(Above) Painting on canvas by Rene Magritte, 1928-1929.

(Above and below) Groups of pipes for sale on eBay.

PIPES ALWAYS REMIND ME OF THE SURREALISTS, Rene Magritte and Marcel Duchamp. Magritte’s famous painting “Ceci n’est pas une pipe” (“This is not a pipe”) confounded the critics when he first exhibited it. Indeed, Magritte was correct. It was not a pipe, it was simply the image of a pipe. You couldn’t smoke it, it was an illusion—a flat 2-D representation of a pipe.

I would never collect pipes. I do not smoke and God knows I do not need another collecting obsession. But when I saw these two collections of pipes on eBay, it made me reflect on the essence of collecting. Looking at so many pipes together in one place, you begin to see differences. Seeing a large group of similar things helps one see the subtle changes, shapes, colors, textures and styles before you. Being a collector means being able to look at 48 pipes (or whatever) in front of you, and immediately being able to pick out the rare one, the modern fake or at the very least, ask the questions in your head that are necessary to begin to categorize them. Connoisseurship means knowledge. For the pipe collector, you’ll understand which pipes draw smoke the best, which ones have the best bowls, which woods are best.

Interested in buying a group of pipes? Just go here. The Magritte painting, if it were ever to come up for auction, would cost you some cool millions.

1 Comment