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National Stamp Catalogue

During the fieldwork for his PhD, Dr David Higgins developed a methodology for recording the stamps on clay pipes, by impressing them in plasticine and making casts of them using a fine casting plaster. This ensures that an exact representation of each stamp is preserved and allows similar stamps with the same sets of initials to be distinguished from each other. Following completion of his PhD he and others have continued to use the method.

The sheets of clean plastercine are rolled smooth and the surface dusted lightly with talcum powder. this prevents the platercine sticking to the pipe and gives a good clean impression. The pipes are pressed down firmly and rocked gently to ensure a good impression, whilst taking care not to 'double stamp' them.

Plaster block
Plaster cast of stamp impressions.

Two impressions are made of each stamp in case one does not take properly, or gets damaged before or after casting.

Detail of a die from Block 562.

The plaster casts produce such good quality copies of the original mark that the individual pipemaker'sdies can be easily identified - something that cannot really be done from drawings alone. This method allows impressions from different parts of the country to be compared side by side. The plaster casts are used in conjunction with a recording form. This form records details of where the pipe was recovered as well as details of the museum or collection that it is now in. The Archive holds copies of all these records (LIVNP 2011.01.01-13).

From the casts type examples can be selected for illustration at twice life size.

The working drawings are held on a card index where each different die is allocated a unique number. New impressions can then be compared with the type drawing, and if the example is previously unrecorded it can be added to the index. Once each impression has been identified the information about it can be entered onto database which is being currently being compiled. This information includes the likely date, production centre, manufacture and distribution of each die type, as well as a record of all the known examples.


Higgins, D. A., 1984 'Casting Pipe Stamps' Society for Clay Pipe Research Newsletter, 4, 35-36.

Higgins, D. A., 1985 'National Stamp Catalogue' Society for Clay Pipe Research Newsletter, 8, 5-6.

Higgins, D. A., 1986 'National Stamp Catalogue' Society for Clay Pipe Research Newsletter, 11, 25-26.

Higgins, D. A., 1988 'A Catalouge of Clay Tobacco Pipe Stamps Found in England' Society for Clay Pipe Research Newsletter, 18, 19-20.


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