EXTRA!                                                                                       JANUARY, 2019                                                                                       EXTRA!
The Land of Enchantment

Fakes Not Always Easy to Spot

Counterfeit Tobacco Pipes Up, Awareness Down

by Duży Scracz,  
Stqff Writer

ALBUQUERQUE. Jan. 20  — Counterfeit name brand tobacco pipe sales have increased while buyer awareness has lessened, making consumers prey to merchants who know their products are forgeries but count on customers not recognizing the signs, research indicates.

Ben Rapaport, a respected U.S. pipe historian and columnist, wrote a comprehensive article about the history of pipe counterfeiting, called “The Age of Steal,” for Pipes and Tobaccos online magazine.

Rapaport prefaced his detailed reporting of fraudulent activities in the pipe world with a note that they may not be “classified as theft in the literal sense [but] are, in my opinion, theft in the figurative sense.”

With the beginning of eBay’s real success as an online auction site in the mid-1990s, Rapaport claimed, “there suddenly appeared a pixel-and-byte tsunami, or maybe a torrent, of instant tobacco treasures for sale.”

By 2004, Elaine Robbins, in her article titled “The World Wide Web of Antiquities” in American Archaeology, concluded, “The Internet is littered with fakes.”  

Peddling or auctioning fake pipes has been a known practice since the 1980s, when events in the United States and England led to a scandal involving forgeries said to be made by Alfred Dunhill Ltd. of London.

The late John C. Loring, an English historian of pipes in general and Dunhill in particular, described the simultaneous beginning of the estate pipe movement in the U.S. and the acquisition of Lane Ltd., which included Charatan Pipes, by Dunhill in 1976.

In an article about the incident, Loring explained how the growing shift in interest of U.S. collectors from new pipes to older used and in some cases rare English estate pipes that could be repaired, and the “disgruntlement” of English carvers – who stole Dunhill’s tools, briar blocks and semi-finished pipes when they lost their jobs during the early 1980s – created “the perfect storm.”

The resulting supply and demand gap for estate pipes sought by U.S. collectors and the financial troubles of unemployed English carvers provided the opportunity for one of the leading pipe collectors in the U.S. at the time to take advantage of both problems.

Rapaport characterized the scam as being driven by a “frontman” while “the other two complicit villains were…refinishing and retooling relatively new Dunhill briars so that they would exhibit Dunhill nomenclature attributable to rarer, earlier models and finishes” with the tools and wood taken from the manufacturer.

Rapaport quoted Loring to conclude that about 75 fake Dunhill pipes were sold overnight at a total cost to victims of “many tens of thousands, if not hundreds of thousands, of dollars.”
The real number of forged Dunhills remains unknown, but they continue to show up in public and online estate sales, in particular on eBay, Rapaport wrote.




An ultra-rare Dunhill #848 ODA and a fake, courtesy eBay

Many of the fakes in ongoing scams are made in countries including China, Thailand, Cambodia, Laos and Malaysia and are easier to identify, while others are contrived with higher quality methods, making them difficult to notice the flaws.  None approaches the quality of the Dunhill forgeries.

The signs in the poorest forgeries start with the materials used in their manufacture.  The wood will often be inexpensive and low-quality from fruit trees such as peach or pear, and other varieties almost as light as balsa.  The standard for grain, durability, heat resistance and relative porosity is briar wood.

 A fake KB&B Rocky Briar salesman sample shown above might have been made of Paulownia,
“the other balsa.” From the REP collection.

Other signs of forgeries are the colors of the stains used by different big pipe production companies and artisans and the types and applications of finishes.  Various shades of brown stains followed by waxes and other compounds are the traditional combinations to give the wood its final shine, although a light coat of shellac is also used with care and skill for a longer lasting effect. 
Nomenclature – the stamp marks on pipes made by big brands and artisans – is the most difficult aspect of pipe counterfeiting because of the high standards of precision the real makers insist upon and practice. 

Incorrect or missing nomenclature and the use of wrong colors, sizes and styles, as well as other factors, eventually exposed the Dunhill fakes and are still the best ways to spot counterfeits.

The famous KBB cloverleaf and Rocky Briar are weak in this fake, which
is a reddish color common to Chinese knock-offs, but the Reg US Pat
No 298978 is uneven, and the 9’s and 8’s do not match in type style. 
The right shank is also missing the shape number.

Note the overall correct medium brown color as well as crisp cloverleaf
brand mark, Rocky Briar line name and even, consistent patent number on
the left, with two pairs of 9’s and 8’s that  match, and the clear shape
number on the right signifying it was made in the 1930s.  Courtesy of Steve

More examples of the most obvious counterfeit pipes being sold online are eight alleged Capitello Italian pipes offered now by the same eBay seller at prices that, while far below their value if they were real, still constitute a potential profit from fakes.

Genuine Capitello pipes, which were hand-carved between 1982 and 1993, are freehand or original versions of classic styles.  All are considered to be of the highest quality and are collectible, and most of them sell for hundreds of dollars.


A modest Capitello Jonico with a thin, non-metallic band and olive wood shank extension. Note the correct type
​style with quotation marks around the brand and other nomenclature consistent with every real Capitelllo made.
Courtesy the REP collection.


Other distinctive Capiteelo versions of classic shapes with unique carving and style.

Of the eight fake Capitello pipes on eBay, all are simple, classic English designs with cheap metal bands.  Six of them are finished as shiny black dress pipes.  Capitello never used metal bands or the black dress pipe finish.  There is only one photo of each black pipe, with no visible nomenclature.

The other two have natural, or smooth, finishes but may or may not be made of briar, and if they are the grain quality is well below the Capitello standard. 

One of them has the single stamp mark, in capital letters, Capitello, in the wrong type style and in contrast to the correct form of “Capitello” in quotation marks and normal text.
Of these two, the most blatant forgery has nomenclature, but for a different brand.  The left shank is stamped Pipex Freedom, and the stem reads Fire with a downward carat symbol.
All of these pipes have been reported to eBay as fakes by at least two eBay members.  One of the members also notified the seller that the pipes are counterfeit but received no reply and therefore reported the UK-based individual to the British police authorities for Internet Fraud.

Still, the pipes remain up for auction.