While there are plenty of different brands of tobacco pipes out there and plenty of different styles, shapes, and sizes available, there are also other classifications of pipes that don't really apply to the design or look. A basket pipe is a perfect example of this, and many beginning pipe lovers often wonder just what the term refers to.
If you go into a local tobacco pipe store, there's a good chance you'll spot basket pipes first hand. There is often a basket or bowl near or on the counter holding an odd assortment of different pipes. This is where the name actually comes from, and today it's also possible to buy a basket pipe online as well, even though you'll be getting one from a kind of digital basket.
Simply put, a basket pipe usually refers to a pipe that is usually made by a major manufacturer but that ends up with one or more 'flaws' that could cause the manufacturer to refuse to sell it under their official brand name. These flaws could be as minor as a stain color problem or something more significant like an uneven sized bowl. They're kind of like the 'seconds' of the pipe industry.
In some cases the basket pipe won't have any tell-tale signs that it's from a specific manufacturer and will usually say little beyond something like 'made in Italy' on the bottom of it. Ordering them online often means nothing more than requesting a straight or bent shaft and then receiving a random pipe from their pipe basket. In a store you'll be able to choose your pipe on your own.
Either way, there's no real way to know what you're getting until you take it home and light it up unless you get a Chapuis Comoy basket pipe. As a result, basket pipes are often looked at as kind of a gamble since sometimes you'll get a great pipe at a bargain price, or you could end up with a sub-par pipe. In short, they're an affordable way to get a pipe but won't provide information as to the brand or the maker of the pipe.
Still, basket pipes do offer something for certain groups of people and as a result they are an important part of the pipe world. They're a great choice for those beginning smokers who want to add another pipe to their rotation without paying too much, and for someone looking to get a cheap price to take on a trip with them.