I have been keeping my eye out for a Wimbledon pipe for quite a while, passing on several mostly because it was not the shape number i desired. I was hopping to find a #690 and had passed on one a few months ago and have been kicking myself since.I spotted this one on Ebay last week and knew it was the one I had been waiting for. I made a”Best Offer” on the sellers price and a deal was struck.
It was the right shape number of # 690 ( Extra Lg. Billiard) and looked to be in excellent shape with a equally excellent blast. It just needed a good cleaning and removal of some stem oxidation and chatter.
There is incorrect information regarding these pipes on the internet that i would like to bring attention to, so i will be covering the history and facts of these pipes.
If you look up Wimbeldon pipes on such sites as pipephil or pipepedia you would come to the conclusion that because of the Diamond on the stem that this is a Braircraft made pipe or some have even mistaken this for a GBD/Comoy pipe. Although GBD/Comoy did make a Wimbeldon pipe ,both of these conclusions are incorrect.
These pipes were actually made in North Carolina by Sparta Industries better know as Dr.Grabow. These were actually coupon pipes for Borkum Riff Tobacco. Borkum Riff was owned at the time by the Swedish Tobacco Company.
I have been a been a long time member of the Dr.Grabow Collectors Forum .
I have learned a lot about the history of pipes made by HLT/Linkman/Dr.Grabow and other pipes associated with them such as Mastercraft,Royalton and the Smokemaster. Smokemaster is the product line that the Wimbeldon was made under. There is several members of the DGF ( Dr.Grabow Forum) that are really passionate on the history and facts of all thing Dr.Grabow related but the major person we have fallen onto for information is Ted. Most of the facts i will disclose in this post came from him. Here is the background on Ted and Dr.Grabow. He started with Grabow in 1966. Mastercraft in 1973. In 1982 he was Executive VP of Mastercraft, Grabow, and Spartacraft. In 1989 became President of the corporation. Now you can not get a finer Dr. Grabow pedigree that that in my opinion. Ted is now retired but still has a deep connection with the company.
Hopefully by the end of this i convince you and others that this is a Dr.Grabow made pipe with facts and evidence.
The Smokemaster name was purchased by Dr. Grabow in the 1960’s from from the heirs of the Briarcraft company.The Smokemaster, LL Bean and later Wimbeldon were all made under the same product line. The earlier Braircraft Smokemasters used a Diamond with a B inside on the shank and a B on the stem.
Here is a NOS Briacraft Smokemaster.
Black vulcanite stems are the same but with a white B on the stem.
ALL Smokemaster , LL Bean and Wimbeldon with a diamond on the stem (colors vary from line and model ) like this Wimbeldon were made by Dr.Grabow and not by Briarcraft.
Around 1978 Dr.Grabow was looking for a name for the new Borkum Riff coupon pipe they were going to introduce. They decided on the name Wimbeldon.It is not really sure why they chose this name, but at the time the name was owned by GBD/Comoy. Dr.Grabow purchased the rights to the name Wimbledon from them.
GDB/Comoy Wimbeldon pipes can be identified by a tennis racket on the stem and the stamping of Wimbeldon Made in England on the shank.
Now from research you can do on the web Braircraft closed its door in 1950 a full 28 years before Dr.Grabow acquired the Wimbledon name. In fact I am skeptical Braircraft ever made a Wimbeldon pipe. I have done pretty extensive research on them and prior to the GBD/Comoy Wimbeldon pipe I find no other pipe company using the name, including Briarcraft. I have even contacted a Briarcraft collector and he does not own one or has seen one. I think that since people confuse the Dr.Grabow made Smokemasters /LL Bean pipes with Briarcraft that they just assume Briarcraft made a Wimbledon as well.
If anyone has a Wimbledon with a Briarcraft stamp or logo I would very much like to see it!
I also picked up a this old Borkum Riff tobacco tin with a original coupon inside solely for this post.
The first pipe is clearly a #690. These are all Dr.Grabow shapes with a 0 added on the end. Mine is a Dr.Grabow #69 Ex. Large Billiard
Notice the North Carolina address.
Here is a quick snippet of Borkum Riff history.
‘Borkum Riff’ tobacco was launched in Sweden in the 1960s. It was a rough cut blend of Virginia and Burley tobaccos. The tobacco blend had been developed with an eye on the US pipe tobacco market. Initial sales were sluggish, but when Borkum Riff’s Bourbon Whiskey blend was successfully introduced in the US in 1969, sales increased.
Now remember Briarcraft closed its doors around 1950, so this is another fact that makes it impossible to be a Briarcraft made pipe.
Ok ,lets take a look at the Braicraft shape chart. Although Briarcraft has a LG. Billiard 69 shape ( middle of chart) it just does not quite look like our Wimbeldon.
Now lets pull out my Dr. Grabow shape chart .
The bottom right is where we want to zoom in on. There is the Dr.Grabow shape #69. I don’t know about you but it looks like a match to me.
Once you have learned the Dr.Grabow shapes they are pretty easy to pick out from other pipes. The Smokemaster ,LL Bean an Wimbeldon pipes made by Dr.Grabow all use classic Dr.Grabow shapes.
I have seen these Wimbeldon pipes listed for sale on Ebay ,Etsy and other places that sale pipes as 1920,1930 and 1940 era Briarcraft pipes. It is just not true and it is AT LEAST a 30 year discrepancy . That to me is just too big a difference to ignore. Same goes with the Dr.Grabow made Smokemaster and LL bean pipes. The Smokemaster and LL Bean pipes were made from the 1960’s to the 1990’s. The Wimbeldon also ceased production in the 1990’s.
The Smokemaster’s was a coupon pipe in Union Leader and I think Briggs. They were also sold through advertisement on Dill pipe cleaners and catalogs.
Of course the LL Bean pipes were sold out of the LL Bean catalog. Although LL Bean will deny ever selling tobacco and or pipes if you ask them now. PC , don’t you love it? Briarcraft LL bean pipes have no stem logo, stem banded and have the script stamping of “Aged Imported Briar ” on the bottom ( like all Briarcraft ) on the shank. Like these 2 un-restored originals.
Hopefully i have convinced you on who, what and when on this Wimbelon pipe. So now lets look at the pipe after a good cleaning , buff and wax. Since this is becoming a long post I will skip all the usual cleaning process and go right to the “After”.
Borkum Riff Wimbledon #690 coupon pipe ( 1979/80 – early/mid 1990’s)
Even if you are not a fan of Borkum Riff tobacco you got to admit they made a good looking tin. My step father smoked this when i was a pre-teen and teenager in the 1970’s and the smell of it when it smoked takes me back to that time.
The pipe smokes excellent (that is not Borkum Riff tobacco but lets just pretend for the pictures sake as I would rather smell it than smoke it ). If you get a chance to own one of these, I highly recommend them. They are a very good quality pipe and I really like the looks of them. The sandblast are the most common and the shape I see the most often is the # 810 author ( Dr.Grabow #81) not my favorite pipe shape so I have passed on them. The Plum French smooth ones seem to be quite a bit more scarce to me . In fact i did not even know they made them until I got the coupon in my hand, I thought Wimbledon’s only came in sandblast.
Well I hope you enjoyed this long post, but this has bothered me for a while that these pipes were being misrepresented as something they were not and wanted to get it off my chest. Hopefully I did not bore you too bad.
Until Next Time,
Good Smokes to you.
If you would like to know more about Dr.Grabow pipes or dispute some information on here then come on over to the Dr.Grabow Forum, we would love to chat pipes with you.