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                                        The Mill
Nov. 26, 2014
     Happy Thanksgiving
(and perhaps more about that later)
 Our latest adventure in pipes brought
us to a pass whereat a customer
purchased a used, refurbished pipe that
was sold to him as new.  He then sold
the pipe, stipulating, as he believed, that
it was unsmoked, to a buyer who did
also accepted it as unsmoked. Not until
he, too, tried to sell it did he discover
that it was, in fact, a used pipe.  The
selling broker was also the person who
did the reconditioning and so he knew
that it was a used pipe.  
 Culpability is part of the issue (it's
pretty much universally agreed that
even ignorance doesn't obviate
responsibility, as the law often tells us)
but so is the question of there being,
occasionally, too much of a good thing.  
If we were all as forthright and honest
as Diogenes, perfect restoration would
not, perhaps, be a problem.  (I do not
agree...I think messing with the integrity
of a pipe, such as its stain, the bowl
coating, etc., is not good, no matter how
much better it makes a pipe look.)
 Responses ranging from "the original
seller is a crook" to, "the second seller
is a crook, too," to, "those refurbishers
will soon be getting theirs" came in.  
BTW, those were not the actual
statements of respondents.  I'm
paraphrasing their sentiments for the
sake of time and space.  
 But the following letter came in from
an old hand in the used pipe
business/hobby and I think it's a good
combination of the most thoughtful and
thorough replies received here.  

Let me see if I understand: Buyer "A"
bought a pipe on eBay that he believed
was unsmoked. A few months later he
sells it to buyer "B" without smoking it
himself. Buyer B holds the pipe for a
year an a half, and he doesn't smoke it
either. then he tries to resell it and
discovers that it's NOT unsmoked, and
after all that time wants his money back.
And the original seller of the pipe
-- the guy who sold it to A -- doesn't
want to hear about it, after two years.

I totally agree with your suggestion that
given the improvements in
reconditioning pipes, among other
things, there should be rules in the
governing these situations. The
problems will only get worse as the
number of
good reconditioners grows (which it
certainly will), and they will become
complex in ways that can't be
anticipated. Let me point out a
difficulty in the issue you have
described: since buyer B held the pipe
for 18
MONTHS, how can A be sure that B DID

Of course, if A and B both know and
respect each other, then that question
not arise. Pipe smoking was always a
relatively small hobby, in which many if
not most of the major players knew (and
could vouch for) each other. There were
a limited number of dealers and
unscrupulous ones could be easily
weeded out.
But the situation has changed. Selling
on eBay has provided a layer of
anonymity that did not exist in the hobby
before. Additionally, just a few years
ago there were only a few thousand
items in the eBay category
Tonight as I write this, there are over 40
thousand. This means that there are a
large number of new sellers in the
hobby; some of whom know little about
and are only in it for the money. As our
beloved hobby grows, (and prices grow
with it), overpricing, misrepresentation,
counterfeit items and the like, are
going to become bigger and bigger
issues, especially for our newest and
least  experienced members.

All this is easy to predict, since it has
happened before in other hobbies.
While smarter people than I will have to
set up and enforce the rules of
business that will govern these issues,
there ARE a few things that we pipe
lovers can do on our own, that will
simplify matters greatly. The two most
important: 1) Set high ethical standards
for yourself in your dealings with
other hobbyists, and 2)don't deal with
anyone whose standards are lower than
yours. Solving problems at the
grassroots level is always better than
having to
solve them bureaucratically. And the
LAST thing we want is to suffer the fate
some other hobbies which found, when
they were incapable of policing
that the Feds were more than happy to
do it for them.

Regards, B.

PS -- I feel compelled to point out that, in
the situation you discussed,
neither buyer A or B actually SMOKED
the pipe in question; instead holding
it (one for 18 months) in
supposedly-unsmoked condition and
selling later. It
seems obvious that both gentlemen
bought this piece strictly as an
hoping to make a small payday with it,
and instead getting burned. I have been
involved in several collectible hobbies
over the decades, and one thing I have
learned is that "investing" in collectible
merchandise is a very dicey
proposition. A few months back, I won
on eBay, for only $76.00, a pipe which
any objective measure is worth 4 times
that. The seller (an eBay dealer)
probably hated to have to give it to me
at that price; and if it was a
consignment I feel sorry for the owner.
But that's the way the cookie happened
to crumble on that particular day. In
ACTUAL investing there are no
of anything, much less in buying/selling
collectibles in general and pipes in
particular. The best reason to buy any
pipe is that YOU LIKE IT and WANT TO
SMOKE IT. That way, you are sure to
get your money's worth no matter what.

Quotes & anecdotes from "The Portable Curmudgeon"

I've neglected this box for far too long.  We are up to the letter
"M."  It starts off with quotes on Man.

The earth has a skin and that skin has diseases; one of its
diseases is called man.    Friedrich Wilhelm Nietzsche

Man is a puny, slow, awkward, unarmed animal.
Jacob Bronowski

I love mankind.  It's people I can't stand.  Charles Schulz

To succeed in the world, it is not enough to be stupid, you
must also be well mannered.   Voltaire.

Life is a God-damned, stinking, treacherous game and nine hundred
and ninety-nine men out of a thousand are bastards.
Theodore Dreiser

Literature: proclaiming in front of everyone what one is careful to
conceal from one's immediate circle.     Jean Rostand

For certain people, after fifty, litigation takes the place of sex.
Gore Vidal

London, that great cesspool into which all the loungers of the Empire
are irresistibly drained.                               Arthur Conan Doyle

London, like a bowl of viscid human fluid, boils sullenly over the rim of
its encircling hills and slops messily and uglily into the home counties.
H.G. Wells                                                                                      
The monstrous tuberosity of civilized life, the capital of England.
Thomas Carlyle

Isn't it nice that people who prefer Los Angeles to San Francisco live
there?                                                              Herb Caen

A big hard-boiled city with no more personality than a paper cup.
Raymond Chandler

Everything in Los Angeles is too large, too loud and usually banal in
concept...The plastic asshole of the world.     William Faulkner

I figure you have the same chance of winning the lottery whether you
play or not.                                               Fran Lebowitz

Love is the delightful interval between meeting a beautiful girl and
discovering that she looks like a haddock.  John Barrymore

Love is the state in which man sees things most decidedly as they are
not.                                                               Friedrich Wilhelm Nietzsche

A temporary insanity curable by marriage.             Ambrose Bierce

The delusion that one woman differs from another.
H.L. Mencken

In the forties, to get a girl you had to be a GI or a jock.  In the Fifties to
get a girl you had to be Jewish.  In the Sixties, to get a girl you had to be
black.  In the Seventies, to get a girl you've got to be a girl.
Mort Sahl

By the time you swear you're his,
Shivering and sighing,
And he vows his passion is
Infinite, undying--
One of you is lying.                                          Dorothy Parker

Many a man in love with a dimple makes the mistake of marrying the
whole girl.                                                                       Stephen Leacock

Many a man has fallen love with a girl in a light so dim he would not
have chosen a suit by it.                                         Maurice Chevalier

It is a mistake to speak of a bad choice in love, since as soon as a
choice exists, it can only be bad.                         Marcel Proust

It's possible to love a human being if you don't know them too well.
Charles Bukowski

Love is only a dirty trick played on us to achieve the continuation of the
species.                                                                        W. Somerset Maugham

The only true love is love at first sight; second sight dispels it.
Israel Zangwill

Boy Meets Girl.  So What?                                       Bertolt Brecht
This photo was taken only days before my beloved San Francisco
store, Sherlock's Haven,  was closed for good in June of '06, thereby
diminishing the quality of life on this planet no little and quite some.  
The man to my right was my trusty pipe tobacco and cigar taste-tester,
Johnson, of the sensitive palate.  He is now  plying his trade in
Phoenix.  The tall gent behind him is Jimmy Walker, hand picked to be
my successor until lease negotiations broke down.  The hoodlum
looking character to my left is my good friend and Consigliere, Steve
Brunner.  Among the regulars are a number who are still friends and
with whom I have regular intercourse.  There has never been a more
congenial spot than Sherlock's Haven, the Camelot of tobacco stores.  
As its proprietor is how I'd like to be remembered.
I wanted to caption this photo, "I knew more about pipes when I was
seven than you know now," but my P.R. firm nixed that idea.  So, let's
try, "With the pristine palate that accompanies youth, Marty smokes a
blend without a full complement of Latakia for the first time in his life."
I don't actually know what was going through my mind at the time, but
the photo was taken circa 1950, and probably in Williamsburg, Virginia.
(And no, I did not actually smoke a pipe until I was 18 years old, really.)
Shortly after my mother met my wife, she told Joy that all it took to
keep me happy in the back seat of our 1938 LaSalle during our annual
one week vacations was a pipe in my mouth and a cap on my head.  
Joy responded with the fact that nothing has changed except that now
I'm in the front seat.  
Above is my sister, with whom I contentiously shared that large back
seat, and my father.  The sweater was knitted by my Aunt Rae.  The
site was most probably Niagara Falls and the year 1949.  I'm guessing.
Welcome to Pulvers Briar
This website is devoted to pipes and my enjoyment of talking
about and showing them.  For your part, I hope you derive some
pleasure in seeing and reading about briar and meerschaum
There are plenty of pipe websites and lots of good pipes other
than mine.  What will distinguish my site from most of the others
is the willingness to voice my  opinion in the relatively rare
occurrence when a pipe is not superior, or has a noticeable flaw.
Mostly, I'm pleased with the pipes I choose to offer for sale, both
in pipe quality and price.  But please, look and decide for
You will see new and used pipes for sale, the new often having
been hand picked and the used always having been cleaned
and reconditioned and ready for you to smoke upon arrival.  
Please enjoy your time spent here today, and please come back
I'm almost always happy to hear from you and to field your
questions, concerns, ideas or other input.
Feel free to write.
Marty Pulvers
Pulvers' Prior Briar
P.O. Box 61146
Palo Alto, CA  94306

(650) 965-7403