Buying Antique Rugs And Carpets
A complete buyers guide to antique rugs and carpets
What is an Antique Rug:
One of the most asked questions we receive is: "I want to buy an antique oriental rug but don't know where to start and what to look for". So with that in mind we have decided to tackle this question head on! First of all, one needs to understand that antique rugs and carpets are collectible items. They are sought after by collectors, dealers, interior designers and private clients. They are magnificent works of art and as the years go by they are becoming rarer. So let's start with the basics - in order for a rug to be considered "antique" it needs to be at least 80 years old. This is contrast to paintings or furniture which need to be over 100 years old. The simple explanation is that rugs are expected to be used & walked on not just looked at (since most people will never walk on a Wassily Kandinsky painting, chances are that it will survive for a longer period of time).
Things to consider before beginning the physical search for the perfect rug:
Here are a few points that you would need to consider before embarking on your quest to find the perfect antique oriental rugs: 1 – Budget: Where you buy and from whom is an important factor. Antique rugs range tremendously in price - some of the reasons for this are as follows: a) Quality - It takes longer to weave a new rug if it has more kpsi (knots per square inch) so naturally the finer a new rug is, the more expensive it will cost. Antique rugs are different as the KPSI will only impact the price if you are comparing the quality of two pieces that are pretty much identical in every other way (the finer rug MIGHT cost more in that instance). b) Size - With new rugs, the cost / price is directly proportionate to the size. The bigger the rug is, the more expensive it will be (as long as you are comparing to pieces from the same exact production line). With antique rugs this is not the case. For example, recently a piece sold in Christies London for nearly $10,000,000 and it was about 5' x 8' (The $10,000,000 Rug)...
Antique rugs must be evaluated individually (based on a slew of factors - some of which are included in this article). c) Condition: Please note that some repair and restoration should be expected when looking at antique rugs, but the general rule is that if the rug is in good condition it will cost more than if it were in poor condition. d) Age: As a general rule - older pieces are generally more expense. The age of a rugs is not the major factor when pricing a rug unless one is considering an early pieces (from the 1800's and earlier) and even then there are other factors that need to be taken into account. f) Current Design Trends: While beauty might be in the eyes of the beholder, there are trends, looks, colors and patterns that will determine if a rug is considered "hot" or "not". America for example is a decorative market - this means that "we" in the USA are driven by colors and pattern more so than by quality or "how good" the piece is in its essence. While the Europeans demand is for somewhat opposite since they want an honest to goodness good piece and the colors / pattern are less of a factor. One example that exemplifies this point is the fact that antique carpets in America (not in Europe) a rug that has a central medallion motif will cost much less than the rug that has an allover designed. Rugs that have well defined central medallion designs will generally cost at least 30% less than those that have an allover design.
Here are two images:
Both of these are antique Oushak rugs from Turkey. They both have the same general feel and are about the same size but since one (Oushak Rug # 44475) has medallion it is far less expensive. The reason for this discrepancy in price is simple... in the USA we are fixated on centering everything - so if you have a rug with a central design most people / interior designers feel compelled to make ensure that the central design in the rug will perfectly aligned with the room and furniture which makes it harder to place.
One of the greatest misconception surrounding antique rugs is that they are expensive. Funnily enough, in reality some antique rugs might be less expensive than a new rug. Let me explain... any decent to good new rug production will cost at least $80/ft2 - while the more exclusive productions will cost much more (unlike antique rugs, the new productions are priced by size - the bigger the rug -- the more square feet -- the more it will cost). So based on the above mention, a 9’ x 12’ new rug that costs $80/ft2 will cost the retail consumer about $8,600 (please bear in mind that the rugs in this price range are not necessarily commercial grade, but, at the same time, they will not be the best of the best either). In the high-end furniture market it is not unheard of for a 9’ x 12’ rug to sell for well over $20,000 so my question is simple: If someone is willing to spend a substantial amount of money in a piece then why not get something that has some intrinsic value (not to mention the obvious fact that new rugs will never have the patina or class that the antique rugs will have)? New rugs have no real resale value so it is as if you bought a new $20,000 couch -- once you take it home it will not be worth anything near to what you paid for it. Please check back tomorrow for the second chapter in our antique rugs buyers guide blog.
Deciding Which Rug To Buy And The Dealer To Work With:
1 - Budgets: For most people, the rug will be one of the most expensive items in the room (if not the most expensive item). In all actually the rug will set the decorating tone for the room so you should strive to get something you love. Sometimes it is better to wait a bit and if needed - save up a little more so that you don't end up spending a considerable amount of money for something that is just okay. In the long run, people who just buy a piece solely because it is the best one they have seen for their budget end-up kicking themselves for not spending a little bit more forsomething they truly love and adore. 2 - Size: Before you physically go out shopping you must first determine the size that is needed. Measure the space that you would like to cover and then makesure to see how much you deviate from that "perfect size".
The more flexible you are willing to be with the size - the more options you will have to see. Please note that there are absolutely no rules about placing a rug in a room and we can say from personal experience that we have seen people buy rugs that are bigger than the actual room and on the flip side we have also seen people buy a 6’ x 9’ for a 20’ x 40’ room so keep an open mind. (If you are able to find a piece that speaks to you and you love the colors, style, design and price you should not rule it out right away based on its size - the first thing people usually compromise on is the size). 3 - Look / Feel: As mentioned above, rugs are usually one of the most expensive item in the room so it really makes sense to start from the rug (this is in line with most high-end interior decorators who will always opt to start the design process by first finding the right rug). For the most part, finding that one perfect rug is not as easy as finding the perfect fabric - there are far more fabrics that you could find to work with rugs than vice versa. The easiest way to establish your taste is to see what types of rugs, colors and patterns are out there and the fastest way to do that would be by starting online. The internet is a great tool for learning and establishing your taste.
This is why we, at the Nazmiyal Collection, have invested so much time and energy into building our website. Not only can you spend hours browsing the collection (which is one of the most comprehensive ones) you will also find one of the largest online sources of information about these great works of art. You can also stop by your local rug dealer to see some pieces in the flesh and get a feel for the different textures, patterns and price points.
Once you have established the budget, size range and general look / feel that you want then you are ready to start shopping. Educating yourself about what to buy is as important as educating yourself on where (or from whom) to buy. If you are looking at antique rugs you must make sure that you work with a dealer or gallery that has a good amount of inventory as well as a good reputation (both of these points are extremely important). Most of the smaller dealers might only have one or two rugs that may work, a more established dealer who has been in the business for a while will probably have a large selection to chose from. Reputable is also extremely important so don't be afraid or feel embarrassed to ask for references, doing some research online or simply asking around - especially if you are looking at high priced items. Once you have narrowed down your search, know what you are looking for and have a feel for the type of rug you want then it is your responsibility to compare prices.
This can be achieved by physically going to more than one dealer or simply searching the internet. Once you have found the rugs you think will work - make sure you try them out in the space before you commit to buying anything. Lighting, furniture, fabrics all affects the how a rug will look in the space but once you lay it down in its spot you will know for sure if it is the right piece. While some dealers might charge and others don't, almost all local dealers will be willing to bring over the rugs in your house and lay them down for you to see. With that said, if you are buying your rugs online then you might be surprised to learn that some of the most reputable dealers might even offer to cover the shipping to you. Also, (and this is a big one) you must make sure to read any shipping and return policies as well as any satisfaction guarantees that the dealer offers. Examples of such policies can be found below: Satisfaction Guarantee / Purchase Policy
What to consider before actually buying the carpet:
Some rug dealers might ask more for rugs and some might ask less but if you know what you are looking for and have done your due diligence you should feel confident in your choice. Before paying for the rug it would be wise to make sure to have the dealer go over the condition with you and ask him to put it in writing along with the age, description and price. Some of the better antique carpet dealers (those who stand behind their prices and pieces) might even be willing to take in the rug for store credit if down the line you want to upgrade your rug for a better piece or just want a new size or look (if the rug has not been damaged then for the most part - dealers should be willing to stand behind the rug and price). If you are looking at the higher-end antique carpets you might want to have it looked at by an independent appraiser prior to finalizing the sale but with that said - no one could ever know the true value better that the dealer who buys and sells them on a daily base. Remember that it is your money and it is important that to make sure that you have been given a fair deal. Asking a different rug dealer to evaluate your rug (prior to purchasing it) is not a wise avenue to pursue since 9 out of 10 times you will not get the real information. You can always call up a reputable antique appraisers association and ask them to recommend an independent appraiser in your area. If a dealer is honest he should have no problem with you wanting to have it looked at. If you get the feeling (at any time) that the dealer is apprehensive or gives you the run around about having it appraised then that should set off an alarm and it would probably be better to walk away.
Things to watch out for and or consider: Going out of business sales are almost always misleading. Since antique rugs will always have a market and value (unlike new rugs), a 75% off price tag should be taken with a grain of salt. Again - an educated consumer is the best consumer and if you have done your research then you will know if you are truly getting a fair deal. One other thing that you need to take into account when buying anything from a going out of business sale is what might happen once the business closes down. It is always best to have someone who will be there for you down the line something happens to it or if you would simply like to trade your rug in (GOB's will always have a big sign that all sales are final so - buyer beware!!!).
Buying at auction vs. buying from a dealer. Like with anything else in the world knowledge is power. If you know what you are looking for, have done your research and are familiar with the prices then you could find good deals in both places (dealers and auctions).
If you are thinking of buying an item from auction the you should consider these factors:
- You might not have the option of trying it out in the space before you buy it.
- Restoration - All reputable dealers will take care of any restoration or cleaning that is needed prior to the rug being delivered and laid down in your home. When purchasing items at auction it is up to the consumer to get the piece restored, picked up and delivered (all of which will cost you money).
- Delivery - Dealers (if they are local enough) will usually come to your house, move the furniture, place the rug and move everything back - a service that most reputable dealers do not charge for. For items purchased at auction - the consumer would have to arrange all of those things.
- Some dealers will be willing to buy the padding for you (and make sure it is trimmed down to match the actual size of the rug). This will save you a little bit of money and energy (since you would not have to crawl on the floor and trim it yourself).
- If you are buying at auction, don't forget to calculate the buyer's premium which can vary from auction house to auction house.
- Since you will be responsible for any and all services that the rug might need it would be wise to get an estimate for the restoration charges.
- Getting swept up in the moment is something that happens all to often. Therefore you should always have a price in mind before you start bidding and hope that no one else likes it as much as you! Last thing you want to do is over pay so make sure you set a cap (and don't forget to factor in the commission that the auction house will tack on to the hammer price).
So the bottom line is that if you know what you are doing then you can find good buys from auctions as well as dealers - but again knowledge is power!
Antique carpet values and appraisals:
In closing we would just like to comment on a question that we get every single day - "what is my rug worth"? The truth of the matter is that is a loaded question and a slippery slope. We have already established that antique oriental rugs vary in price / caliber. But there is also the supply and demand aspect as well. Since tastes and decorating styles are always changing it would be impossible for "regular people" to find out on their own the true value of a piece on their own. Say a person inherits a rug that is 12' x 18' and they were told that it is a Persian Tabriz from the late 19th century - we wouldn't be lying if we said that it could be worth anywhere from $1,000 - $1,000,000. Opening up an auction catalog or trying to compare your piece with other rugs you think are comparable will get you nowhere and fast. The easiest way would be to simply call a reputable dealer, send them some images and let him know what kind of an appraisal you would like to receive.
There are a few different price categories:
- Cash value - is how much a dealer would be willing to pay for it today.
- Auction Value - What will an auction house be willing to take it in for / reserve it for (the reserve price is the min price that a piece needs to fetch before it sells. If it does not sell then the consignor -- you -- will most likely need to pay for illustration charges, insurance and pickup and delivery fees).
- Fair retail market value - Would be the price that a person would expect to pay if they were to walk in to a retail store and see that rug.
- Replacement Value - Is the value that you would need to insure the item for if god forbid the rug is stolen or damaged (since it is very hard to estimate future values - this type of price estimate should be a higher value than the other types listed above).
A full written appraisal would cost you at the very least $500 if not more (and would most likely require the appraiser to see the rug in person). A verbal appraisal will usually cost around $100- $200 (and can rely on emailed pictures only). The reason that a full written appraisal costs more than a verbal one is that once the appraisal document is signed and delivered it is considered a legal document and the person who supplied it might (at a later date) get called into court to testify and lay his credibility on the line. Here is an example of what you should do for a verbal appraisal: Antique Rug Appraisals
It would be extremely difficult to estimate the value of a rug you are trying to sell without having it assessed by someone who deals with these pieces every day. As we have mentioned before, an antique rug's value is not easily determined (there's no way to generalize any group of rugs and say that since a rug is a certain size, has certain dyes, and has a certain design it is worth "X" amount of money). One would really have to understand not only the rug itself but the current market demands as well. The antique rug market is a niche market and very similar to any other art form - they are very subjective and are constantly changing. The bottom line to selling an antique rug is to be educated. Learn about the market and about the piece you are trying to sell, find a good dealer that will be willing to be straight forward with you, get the rug appraised by an independent appraiser (but keep in mind that they will probably give you a retail value estimate -- it will be difficult to sell it at that price so don't be disappointed if you get offers for half or even less of the retail value), and spend some time researching antique rugs in general. Following these guidelines will ensure you get top dollar for your grandma's old rugs :)