April 14, 2007

Pedigree and pipes

The news of John Wilson’s MacDougalls realizing (that’s the word they use when describing the sale of antiques at auction) $13,000 in as-is condition should have the piping world talking. Troy Guindon’s acquisition will make any serious piper jealous – not so much of the instrument itself, but its historical pedigree.

That said, I’ve always thought that our best, vintage drones are under-valued. A serious pianist will drop $80,000 or more on a good Steinway or Bösendorfer. Stringed orchestral instruments fetch easily into six-figures. $5,000 for a set of silver and ivory Hendersons is a bargain, considering the passion most serious pipers put into their craft, not to mention the fact that an equivalent brand-new all-silver set easily exceeds that price.

But it’s the pedigree of the Wilson pipes that interests me. The added value of owning and playing a set that produced great music and stirring performances really has no price for those who appreciate such things.

How much could pipes played by our current champions realize? What would Willie McCallum’s silver Hendersons go for at auction? What about Bill Livingstone’s drones, previously played by his father, originally made by Peter Henderson? Or Colin MacLellan’s Lawries? These are all pipers with an even more impressive performance record than Wilson’s, so the added-value of their drones must be even greater, no?

Truth is, pipes like Wilson’s are usually left or gifted to a pupil or, as in Wilson’s case with his uncle, to a family member. Sales of such pedigreed pipes are not usually seen, or made so public, so perhaps our sense of such a great instrument’s value is not as high as it should be.

Until now. It will be interesting to see whether this $13,000 bagpipe energizes the market for vintage drones, and increases our perception of bagpipe-value to a more appropriate level.




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