I'm primarily a cigar smoker (at least 2 per day), but over the past two years, I've acquired a collection of pipes and tobaccos. It's a nice change of pace and a different, almost "purer" way to enjoy the leaf. I'm never giving up my stogies, but I do enjoy a pipe 2-3 times per week. About a year ago, I splurged on a beautiful smooth Il Ceppo pipe with medium-brown color and well-pronounced grain. I purchased it at a very reputable tobacco chain store, though I sometimes (not always) find the salespeople at this particular outlet a little surly -- reluctant to answer questions and engage in conversation even if there is no one else in the store (think Comic Book Guy from the Simpsons). But I don't have a lot of non-online options where I live in the close-in DC suburbs, because the DC City Council in its sage wisdom, has imposed an 80% tax on pipe tobacco (though not cigars), and my favorite DC tobacconist - a venerable institution which has been in business continuously for nearly 150 years!! -- has the best selection of pipes and tobaccos of any local store. But there's just no way I'm going to enrich the bloated DC government by paying that tax (I make every effort NEVER to buy ANYTHING in DC -- not even lunch, since they TAX me 5 cents for the damned BAG for my sandwich!! On this occasion, I bought the Il Ceppo at a Virginia chain store. And it's just beautiful. The shank is engraved with the curved words "il ceppo" over "FREELINE" and a "4" inside a triangle. It also says "MADE BY HAND" arching over the words "IN ITALY", and there is also a "C2851" engraved. When I got it home, I was mildly disappointed to learn that the "4" seems to represent the lowest grain quality made by Il Ceppo on a scale of 4-7. But I didn't lose any sleep because, frankly, that just seems impossible. The pipe is gorgeous, with thick walls and a wide stem that promises a lifetime of wonderful smoking. Promises? Yes, you see, it's been a year and I still haven't smoked it because I'm still playing around with blends to find my favorite (again - 2 cigars per day, 2-3 pipes per week), and then I'm going to dedicate the Il Ceppo to that blend. Now, here's where it gets complicated. On my way home from work today, on a whim, I stopped at the (surly) Virginia tobacconist, to pick up some standby English and Balkan blends. I got to looking at the pipes, and one with a very large bowl caught my eye. It's another Il Ceppo, and I take a close look at it. Instead of a "4" in a triangle, this one has reads "il ceppo" (straight, not arched) "Hand Made" "Italy" and "FREELINE" next to a "6" in a circle (not a triangle), followed by an "S". The grain is very nice, but nowhere near as pronounced at the "4" I bought last year. So I inquire about the price. Comic Book Guy didn't know, so he had to make a call -- furtively whispering into the phone while shooting quick glances at me before actually going into another room so he could speak freely (I suppose). I thought this was really rude; have I mentioned that I'm not a fan of the staff of this place? The whole thing reminded me of the old "let me talk to my manager" tactic employed by car salesmen, and then he disappears while you either wait 20 minutes, or (my general practice) I'm out of there. But this is a pipe, not a car, and I'm in no hurry. Plus, the "6" intrigued me. was he going to come back with a price twice as high as I paid for the 4 last year? Nope. In fact, he quoted me a price about 60% of that which I paid for the pipe last year. So I bought it. With apologies for this long-winded story about mysterious pipe markings, DC taxes and surly tobacconists, does anyone here know ANYTHING about the Il Ceppo grading system that would explain this pricing on a larger pipe with a higher number (albeit with less-pronounced grain, and a circle instead of a triangle) and what's with that "S"?? Oh, god, please tell me I didn't buy a factory second!. Although, that seems very unlikely as the new pipe is almost as beautiful as the 4 I bought last year, and I have yet to smoke it. In fact, I'm going to wait at least a few days to see if anyone here can help me figure this one out. One final note: when I purchased the large Il Ceppo today, Comic Book Guy claimed that the box and all identifying materials were "lost". Again, this is a large and respected chain store tobacconist. Could I have been sold a counterfeit or a " factory second"? It certainly seems unlikely, given that the new pipe looks and feels like a champ, but until I smoke it a few times, who knows? And, of course, by then it's too late to do anything about it.