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Tips on Buying Used Hookahs

Authored by Jared Lender on 1 July 2012 16,135 views No Comment

This article is a general guide to purchasing used pipes. The recommendations I am about to make are generalizations that I personally find to be true most of the time. There are exceptions to everything and this article is  intended to only be a guide. At the end of the day, buy what you like and what works for you and your budget.

I am writing this article assuming you have read these first:

The Absolute Beginner’s Guide: Part One, Hookah Anatomy

Hookah Myths, Part 1: Bigger Hookah, Better Smoke

If your getting in the hookah hobby and your looking to augment your collection with some new pipes while your budget is on the skinny, you might want to look into buying used pipes over the internet. High quality used pipes are all over if you just know where to look for them. Sometimes weeding out the jun pipes is a painstaking and even an intimidating process for people that are still learning how to identify quality pieces.

There are a couple things to keep in mind when roaming the interwebz in search of a nice pipe.

  • How to spot junk
  • What is a must when buying used
  • What is a fair price

Now I’m no sucker, and I’m not going to tell you how or where I find the gold. I can, however, tell you how to if you just struck gold or if you just struck out.

How to Spot Junk

Everyone has a different perspective on what a great pipe consists of. No matter what your pipe preferences, a nice hookah is one that is one that is hand crafted, made from quality materials, and has no significant damage. Again, buy what you like and can afford. These are just guide lines and my personal opinion.

Common Chambers

The easiest way two tell if a pipe is what most people call, “Chinese” (machine made) is if it has common chamber. There are exceptions to this but unless you know for sure what you are looking at, don’t buy common chamber hookahs.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Common chamber hookahs almost always have hose ports that are a little cone sticking off the side of a large, usually orbital chamber. The purge valve is usually, what is commonly referred to as, a “china hat” or “mushroom tip”. Again, this is usually screwed into the TOP of a chamber. Almost all quality pipes have a purge that is soldered onto a piece of cooper or brass tubing that runs DOWN INTO the bottom of the traditional chamber.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Screw on Trays

Some pipes have a bowl port that is separate from the stem and screws into place. When the bowl port is off, the tray is set into place and the port is then screwed into place locking the tray to the stem. These trays are usually very flimsy and bowl shaped. I believe quality ash pans are generally plate like. Not all pipes that have screw on trays are poor quality though. This is just another sign that the hookah could be mass produced or made up of materials that come from a third party. In general, hookah stems that are one piece with no threading tend to be high quality. Though, it seems that pipes being made for the European market are being made of multiple pieces.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Painted Stems

Painted hookah stems (not bases) are another sign that the hookah you are looking at may be of lesser quality. Although Kahlil Mammoon has started painting stems, their paint is poor quality and won’t stand the test of time.

Modern

There are reputable brands on “modern” hookahs. If you find a hookah that looks “obscure”, “unique”,  or “crazy” it is probably another factory made and mass produced hookah that is all show and no go. MYA makes some more “unique” or modern hookahs that are not complete junk.

These are two very common modern pipes that I would never purchase…

 

 

 Bases

Just because a pipe has a sweet base doesn’t mean it’s a sweet pipe. On the other hand, if the base is junk, it doesn’t mean that the pipe is junk. New bases can be had at any retail site and even second hand bases can be high quality. Keep the cost of a replacement base in mind when figuring out a fair price for the pipe in question.

What are the Musts

Clear Pictures

People that are looking to hide something take fuzzy pictures from a distance. If you ask for more pictures of a pipe and people are sending you pictures that are out of focus and don’t give a clear view of the pipe, STAY AWAY.

No Damage

If a dab of JB WELD and metal polish don’t remedy a pipes condition, Its not worth the time. If you think you have the resources to fabricate and repair a hookah, go for it. For the most part, if a person is selling a pipe that has serious damage, it’s because the seller doesn’t it’s worth the time and money.

Quality Materials

The pipe must be made of stainless steel, brass, and/or copper to be considered quality. Sometimes brass is nickel plated and will appear to be steal. If you are looking at a handmade pipe, it will have minor flaws and inconsistencies in the art work on the stem. The art work is most likely going to be hand etched engravings or stamps. It is pretty easy to tell if the art is done my a machine or by hand. Copper and brass will more than likely have a patina on it, indicating that is in fact copper or brass.

 

 

 

 

 

Price

In general, hookahs seem to sell for about 75% of the full retail price if they are in good to great condition. Rare pipes are an exception to this rule. If you are scrolling through eBay and you are trying to figure a fair price to bid, find a comparable listing on a retail site for bidding purposes. Do all of this will keeping in mind the cost of replacing missing ash trays and bases. A new tray can be had for about $15-$20 and a new base may be $20-$30.

General Stuff

  • Don’t use old hoses. They can have mold and bacteria in them that will get you sick.
  • If it is too good to be true… it probably is.
  • Don’t pay close to retail. Most vendors have regular sales and prices of brand new hookahs can sometimes drop up to 30% during a holiday weekend.
  • When paying with PayPal, don’t send the money as a “gift”. If you do this, there is no way that you can ever get your money back if there is a problem with your transaction.
  • Ask if the pipe has been used for illegal substances.
  • You can’t smoke shisha from an Indian tombac pipe.

 

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