Grading the Pre World War II Dunhill Bruyere DR
Written by and © John C Loring (Used by permission)
Contributed by Jean-Christophe Bienfait
The DR (straight grain) pipe has always been a part of the Dunhill line. Today and since the early/mid 1930s with very few exceptions it is known in the Root finish but prior to that time it was strictly a Bruyere finished pipe as the Bruyere finish was the only smooth finish offered by Dunhill prior to the early 1930s.[*] Almost invariably these pre World War II Bruyere DRs are found with small square ‘stops’ , a small square stamp  in the area of the DUNHILL over LONDON stamping (on very early pipes the stamp is DUNHILL over DUKE ST SW).
From my work with pre World War II Dunhill catalogs I have long suspected that these square stop stamps on DRs are grade related and recently asked collectors possessing pre World War II Dunhill DRs to report on the DR ‘stop’ stampings found in their collections. The initial survey results and my initial conclusions follow.
Information Reported By Collectors Having Pre WWII Bruyere DRs
DR ‘stops’ (small square stamps) reported on Bruyere DRs pipes from circa 1915 (Duke St) through the early 1930's were as follows (the first number indicates number of pipes reported, the specific years of those pipes follow in parenthetical):
9 after/beneath the "N" of LONDON
(Duke St, '22, '23, '23 '24, '25,'29 [French stamping], '30, '32)
4 before/beneath the "L" of LONDON
(Duke St., '23, '24, '33)
1 after/above the "L" of DUNHILL
1 after/above the "D" of DUNHILL
1 with no stop visable
For a total of 16 pipes.
Information From Pre WWII Dunhill Catalogs
The first indication of a formal grading system is found in the 1912 catalog which shows three grades priced in shillings at 21/, 50/ & 90/. This three grade system continued until 1923/1924 but there were at least two price changes prior to that time - around 1917 when the prices were increased to 42/, 63/ & 90/ and around 1920 when the prices again increase to 50/, 90/ & 130/. In about 1925 a fourth grade was introduced with US dollar pricing for the four grades being $25, $45, $65 and $100. The large 1928 catalog shows the pricing in shillings for the four grades at 50/ 90/ 130/ & 210/. Note that the pricing of the first three of the four grades was identical to earlier years (i.e. 1920) with a huge price jump to the new fourth grade. This can be taken two ways:
(i) either the introduction of a fourth grade was accomplished by debasing the earlier grading standards (i.e. a 1920 ‘grade 3’ DR was equal to a 1925/1928 ‘grade 4’ DR), or
(ii) the introduction of the fourth grade was simply a recognition of what likely had always been true, that occasionally very special pipes were produced that deserve very special pricing (i.e. a 1920 ‘grade 3’ DR was equal to a 1925/1928 ‘grade 3’ DR and a 1925/1928 ‘grade 4’ DR was better then both).
Given the big price jump to the new fourth grade, I strongly suspect the latter alternative to be the case and that were the records available we would find that even when the 'three grade' system was in place there were occasional sales of special straight grained pipes at prices above 130/ .
While the universe of reported pre WWII Bruyere DRs is regrettably small, one can comfortably conclude that there was a consistent system of stamping 'stops' on Bruyere DRs in place from the early 1910s through the early 1930s with the strong suggestion (but not a certainty) that these stops and stamping placements relate to the DR grading indicated in the then contemporary catalogs. It is probably also reasonably safe to suggest that stops stamped before or after the LONDON indicate the lower two catalog grades and that those stamped before or after DUNHILL indicate the higher one or two catalog grades.
Given the small number of pipes reported anything further must be considered speculation. However, noting (a) the dates of the two reported pipes with stops stamped before or after DUNHILL; (b) the apparent introduction of a 4th grade circa 1925; and (c) the comparative population of stop stampings before and after LONDON, it may be hypothesized that grade stamping from lowest (1) to highest (4) were:
(1) after (and often slightly beneath) the N of LONDON
(2) before (and often slightly beneath) the L of LONDON
(3) after (and often slightly above) the L of DUNHILL
(4) before (and often slightly above) the D of DUNHILL[†]
[*] The Bruyere & Root finishes at least prior to the late 1960s, are not simply a matter of color. Into the 1960s the Bruyere finished pipe was made from very hard Calabrian briar, a well grained briar but not particularly conducive to straight graining. Again into the 1960s the Root finished pipe was made from Corsican briar, not quite as hard but much more conducive to straight graining. Sometime in the 1960s Dunhill began to shift to other briar sources for both the Bruyere and Root finishes, primarily I am told Grecian briar which is a bit softer then Corsican but even more prone to straight graining. These changes in briar are probably among the principal reasons why the typical ‘patent’ Dunhill smooth finish pipe is less attractively grained then its more recent counterpart and why the ‘straight grained’ pipe has become an increasingly important part of the Dunhill line.
[†] Information not reported here strongly indicates that while stop stampings continued after the early 1930s for Root DRs and into the post WWII period, both the placement of stops and grade system changed dramatically. In light of some inquiries and loose remarks on eBay it should also be noted that while one often sees stop stampings with standard Bruyeres (i.e. non DRs) of the 1910s and 1920s before either an A or a circled (A) there is no indication from the catalogs that these stops were value indicators. Undoubtedly whether a standard Bruyere pipe during this period was stamped with a circled or uncircled A or followed by a stop was meaningful, but that meaning most probably related to production or distribution concerns as opposed to grading or value.
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