Towards a Comoy Dating Guide (Draft)
[This document is in draft form. I'll be working on further revision, and filling in details as they become available. Also, as information about the various "second" lines, such as Guildhall, Everyman, Astor, etc., becomes available, I'll add it here.-glp]
I'm not a collector of Comoy pipes specifically, but enough
of them have passed through my collection over the past 20 years
for me to have gotten some sense of determining at least the
relative age of them. About a year ago, I started trying to make
some real sense of this, and though this is going to be a lengthy
project, involving much more research and "pipe archaeology,"
I thought I'd share my current thoughts and speculations, and
solicit any additional information which must exist out
there in Cyberia. Much of this article is extracted from something
I had originally posted on ASP. Over time, I'll refine and update
it as new facts find their way to me.
A Very Brief History
The Comoy pipe is historically significant. François
Comoy in Saint Claude, France originally founded the company
in the early 1820's, as a manufacturer of clay pipes. In 1848,
either François or his son, Louis, made the first Bruyére
pipe from the root burl of the indigenous White Heath, Erica
arborea, known today as briar. Henri Comoy, son of Louis, established
Comoy's of London in 1879 where most Comoy pipes have been made
since. Sometime in the 1980s, Comoy was bought or absorbed into
Cadogan Industries, who continue to make the Comoy pipe today.
There are a few things that allow the Comoy collector to get an idea of the vintage of a particular piece. The lettering style and the stamping of the country of origin are the most obvious things to consider.
I am fortunate to have a few pieces with original hallmarked silver bands that helped tie some of the more sketchy information together. Until I have a chance to photograph the various marks, or otherwise reproduce them, we'll have to settle for a description of the markings.
The oldest verified nomenclature I have seen allows us to date a piece to the teens and before; how much before, I can't say, as older examples have not available to me. The stamping on my 1916 example is weak, but legible, and reads, "Comoy's" in a slightly ornate script, canted to the right, with "LONDON MADE" in block, sans serif, upper case letters directly beneath. Additionally, there may be an underline beneath "Comoy's."
There are flies in every ointment, however. The determining factor for these early pipes may be nothing more than the "LONDON MADE" with the type-face of the brand and model designation varying. John Loring was kind enough to send me some information on a verified 1919 cased set of "Prima" grade pipes, showing "COMOY'S" in upper-case, serif type, with "C" larger than the rest.
In the twenties through at least 1938, "COMOY'S," is stamped in upper case serif type, with the "C" larger than the rest, printed on a slight curve. The typeface is somewhat more ornamented than that used in later years. The grade of the pipe is stamped in block letters directly under the "COMOY'S" stamping. The place of origin stamp is "LONDON" over "MADE," in a sort of football shape.
Of significance during this period is the registartion in 1933 of the Trade-Mark "Grand Slam" by Comoy's of London. I do not know when the first Grand Slam pipe actually appears, however.
The third period, approximately 1938 through the early to mid-forties or so, has the same "COMOY'S" stamp and grade, with the country of origin changing to the circular "MADE IN ENGLAND," the word "IN" in the center of the circle formed by the words "MADE" and "ENGLAND."
It gets murky, here. In the mid- to late forties, the fancier
"COMOY'S" stamp was replaced with a sans serif, block
lettered "COMOYS," with no apostrophe, while the country
of origin stamp remained the same. I'll have to track down the
patent dates present on some of these pipes to get a closer idea
of the actual date this change took place.
Sometime in the 60's, it the serifs were returned to the "COMOY'S" lettering, though, as mentioned above, the typeface is not as fancy as the earlier one.
It appears that some grades carried different stamps or at least that the stamping changed in different years for some grades. At this point, this is highly speculative, as my sample size is too small to verify it.
From this information, we can get at least a fairly close approximation of the decade an older Comoy was made.
I have little interest in any Comoy made later, so have never looked at them very closely. I do know that at some point, the "C" on the stem, which had previously been fabricated with several circles of white plastic and vulcanite, became a simple painted on mark. This, I believe, indicates a Cadogan era pipe, when GBD, Comoy, Orlik and Loewe were all absorbed into one conglomerate, and, in my opinion, went to hell on a sled.
The search for Comoy Truth continues, and I'll update this article with any new information when I can verify it. I hope this is of interest to the many aficionados of old Comoy pipes, and would really enjoy hearing any additional information. Some day, I hope to be able to find dates of introduction of many of the various grades. If you have old Comoy's and would like to help me in this research, drop me a line with a description of the stampings, the grade of the pipe, and anything you know about its origin, and I'll add this to my files.
In the near future, I'll try to include images of the different stampings, but no promises as to when! In the meanwhile, if you have any information not covered here, or evidence to support of rebuke some of the speculation presented, please contact me. With the help of other Comoy collectors, this can become, in time, a reasonably exhaustive resource.