was an art form in and of itself, and the early directories are filled with both pipe fitters (silversmiths fitting only pipes) and case makers.  It must have been a grand time to be alive in London, if you were a man of means.

The real treasure of this piece, though, is also the tragedy, in a way, but more on that in a bit.  The solid amber stem is absolutely gorgeous.  I know amber; I've seen a lot of it.  This is an exceptional piece of amber, one of the best I've ever seen.  I showed closeups of the color, which starts at the button the color of clear honey and slowly becomes more translucent until about three inches from the screw bit it has transformed into a swirled opaque daisy orange with wisps of caramel and mocha.  It is, by far, one of the most lovely pieces of solid, long amber I have ever seen (although I have a few that would rival it in my personal collection.)  Overall the stem is in gorgeous shape, with only a few small chips out of the screw end, and a small chip right at the airway in the button.  

Now for the tragedy:  This stem was, at one time, an inch longer.  Yes, this pipe, as impressive as it is, was actually over 15" long when originally made.  When I received the pipe, someone (likely a tobacconist or perhaps the original owner) had slightly whittled down a new "button" to replace the one that had broken off.  Now, what some of you may not know is that I work with amber rather regularly, and I know how to properly sand and shape it without causing issues or breakage.  So, I carefully completed the job started probably 100 years ago and smoothed the entire area, then rounded the crude button into a proper BBB button shape.  Now, outside of the fact that the button height is not what the original was, it is practically like new.  In fact, without the stem in the case showing the missing inch of amber, you would never even guess that this isn't original.  It's unfortunate that the original stem lost an inch of length, but it is wonderful that such a piece was so well preserved for 118 years and that I was able to bring it back to its former glory.  Had this stem been full length and in the condition the amber is in right now, the price for this set would have easily approached $1000, if not more.  As it is, with the shortened stem, it isn't perfect, but it's damn close, and the price has been adjusted accordingly.

Markings read: BBB (in diamond), AD. Silverwork is marked: L-B (for Louis Blumfeld), and 3 hallmarks for Birmingham with the letter code lowercase old English "V", indicating 1895 production. These are shown in a closeup shot, so you can determine for yourself; don't be fooled by the closed top of the "V"; this is how they were stamped and the pipe is NOT from 1876. Measurements:  The overall length assembled comes in at 14 1/8" long, but the bowl shank is 5 1/8" and the amber is 7 5/8" not including the bone screw.  The bowl is 1 1/8" wide and just over 1 5/8" tall. The pipe weighs 28 grams.  This one is about a Dunhill group 3 in capacity.



9 out of 10.  As described above, as it sits, the pipe is in excellent condition, with sharp stampings, very little wear to the amber and only a few light handling marks on the wood.  The silver is outstanding, and the case is in great shape, not perfect on the outside but very solid, with a spectacular interior.  Issues:  Well, obviously as described above the stem is an inch shorter than it was 118 years ago, but it has been professionaly repaired and is practically indistinguishable from 'correct' outside how it fits in the case.  There is some slight char inside the bowl, but no signs of darkening on the outside, so I think it was just smoked a bit hot in its early years (there was hardly any cake in the bowl to begin with.)  If the spiderwebbing in the bowl is a concern, I would be happy to apply a neutral bowl coating to help protect the wood for the first 10 smokes.  The rim is sharp and crisp with just a touch of rounding around the chamber opening.  And as described above, there are a few very small chips out of the amber, right around where it meets the shank (I've seen much worse!!).  That's really it!  This is, truly, a magnificent example from the very beginnings of the "Golden Age", and even with the repair to the stem, it is jaw-droppingly spectacular.  You will never see another quite like it, and if this hits all the right notes, I suggest you jump on it.  These old BBB's simply do not last long.


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