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  1. #1
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    The joys and dangers of Ebay pipes

    I got my first set of pipes in 1975 and have bought and sold a large number over the decades.

    I've been a daily Ebay bagpipe watcher for many years. Both of the Highland sets I currently play are great-playing pipes from the 1940s that I got off Ebay for a fraction of what a new set would cost. In my opinion my vintage pipes play circles around new pipes costing three or four times more. I see tremendous bargains get zero bids all the time.

    That being said, Ebay is fraught with dangers for pipers who haven't developed a sense of the used pipe market, pipers unfamiliar with vintage pipes, and pipers who haven't developed an eye for the sometimes subtle indicators of Pakistani pipes. I see people wildly over-pay for horrible Pakistani pipes all the time.

    So let's look at some pipes on Ebay now. One set is particularly instructive, as it doesn't fit the usual perceptions.

    First is a vintage Lawrie set "refurbished by Dunbar". For those not aware, the further you go back the more alike Lawries and Hendersons become, both in look and sound. Early Lawries like this one will be fine-playing professional instruments. Looks like Rick Pettigrew at Dunbar Bagpipes removed the original mounts (probably Catalin) and replaced them with the very strong and durable imitation ivory that Dunbar has used for many years.

    This set has a minimum, it has already cycled through without reaching it.

    https://www.ebay.com/itm/Bagpipes/11...QAAOSwltBgDGR2

    Speaking of Dunbar, here's a delrin/polypenco Dunbar set for a very low price. This set will never crack or break and can withstand any weather and almost any abuse and give you a terrific vintage Henderson sound, the ideal set for a beginner, a youth, or for a piper's parade or backup set. Many pipers play poly Dunbars as their only set.

    https://www.ebay.com/itm/Dunbar-P3-B...UAAOSwt1Zeo5jU

    Sometimes sellers don't understand what vintage pipes are worth, and wildly overprice a set. Just don't be the newbie who wildly over-pays! Here's a Gillanders set from c1950 to c1980 fully mounted in Catalin, the much-hated "pumpkin" imitation ivory of that era. Gillanders are very good pipes but sets like this, sturdy Catalin-mounted African Blackwood sets from good Scottish makers from a half-century ago, usually sell on Ebay for well under a thousand dollars. I've see this exact Gillanders model sell in the $700 range.

    https://www.ebay.com/itm/bagpipe-of-...AAAOSwf1xgEAKL

    Here's a very nice set that would do any piper proud, for a fair price. But beware that it's mounted in Ivory which is illegal to ship across International borders. If a US buyer gets this set they're in danger of losing their entire investment, if US Customs seizes it.

    https://www.ebay.com/itm/Vintage-Afr...8AAOSwLxpbjZhC

    Lastly the set that got me to do this post, for it has much to tell.

    Many pipers will look at this and see a vintage Catalin-mounted African Blackwood set from a legitimate UK maker. That was my first-glance impression! But a closer look reveals multiple red flags. Look at the tartan of the bag-cover. Gordon yes, but obviously not real UK-woven tartan. There's something not-quite-right about it. Next, and this is going to sound nitpicky, are the little rubber donuts or fat O-rings that hold the cords onto the drones. These are a telltale sign of Pakistani pipes. Happily the seller shows us the bag and it's a characteristic Pakistani leather bag.

    So, you say, why isn't it a nice vintage UK-made set which has had a Pakistani bag, bag-cover, and cords added? It's possible but extremely unlikely. I can't imagine an owner of a legit set going out of his way to acquire a suite of Pakistani accessories. In fact I don't think I've ever seen that. What I have seen is the opposite, a Pakistani set dressed up with a UK-made chanter, bag, bag-cover, and cords.

    To know 100% that the wood parts are Pakistani I would need some more closeup in-focus photos of the wood, or better yet a photo showing one or more of the internal bores. I suspect the pipes are of Sheesham wood (tan colour) which has been painted black. However Pakistani pipes made of Ebony or African Blackwood do exist, so the wood itself isn't necessarily diagnostic.

    https://www.ebay.com/itm/VINTAGE-Set...QAAOSw2QlgFy0K
    Last edited by OC Richard; 1st February 21 at 04:10 AM.
    Proud Mountaineer from the Highlands of West Virginia; son of the Revolution and Civil War; first Europeans on the Guyandotte

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  3. #2
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    I absolutely love that you set up this thread. I have a set of Naill's with engraved nickel that I use 90% of the time and a backup set of Dunbar Poly pipes, so I definitely do not NEED another set of pipes by any means, but as you wrote, I too like browsing through what is listed on eBay, playing the "is this garbage or could I get a really good deal" game.

    I have enjoyed reading this post as much as I enjoy your sporran posts, and genuinely hope you keep this thread going. I have asked others in my band for feedback on some pipes I have found but almost always get the reply that I "need to stop looking at bagpipes on eBay," so I am hoping this turns into a space where I can ask questions, offer opinions, and find some interesting insights.

    Rob

  4. #3
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    Excellent post. My hat is off to you for being able to figure out exactly what it is you are looking at on the ebay site. Many times the pictures are misleading. As you say the Dunbar refurbished pipes are probably a good deal . Dunbar business does good work and well worth taking a chance with.
    Piping Is Life!....The rest doesn't matter.

  5. #4
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    Thanks gents!

    The Ebay identification game sometimes comes down to guesswork. Often it's due to the seller providing poor photos.

    I know a piper who has done more buying and selling of vintage sets than anybody I know of, and even he was fooled once! Well not fooled exactly, because he knew the risk he was taking. The seller had posted photos that weren't capable of giving a positive ID. The pipes were either a nice vintage set, or a Pakistani set that didn't have any of the characteristic features of Pakistani pipes. They turned out to be the latter.

    Possibly the greatest Ebay bagpipe victory I know of is another friend who spied a set of pipes going for $100 with no bids. It was a very strange-looking and ugly set; the mounts were hideous and of an unknown material. But my friend thought that the pipes themselves looked like they might possibly be vintage Hendersons.

    He bought the pipes (no other bidders) and when they arrived he discovered that they were indeed wonderful 100-year-old Hendersons! And the mystery of the ugly mounts was solved: The pipes had integral blackwood projecting mounts, which some previous owner had painted over with white paint! It took a lot of work to clean those up, but now he has one of the finest-sounding early Hendersons around.

    Another friend picked up a fine vintage Henderson set on Ebay for around $500. Why? They had been mounted in silver, which some previous owner had removed, leaving ugly rough wood showing where the mounts had been. He bought the pipes and sent them to Naill to have new silver put on. The result is a fabulous-looking and sounding early Henderson silver set.
    Proud Mountaineer from the Highlands of West Virginia; son of the Revolution and Civil War; first Europeans on the Guyandotte

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  7. #5
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    Back to Ebay, I think that Gillanders set for $2,580 is wildly overpriced.

    Here's another Gillanders set for $1,000 and I feel that this set too is a bit overpriced. It's been up on Ebay for a while now, so other people must think so too. I think if this set were listed for $700 it would probably sell.

    https://www.ebay.com/itm/Vintage-Gil...gAAOSw6qBfYk96

    Here's a set that could be very fine-sounding, a later Lawrie. It's probably from the 1960s or thereabouts. I've owned Lawries from this period that were wonderful pipes, big tone and extremely stable. I'm not sure if they will sell at this price- some people hate Catalin-mounted pipes, and some people are scared off by Lawries of this period.

    https://www.ebay.com/itm/Vintage-Bag...YAAOSw8l1gEuYW
    Last edited by OC Richard; 1st February 21 at 03:29 PM.
    Proud Mountaineer from the Highlands of West Virginia; son of the Revolution and Civil War; first Europeans on the Guyandotte

  8. #6
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    Funny enough, those Lawries were on my "watch" list. The low price actually made me a bit nervous.

    I feel like there are three very distinct buyers of pipes on eBay - Scotland, Canada, and the US. Scotland seems to have a plethora of pipes, but they are overwhelmingly "average" pipes. People in the US are looking for pipes, but I get the sensation they are looking for something "special," which is why the plain sets and sets with Catalan mounts don't sell for a lot. I can't lie, I am definitely one of those Americans always on the lookout for an ivory set that doesn't have to cross borders, silver, and/or something rare/with a story. I think Canada sort of is a mix of those two, but I have noticed that there are a lot more non-eBay options in Canada than the US, primarily Kijiji. I come up every so often for work, piping, and curling, and I am am always amazed at how well my trips coincide with Kijiji going silent. ;)

    Anyway, that's enough about me. Now back to waiting to see what exciting sets you unearth! (...and I absolutely will do the same when I come across some and/or have time to go through my list with questions for you)

    Rob

  9. #7
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    This is a very helpful thread. I'm not in the market now, but it'll be good training for what to look for when I am.

  10. #8
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    I will throw this out here, as this listing contains a number of my pet-peeves of pipes on eBay: https://www.ebay.com/itm/Professiona....c100010.m2109

    The things that annoy me / I look at as red-flags:
    - seller does not say much about the pipes - I struggle to say 'not knowing anything about the pipes,' when this seller does reference where they were sold, but you would think they would share more if they knew more and really wanted to sell the item
    - few pictures, pictures are from a distance, closeups are fuzzy/poor quality, and/or more pictures of the (usually worthless) accessories than of the pipes themselves
    - use of the word "Professional" in describing the pipes. I kind of sometimes wish one of the well known pipe makers would release an "amateur bagpipes" set, perhaps for April Fools Day
    - "sold as seen," especially when you haven't shown much at all
    - "no refunds," which I have been told you would never hear from someone selling you a worthwhile set of pipes
    - while not explicitly stated in this auction, in general, the selling of "vintage" pipes, when the pipes either aren't that old or don't have anything special/unique about them. Old and 'vintage' don't really mean a ton with bagpipes if they aren't made well. What drove me to include this on this set is the fact that when I check the referenced seller, Sterling Bagpipes, I see that you can buy new pipes from them for roughly what this seller is asking, if not more. If the pipes had something unique or were a particularly desired maker and/or vintage, that makes sense, but for what appears to be a very 'average' set at best, doing so seems unrealistic at best.

    I am looking forward to hearing all of the assessment mistakes that I assuredly made!

    Rob

  11. #9
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    Quote Originally Posted by WalesLax View Post
    I will throw this out here, as this listing contains a number of my pet-peeves of pipes on eBay: https://www.ebay.com/itm/Professiona....c100010.m2109

    The things that annoy me / I look at as red-flags:
    - seller does not say much about the pipes
    - few pictures, pictures are from a distance, closeups are fuzzy/poor quality
    - use of the word "Professional" in describing the pipes
    - "sold as seen," especially when you haven't shown much at all
    - "no refunds"
    Exactly right on every point!

    And his listing originally was even worse, it had one blurry far-away photo and the only description was "sold as seen". What?!

    I messaged him right away saying that if he wanted to increase the chance of his pipes selling he would either have to have more photos, or more description, or better yet both. I asked him if he knew who made the pipes.

    He said "it's in the listing".

    I said that in fact his listing did not say anything about who made the pipes, and I asked him again.

    He repeated "it's in the listing".

    This time I copied and pasted the listing, and finally he became aware that he hadn't mentioned the maker.

    He updated the listing with the maker mentioned and a couple more photos, but still I doubt that he will sell that set at that price.

    I'd never heard of Stirling Bagpipes, but if it's true that the maker apprenticed under Nigel Richard (who recently passed away) then he should know what he's about.

    https://www.stirlingbagpipes.com/about
    Last edited by OC Richard; 3rd February 21 at 07:13 AM.
    Proud Mountaineer from the Highlands of West Virginia; son of the Revolution and Civil War; first Europeans on the Guyandotte

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  13. #10
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    Cool

    Quote Originally Posted by WalesLax View Post
    I feel like there are three very distinct buyers of pipes on eBay:

    Scotland seems to have a plethora of pipes, but they are overwhelmingly "average" pipes.

    People in the US are looking for pipes, but I get the sense that they are looking for something "special," which is why the plain sets and sets with Catalan mounts don't sell for a lot. I can't lie, I am definitely one of those Americans always on the lookout for an ivory set that doesn't have to cross borders, silver, and/or something rare/with a story.

    Canada sort of is a mix of those two, but I have noticed that there are a lot more non-eBay options in Canada than the US, primarily Kijiji.
    Very interesting! I never noticed that, I will have to keep an eye out.

    I could be wrong, but it seems to me one difference between US pipers and UK pipers is regarding the "restoring" of vintage pipes. From what I've seen there's a greater tendency in the UK for pipers to like shiny new-looking pipes, and they would rather have a vintage set "restored" to make look new, while many US pipers don't mind vintage pipes looking their age. (I know there's both kinds of pipers in both places.)

    There used to be a guy named Steve McVeigh (Ebay name "bugpiper") in Northern Ireland who was, to my way of thinking, criminal in what he did to vintage pipes. I don't think he did the work himself, I think he sent the old pipes to Kintail. He would have them turn down the ivory mounts to get rid of the patina layer, and have them turn down all the wood parts to cut away the original combing & beading and cut new combing & beading.

    Even worse is how he would slap on hideous CNC engraved silver mounts.

    I don't know how many beautiful old Hendersons he desecrated in that way.

    About the "stories" that come with pipes, I think generally those are bogus. I've seen so many pipes on Ebay said to have been "recovered from a WWI battlefield" that after the Great War the ground must have been so covered with bagpipes that you couldn't walk without stepping on them.

    Oh, and pipes "played in the Boar War" (sic)
    Proud Mountaineer from the Highlands of West Virginia; son of the Revolution and Civil War; first Europeans on the Guyandotte

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