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Catlinite Pipes

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  • Catlinite Pipes

    I just read the permanent post by Painshill about fake catlinite pipes. Sounds like it is very difficult to determine authentic from modern reproduction. But can anyone give more specifics?
    Obviously, modern tool marks is a give away, as is a clean bowl interior.
    But what about exterior patina: is there 'old' patina to look for? Deep, deep red Catlinite color?
    What about 'wear' - should there be wear on an old, authentic stone pipe?
    And what constitutes 'authentic?' Is a pipe from 1900 authentic? How old does it have to be, in order to not be a 'reproduction'?
    I have an opportunity to buy a Catlinite Pipe, no provenance at all: if owner allows photographs, I will post some close-ups here before purchase..
    Any links to Catlinite Pipe evaluation is much appreciated.
    Last edited by Cmcramer; 04-19-2019, 08:08 AM.
    Cayuga County, NY Finger Lakes Region

  • #2
    That's a really good question. I would be curious to see the answers.
    "The education of a man is never completed until he dies." Robert E. Lee


    • #3
      My modern Catlinite Pipe has no tool marks at all and the bowl is not clean.
      Michigan Yooper
      If You Don’t Stand for Something, You’ll Fall for Anything


      • #4
        Right....that's the problem!
        Cayuga County, NY Finger Lakes Region


        • #5
          Oh Boy! Each of your questions deserves an answer, but the answers could be lengthy and in depth. I'll start, but I hope someone else chimes in and helps! Let's first talk about reproductions. For the most part, the term reproduction can be changed to " contemporary ". Pipes, and artifacts, become fakes and reproductions when they're misrepresented, lied about, and a story is made up in reference to reported find areas, ex. collectors, etc. On catlinite pipes, collectors are looking for the Plains Indian pre 1900 bowls and stems. The problem here is, you don't go out and find catlinite pipes like you do artifacts, as in surface hunting. These pipes were at some point in time given away as gifts, or kept in the family for generations, until someone decides to part with their great grandfathers collection, and he received a catlinite pipe as a present in say, 1898. So you won't see the normal ground contact areas of mineral deposits. What does give these older pipes away though, is the deep red color catlinite obtains from hours of buffing and polishing, using a harder buffing stone, and a hard piece of rawhide dipped in hot animal fat. This grease is absorbed into the stone giving it the deep ox blood color. But, again this color is dependent on how much time the pipe maker put into it. And there are even exceptions here, because the white man heading west may have made a few pipes to give as gifts from himself! So not every catlinite pipe even had to be made by a Native. In many cases, simply the history of who owned the pipe has to be able to be verified. And it's always nice to see a photo of the native holding the pipe in question. One thing I do, which doesn't work all the time, but does work, is blow into the bowl. If you see loose catlinite dust blow out, then the pipe isn't old. But that doesn't make it fake or reproduction. It makes it a copy, or contemporary. What we might consider authentic, and native made, are any pipes that would be pre 1930. Because even after the reservations were established, catlinite pipes were still being authentically made by the Natives on that reservation. See how lengthy this is getting! We are of course talking about Plains Indian pipes, of the period ca. 1860 - 1930, and not the prehistoric Mississippian/Hopewell pipes of the 12th - 15th century. Those have a completely different story.
          Now, as far as surface indications, under a scope or loupe, you should be seeing what's called " Ghost scratches. " These are called ghost because you can't see them with the naked eye. What these are in brief, are all the little scratches that are in the surface from using the pipe. Laying it down, it gets kicked, maybe dropped, laid on a rock, all sorts of things from using the pipe. And you will see these scratches by the thousands, all over the surface. If you don't see these, then there's a good chance the pipe was probably never handled, smoked, or used, and that raises a red flag that it could be contemporary, and I would say contemporary dates between 1940 to the present.
          A lot of identifying an older catlinite pipe really comes down to experience, and seeing hundreds of them. They have a certain look and feel that's hard to explain. No doubt you would want to stay away from any catlinite that still retains a fresh, pinkish color. And these are being made by the thousands for the tourist industry, or just as a hobby, but are very legitimate, and most are signed. This doesn't answer all your questions, but may help a little. Maybe I'll be back. Anyone else?


          • sailorjoe
            sailorjoe commented
            Editing a comment
            Outstanding info Paul. Your depth of knowledge is most impressive.

        • #6
          Post some photos when you get a chance, if your allowed. Another part of your series of questions, Tool marks? But first, it's a little bit about cultural terminology. When we see catlinite pipes, moccasins, beaded items, etc., they all get grouped into " Plains Indian". That is actually very generic. The term Plains Indian can mean one of several dozen tribes. The Sioux , Crow, Blackfoot, Arapaho, Cheyenne, Mandan, Kiowa, and about 25 more, are all Plains Indians. Just the Sioux nation is further divided into 5 major groups. All dependent on region. So unless a piece is beaded with the right colors and specific pattern, it's usually the history of an item that can attribute a specific piece to a specific tribe. Anyway, tool marks, Remember the Natives in the 1800s had plenty of white mans metal tools to fashion these pipes. Steel knives, saws, files, etc., and you may very well see the tool marks left behind by metal tools. This again doesn't make the pipe a repro or a copy. The tool marks however should be buffed down to a minimum and not stand out and be distinct. File marks should be buffed out and barely visible, but may still be apparent. If your buying a catlinite bowl, with or without the stem, and no history, if it's 1880 - 1910 your ok, but without history, that will only reflect in the value. The best catlinite pipe I ever had was one that was donated to the Carlisle Indian School by Red Shirt. He was an Oglala Sioux chief who sent his children to Carlisle, and donated a catlinite pipe with stem to the school in 1902. But I had a photo of Red Shirt holding the exact pipe in a group photo of several other Sioux Indians. The provenance is the most important criteria to prove a pipe is Native made and authentic to a specific time period. Try and let us see some photos if the pipe your interested in. Again, I hope this little bit of extra info helps!
          Last edited by pkfrey; 04-19-2019, 02:50 PM.


          • Hoss
            Hoss commented
            Editing a comment
            Thank you Paul for sharing this with us.

        • #7
          Excellent Paul. Thanks much. Pics to come in a few days if I can.
          Cayuga County, NY Finger Lakes Region


          • #8
            Fascinating, thank you.


            • #9
              Paul really nailed the answer.


              • #10
                Click image for larger version

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ID:	362646 Thanks guys for your positive feedback! Here are two catlinite pipe bowls. One is 1890 - 1910, and one is contemporary, 1940s - 1950s. Can you now tell the difference?


                • #11
                  Paul - top pipe appears to have more 'ghost scratches' on the bowl, and a color that is deeper, closer to brick red: that's my guess for the older one.

                  The enlarged photo I attached here was sent to me by the seller and makes me think the pipe in my OP is clay. Dang. But an excellent lesson in Catlinite stone pipes, Paul!

                  Last edited by Cmcramer; 04-22-2019, 12:55 PM.
                  Cayuga County, NY Finger Lakes Region


                  • pkfrey
                    pkfrey commented
                    Editing a comment
                    Chris, Actually, the top pipe is the newer one. The lines your referring to as Ghost Scratches, are parallel sanding striations left behind by a strip of fine grained sandpaper used in a buffing motion around the bowl. Sand paper wasn't used to make the earlier pre1900s pipes. These lines would have been worn down due to the softness of the stone and repeated handling. The brighter color would be the very initial stage of high polish which would have been worn down to a matte finish just by handling the pipe over time. The bottom one shows the oxblood color that appears on an aged, well used pipe, which is caused by repeated handling and smoking, and skin oils would of been absorbed turning the red color to the deeper blood color. The bottom one shows the small, very random scratches and little dents caused by accidentally laying the pipe down and it gets rubbed and banged against dirt, gravel, a larger rock, etc.. There's also the distinct color change from ex blood red to a faded red, to almost a yellowish appearance where heat would have been applied to the pipe. The top one doesn't show any indication it was smoked for any long periods of time. The pipe in your photo doesn't appear to be catlinite, and the style doesn't really match the Plains Indians pipes in over all form. I think sometimes, more often than not, it's hard to describe the noticeable differences between a pipe, or any artifact, and comes down to having seen hundreds of examples that are consistent in the manufacturing process, use and wear marks, and overall style.

                • #12
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ID:	362964 Here is the one I found. Unfortunately, the bowl was gone. Click image for larger version

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                  My name is Gary. I live in NE South Dakota


                  • #13
                    Broken end

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                    My name is Gary. I live in NE South Dakota


                    • #14
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                      My name is Gary. I live in NE South Dakota


                      • #15
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ID:	362974 More bits and pieces.

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                        My name is Gary. I live in NE South Dakota


                        • pkfrey
                          pkfrey commented
                          Editing a comment
                          You can see by all those cutting tool marks, this piece was made by stone cutting and polishing tools. No parallel striations or polishing marks. Even the one finished end reveals multiple cut marks made by a sharp piece of chert cutting back and forth. The hole was probably reed drilled, and then enlarged using a thin, sharp chert drill gouging out the interior walls.