Antique Rug Buyers Guide

When buying an antique rug, what should I look for?

Having been in the business of buying and selling rugs for over a decade, the first questions I get from people are: Before buying an antique rug, what should I consider? Where do I go to buy antique rugs? Where do I actually begin my antique rug-buying hunt?

First of all, dealers, designers and collectors all over the world seek to find the greatest antique rugs. Antique rugs are considered a form of art. A rug needs to be at least 80 years old to be considered an antique. Whereas furniture or art needs to be at least 100 years old to be considered antique. One of the differences is that antique rugs should not look like they were used at all and just viewed as art. Also, rugs are stepped and walked on as opposed to art which is only viewed. Therefore, art will always look newer and last longer. It is amazing that some antique rugs will cost less than an actual new rug. However, there is a misconception that antique rugs cost more than new rugs. A new rug could cost $80 for every square foot in today’s market. This is an average price. The better quality rugs can cost over double that. For example, a 9'x2' new rug can cost approximately $8,600. Bearing in mind that the rugs will not necessarily be commercial grade in this price range, nor will they be great pieces. New 9'x12' rugs have been seen to sell well over $20,000. Therefore, my question is pretty simple: why not purchase a rug which has resale value if you are going to invest such a substantial amount of money in an antique rug? As nice as new rugs are, they have no intrinsic value. The same rule applies as if you bought a new car and paid $30,000 for it. As soon as you drive the car out of the dealership, it automatically decreases in value. Therefore, there are a few things to consider before successfully finding the perfect rug: Budget, current design market, size, quality, age and condition are among the few categories that need to be considered.

1. Budget - All rugs, new and antique, vary greatly in price. There are many reasons for the price variations. Some of these reasons are:

a. Current design market - Patterns, colors, trends and looks will determine whether a certain rug is a must-have in the current market. Of course, everyone has different tastes and the ultimate decision is a very individual one. All markets are different as well. The American market, for instance, concentrates on decorative pieces. We are a society of beauty. We make our selections by colors and patterns. Other markets base their selection on quality. The European market for instance. Europeans will pay more for an antique rug based on quality. Antique rugs such as Oushak rug prices are greatly affected by the pattern of the rug as well. For example, all-over designed rugs vs. medallion rugs. All-over designed rugs are at least 30% more expensive that rugs that have a center design. In the American market everything should be centered. We tend to select rugs which have center designs and try to perfectly align the rug in the room according to other furnishings.

b. Size - First measure the space and determine the size of rug you desire. There are no set rules for placing a rug in a room. Some people prefer a small rug in a large room. Some like to see that the rug fits the room to the exact size. People usually compromise on size first. If they find an antique rug that they fall in love with based on its colors, design, price or style, they are very willing to compromise on size. The cost of new rugs is based on square footage. The bigger the rug is, the more expensive it will be. However, this is not the case with antique rugs since they are individually evaluated based on many factors. For instance, it is not unheard of for an antique rug (5'x8') to be sold in Christies London for $10 million.

c. Quality - If a new rug has more knots per square inch, it takes longer to weave. The same rule applies for antique rugs. The qualities of the two pieces are compared, should have the same origin and were made around the same time.

d. Age - The most expensive antique rugs are dated back to the 18th century.

e. Condition - The general and logical rule is: the better condition the antique rug is in, the more it will cost. Antique rugs will need restoration and repair at some point.

2. Look - Most high-end decorators believe a rug should be the most expensive piece in the room. Therefore, it makes the most sense to start with the purchase of an antique rug and then purchasing remaining furniture. Finding the perfect rug you love is not going to be an easy task. It takes a lot of time and effort. By seeing what is on the market first, you can compare rugs to your specific taste. There are a lot of choices online. This is the easiest way of finding a rug you love. The internet is also the best way to choose your dream rug since you can compare every rug available. One great site is the Nazmiyal Collection. You can spend hours and days browsing the entire collection. This site has one of the most comprehensive collections such as Antique Oriental rugs and Vintage Moroccan rugs and it is the largest online source of great art and information. There are also plenty of local rug dealers around. This is another great way to get a feel for different designs, colors, types and price ranges.

Once the size, budget and style of rug are established, you are ready to start shopping for antique rugs. More important than the dealer you choose to work with is educating yourself on the purchase of rugs beforehand. Make sure you choose a dealer who has the best reputation and selection. Seek an established dealer who has been in business for a long time as opposed to a smaller dealer who usually has only one or two pieces available. Larger dealers will have reputable collections. Ask friends, family and colleagues for references if you are seeking high-end rugs. Compare prices once you have narrowed down your selection. Visit several dealers and search the internet to get a feel of all aspects before you commit to buying a rug. You will know you have selected the correct piece once you lay it down in your room. If you choose a local dealer, they will be more than happy to bring the rug to your home so you can lay the rug down in your room and know you have the perfect rug. Some of the reputable dealers online will do the same for you. They will offer to pay for the shipping to your home. It is crucial that you read or inquire about dealer guarantees as far as shipping and return policies. You should ask the dealer to provide you with the guarantee in writing.

You should feel confident in your choice. Dealers will charge different prices for a similar item. Therefore, you should have a basic idea of what you are looking to purchase. Ask the dealer for something in writing as to the condition, price, description and age of rug. Some of the high-end dealers will actually allow you to return the rug in exchange for another size or look if you haven't damaged it. Dealers usually stand behind their price and sale of rugs.

You definitely want to have an independent appraiser look at the rug if you are choosing a high-end one before finalizing the sale. Since this is a big investment, you want to make sure you are getting the best deal possible. Never ask a rug dealer to give you an appraisal on your rug as most will not be truthful with you. Choose either Christies or Sotheby's. They are both reputable auction houses. You should ask for their recommendation for an independent appraiser. If the dealer is an honest one, he will have no problem with your request for an appraisal. If you feel that the dealer is not an honest one and he doesn't feel comfortable with your wish to have the rug appraised or gives you a hard time, chances are it would be better for you to walk away from that sale.

Be aware of going-out-of-business sales. They are often misleading. Another reason not to buy a rug from a store going out of business is once the business closes, you have no way of returning or exchanging the rug. Since antique rugs have a market and certain value, there is no reason for the rug to be on sale.

Buying from a dealer vs. buying at auction: Worldwide, knowledge is power and You can find good deals if you know what you are looking to buy and are familiar with market prices. The following are benefits of buying from a dealer rather than buying at an auction:

1. The dealer will work around your schedule and you will have the option of trying the rug in your room before buying.

2. Delivery - this is a great benefit. If you purchase your rug through a local dealer, he will come to your home to place the rug down. In the meantime, they will move any necessary furniture in order to try the rug and return the furniture to its original place upon their completion.

3. Pads - Certain dealers might not charge you for the padding that is required when an antique rug is purchased. They will pay for it themselves and it will save you money in the long run.

4. Restoration - Reputable dealers will restore or clean the rug prior to delivering it to you as opposed to purchasing at auction where you need to get the rug restored yourself at your own cost.

As stated earlier, if you educate yourself in buying an antique rug first, you can find a good buy. Another drawback from buying a rug at auction is you have to pay a commission on the rug, get your own estimate for restoration and have a set price in mind before bidding. Make sure you have a maximum cap on the bidding process so you don't pay more than you planned to pay. Often times people get carried away with the bidding if they fall in love with a certain rug. They wind up paying more than the rug is worth. Bidding is always risky. If someone else likes the rug as much as you do, you must make a decision as to the maximum amount you are willing to pay in order to prevent the price from escalating once a competitor starts bid against you.

What is your rug worth? It is almost impossible to figure out the true value of an antique rug as many considerations are taken into effect. Since demands are always changing, the value of an antique rug can fluctuate greatly. For example, a Persian Tabriz over 80 years old can be worth anywhere from $1,000 to $1,000,000. Therefore, trying to compare rugs in an auction catalogue or with other rugs that are comparable will be a waste of your time. What you should do instead is call a reputable dealer, send him pictures and let him know what appraisal you would like to receive.

1. You should ask how much the dealer is willing to pay for the rug if you are willing to sell.

2. Do you want a fair retail market value assessment? This is the amount a dealer expects to get from a retail client.

3. Are you looking to know what the rug's fair trade value would be and are looking to replace it? $500 is the average cost for a written appraisal. The average cost for a verbal appraisal is $100. A written appraisal is costly because it is documented, signed and delivered. It is also a valid, legal document. The issuer can actually get called to testify in court regarding his credibility if the need arises.

Ultimately, as stated earlier, there is no real way to get an estimate of the value of the rug without having a professional who deals with these pieces daily assess the rug. An antique rug value is not easy to determine. Most people who inherit rugs try to compare them with rugs they see for sale and assume their rug is worth a certain amount. One really needs to have a vast knowledge in antique rugs to know the market in order to try to determine the value. Trying to sell an antique rug is very subjective, difficult and unique. Of course, if you sell your rug to a dealer, bear in mind the dealer is buying the rug to make a profit so you are underselling your rug. They also have to clean and restore the rug before selling. Therefore, you will be offered a much smaller price than the actual value of the rug. Also, the dealer isn't sure when they will get the rug sold so it is a big investment for him. He might not see their investment come to fruition for a long time. There is an upside to selling your rug to a dealer though. You will get your money immediately. You also save yourself a lot of effort and time in the process. The bottom line when selling a rug is the same as buying a rug: you must educate yourself first. Learn about the market for the rug you are trying to sell, find a reputable dealer, and get the rug appraised by an independent appraiser. However, keep in mind that an independent appraiser will give you a retail value estimate - sometimes offers are for half of the amount you request. Spend time researching antique rugs, Such as Antique Oriental, Oushak and Vintage Moroccan rugs and carpets. This will ensure that you get the top dollar for your rug.

Omri Schwartz
Visit: Nazmiyal Collection


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