What To Do With an Oriental Rug You’ve Inherited

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Inheriting a beautiful Oriental rug from a relative can be a special gift and one that you are honored to be given. However, knowing just what to do with the rug can be a different matter entirely. Here are several creative ideas on what you can do with an inherited Oriental rug.

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’m John Maher. I’m here with the owner of the Rug Gallery, Sam Presnell. Hi Sam. Sam Presnell:  Hey, John.

Getting Your Rug In Front of the Right People

John:  Today, Sam, our topic is “What to do with an inherited oriental rug?” Say I just inherited a rug. What do I do with that? Can you tell me a little about it? Maybe if I bring it into the store.

Sam:  I definitely can tell you about it if you bring it into the store. It’s a major undertaking sometimes to drag a big rug that’s very, very heavy, and get it into a store. It’s a major deal sometimes, especially for people who are not inclined to handling heavy weights. I think that that’s the challenging part. I think also what’s challenging today is very few people understand oriental rugs, and there are not many retailers left like myself out there. They’re getting less and less as the baby boomers are deciding to retire, and move on to other adventures. There are less and less of what I would call experts in the field of appraising rugs, especially older rugs and traditional rugs.

John:  Right. You’re not going to bring your rug into the local Pottery Barn and ask them what your rug is all about.

Sam:  Exactly right. I think that’s the problem with dealing with Internet people. You really don’t have the local expertise. It’s more of a commodity for them. They really don’t have that experience of what goes on or how to get rid of rugs.

How to Take Photos of an Oriental Rug

John:  If I just take a picture of a rug and send that to you, would you be able to tell me what type of rug it is and what it’s worth?

Sam:  That’s usually the first thing I usually do if somebody sends me an email and asks me to help them, or calls me with needing help with what kind of rug they have, if it’s worth anything, or if it’s worth them bringing it in. I ask them to shoot a picture of the overall best part of the rug you can find. I usually ask them to flip over the edge of the rug with the fringe attached to it, if you still have fringe on it. Shoot a close up of that back with the fringe attached, and send it to me. At that point I can get a good idea if what they have is worth coming in with, or if I have any interest in it, and maybe I can even just say “Here’s what I think it is, and here’s what the value is.”

What the Back of an Oriental Rug Can Tell You

John:  What is it that you’re looking for when you flip the rug over and we take a picture of the back of it?

Sam:  The back of a rug tells a guy who knows how to appraise rugs what kind of knot it is. I guess over years of experience of handling rugs, you know that certain areas have different ways of weaving and in the way they apply wefting material, which is what holds the rug together. The fringing or how they finish the fringe, it’s different in Iran than it would be in India or than it would be in Pakistan. How they actually weave the knotting into it [is important]. You can tell a lot from how they space it and fill it. How thick the fibers are as far as the knots go, as far as the yarn goes and things like that. They are very distinctive to somebody who knows rugs.

What to Do With an Oriental Rug That You Don’t Want to Keep

John:  What if I don’t have a use for this rug? Maybe my particular house isn’t really suited for the style of an Oriental rug, or maybe this particular Oriental rug. What else can I do with it?

Sam:  There are several things you can do. The big thing that I always tell people is, one, if there’s nobody in the family who wants it, you could pass it on to someone else who may have some interest. The second one would be charitable donations. There are several different organizations that love charitable donations, and they can use them in their library or somewhere else. They’ve usually got situations where they can use rugs or carpet. Also, another thing you can do is use it for many different things. Make pillows out of it. You can upholster a chair or an ottoman with it. The other way would be to get into an auction type situation, like eBay or into local places. Here in Cincinnati, we have what we call consignment shops that basically take the proceeds and donate them to charitable organizations. I’m a big believer in what we call Wags to Riches. They support the spay and neutering of cats and dogs out there. There’s another place in Cincinnati called Legacies which sponsors cancer research. You donate to these places and they sell it and they keep the funds and donate it to their cause. That’s also another good way to get rid of a rug. If you need the money, the best way is to probably find a dealer.

How to Sell an Oriental Rug

John:  Tell me a little bit more about that. How do I go about selling my rug? Do I need to find a dealer like yourself?

Sam:  Exactly. I think taking that photograph and taking a picture of the back of the rug as well [is the best way to do that]. Just send it and say “Hey, I have this rug, it’s a certain size. Would you have any interest in that?” At that point, someone will respond to you if they have interest or not. If not, I would approach different auction houses with the same type of scenario. Find somebody you can talk to about it. Send it to them and see if they think they can sell it and what they think it can bring.

John:  You mentioned trying to sell it on eBay. I would imagine it would be pretty difficult to ship a rug. Is it?

Sam:  It is. That’s one of the issues that you’re going to have to deal with if you’re doing it yourself in an eBay situation. It’s a bit challenging sometimes. A lot of times, local dealers I know will charge a fee and wrap and ship stuff to people. I’ve done that many times over the years. That’s one option. I know there are other packaging companies out there as well that could probably help you. They’re probably not as geared to handling rugs and shipping them, but they’ll get it out there somehow, someway.

John:  You mentioned also the charitable donation. Can you tell me a little bit more about, how I can donate a rug for a charitable donation?

Sam:  Usually there are lots of places out there. The big, popular ones are usually local universities. There is a form that you have to fill out. I wish I could remember the number of that form. The government does have a form for charitable donations, once it gets above $500. You’re going to need appraisal from somebody that’s certified, like a local person who will do an appraisal for you, for value. You’ve got to talk to your tax man about that, but they’ll be able to basically deduct it from your income for a charitable donation.

John:  What is a consignment sale?

Sam:  Consignment sale would be where you would give it to somebody to sell for you. You would have to wait until that rug sells. The problem is that sometimes that’s a very long wait, sometimes years. A lot of people are shocked that it can take that long to find a buyer. The seller usually takes a commission. It can range anywhere from 35% to 50% of the selling price. There’s a substantial amount of it that also gets deducted for the person selling it.

John:  Do you think in general you’d be better off trying to find a store like yours to sell my rug to, as opposed to them buying it on consignment?

Sam:  I would definitely always try to sell it. I’ve had rugs here for decades already, trying to sell it for customers. It’s kind of surprising, but very true. There’s a lot of competition in a rug store to compete with, as far as other rugs and other choices. It makes it more challenging to sell, when you’re selling in an environment which has competition. If you’ve got an older rug where your colors are dated, makes it more challenging to sell. If you can find somebody who’d actually buy [the rug], take that money and invest it. I think if you’re a true investor, you’re going to make a lot more money with half of what you think it’s worth, than in the long run give it to somebody and then waiting for that sale that may or may not happen. I’ve actually had cases where I had to give back the rug after years of not being able to sell it.

John:  Even if you have to take a lot less in the sale, better to just get rid of it and take that money and invest it on your own.

Sam:  That would be my advice, yes, definitely.

John:  That’s really good information Sam. Thanks again for speaking with me today.

Sam:  You’re welcome, John.

John:  For more information about Sam, The Rug Gallery and Oriental rugs and carpets, visit That’s Rug Gallery C‑I‑N‑C‑Y dot com. Or call 513‑793‑9505. Make sure you catch the latest episodes by subscribing to this podcast on iTunes. If you can take the time to give us a review on iTunes we’d appreciate that. See you next time on The Rug Gallery.

Categories: Ask Sam, Rug

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