Antique Rugs (Podcast)

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Antique rugs can be a beautiful and valuable addition to your home or office, especially if it’s a rug that was passed down through the generations in your family. If you’re a rug collector, antique rugs may be something you’re very interested in. Learn more about what makes a rug “antique,” cleaning antique rugs, and determining how valuable a rug is in this podcast with Sam Presnell, owner of The Rug Gallery.

John Maher: Welcome to The Rug Gallery, with Sam Presnell. The Rug Gallery is an Oriental rug company and carpet store in Cincinnati, Ohio. I am John Maher, and I’m here with the owner of The Rug Gallery, Sam Presnell. Hi, Sam.

Sam Presnell: Hi, John.

Antique Rugs Defined

John: Today we’re talking about antique rugs. Sam, what is considered an ‘antique rug’?

Sam: Well, I was taught one way, but there about two schools of [thought here.] When I got into business, which was about forty-something years ago, a 75 2024 was – in my opinion – considered to be an antique rug, which basically meant things from the 20s, was where that started at. The turn of the century to the 1920s was what I would consider to be an antique rug.

But there are also a lot of believers, especially antique collectors of rugs, who think that 100 years should be what an antique should be and that 75 years to 100 should be what we call, ‘semi-antique.’ I also believe that’s a good definition of what an antique should be, as well. I don’t know if there is an actual, cut-in-stone [definition].

John: Right, so it doesn’t necessarily have to be exactly 100 years [or older to be] antique, and 75 to 100 years is semi-antique. Then you might have other categorizations as well like old or semi-old, maybe 50 years or something like that, but in general you’re [saying that] 75 years and older is an antique. Are antique rugs worth more and what is it that makes and Oriental rug valuable?

Are Antique Rugs Valuable?

Sam: I would say yes, they are, more because you’ve got to think that that’s something that’s lasted that long and stood up to the test of time. As you know, we use rugs as floor coverage a lot and [they can] get stained or worn out, stuff just happens with time so there’s less and less of them. It’s less supply, and if there’s more demand yes, that would mean [they are valuable.] It’s kind of like, anything you collect the older it gets, probably the more rare it becomes – [this is] not always the case, but as a whole, they usually are more valuable.

Cleaning Antique Rugs

John: Okay, and what about cleaning an antique rug? I know you just said as a rug gets older it tends to get more dirty, maybe it wears a little bit, but you might be afraid of washing an antique rug in fear of that it’s just going to fall apart on you or something. So what is the best way to clean an antique rug?

Sam: Yes, that’s a good one, John. A lot of people should think that because an antique rug is not as strong or is more fragile than a new piece would be that you’re not going to be able to treat it in the same way that you would a new product. I think having a reputable cleaner who’s used to cleaning antique rugs and knows when they’ve got problems [is important]. We see dry rot a lot; we see all kinds of situations, bleeding of yarns, [and similar] that we’re concerned about. A lot of times, we will hand-clean the product very gingerly in order to clean it, and don’t run it through the machinery like a lot of places do.

I’m not a big fan of people who [put] everything through the same process with the same detergents and they treat everything the same. I think with antique rugs, you’ve got to have somebody who has a discerning eye and understands them. I would recommend going to a reputable cleaner that’s used to handling these kind of products and can hand-clean if they have to.

Buying Antique Rugs

John: Right, good advice. What should I look for when buying an antique rug?

Sam: That’s kind of like real estate; it’s always location, location. I’m a big believer in condition, condition, condition. I think [about] how good of shape it’s in. A rug that’s worn out, [has] had a lot of repair, missing borders, is not going to be as valuable to me or anybody that’s a really an astute collector, than something that is all intact and original. Same thing with most anything you buy. That’s the important thing.

You want to think about condition. There’s also certain things that are very popular in collecting today that bring more money, even though they’re not really fine rugs. You can’t really say, “Hey, look for the knot count,” or, “It has to be this type,” or whatever. A lot of rugs today, it depends on what’s popular too.

John: Okay, that’s really great information. Sam Presnell, thanks for speaking with me today.

Sam: You’re welcome, John. Thank you.

John: For more information about Sam, The Rug Gallery, and Oriental rugs and carpets, visit or call 513-793-9505. Make sure you catch the latest episodes by subscribing to this podcast on iTunes, and if you can take the time to give us a review on iTunes, we’d appreciate that as well. Thanks and see you next time on The Rug Gallery.

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