Oriental Rug Auctions: What to Expect

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Rug auctions are an excellent place to purchase an Oriental rug, but there are some things you need to be aware of going into an auction situation. Here’s how you can stay smart at Oriental rug auctions and get the best value for your money.

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 and I’m here with the owner of The Rug Gallery, Sam Presnell. Hi, Sam.

Sam Presnell: Hey, John.

How a Rug Might End Up at Rug Auctions

John:  So Sam, today we’re going to be talking about Oriental rug auctions. What are some reasons why an Oriental rug might go to auction?

Sam: I think there’s probably several reasons. The big one today is because of my parents’ generation passing away and you’re having those estate sales, where you’re cleaning up your folks’ home and they’ve got rugs in the mix of things and they [aren’t something] the family is interested in, where they don’t fit their style or the size is wrong, or whatever. It could be color, it could be everything. A lot of times, the estates will be cleaned up and rugs will come into auction from that. I think it’s a good way for them to come into an auction situation. I think also, you’ll see closing of businesses, I call them legitimate auctions, where basically there is no reserves. That’s what I would call a legitimate auction. You will have some things that are very highly collectible that you’ll see at the big auction houses. You’ll filter the really high end, collectible stuff into [it] as well.

John:  And when you say there’s no reserve, what you’re talking about there is with an auction, sometimes they’ll auction it off but if it doesn’t meet a certain base price, then they won’t sell it.

Sam: That’s correct. There are minimums set and a lot of times when you see the ads, you’ll see the fine print at the bottom. It will talk about the minimum reserve prices and you want to be aware of that going into it. I’m thinking at that point, if you’re a real bargain hunter, you would probably pass on that type of an auction just because of that reason. There’s a lot of what I call “itinerants” who make a living out of basically closing out businesses who buy [items] at nickels on the dollar and come around and give ridiculous values to things and misleading the public and things like that. Be careful in picking the auction person, if it’s an itinerant coming through town if it’s not a legitimate estate thing or it’s a business in town that’s constantly going out of business, beware. Definitely keep your head open and think about what you’re doing there. I have a lot of people call me up who bought rugs at an auction, never used them, they didn’t work when they got them at all. At that point, they realize that it was nothing what the auctioneer said it was or what it was worth. When you start seeing claims for value on things, that concerns me at an auction.

Are Rug Auctions a Good Place to Buy an Oriental Rug?

John:  Okay. Good advice. So, in general though, do you think that an auction is a good place to buy an Oriental rug?

Sam: In general, yes. I think again, if you pay attention to what I was just talking about, yes. Normally, a buyer should inspect [a rug], I think that’s key. Because you know, even in a photograph or if it’s a live auction, whatever you would attend, you definitely want to go over that rug. Because again, there may be repairs, damages, worn spots, stains, different things you may not catch in a photograph or whatever. Again, it’s a real tactile business. You have to feel it and touch it. You can tell about rug quality and things that way. I think you should come in with some idea of what you want and then also inspect it. It’s challenging. I’ve got to say, I’ve done this for a lifetime, and I can see where people would be concerned.

What to Look For When Buying a Rug at Auction

John:  What are some tips for buying a rug at auction? You mentioned making sure that you inspect the rug. What are some things that you should be looking for when you’re inspecting the rug? Obviously, if somebody is purchasing it, they’re not going to be you, they’re not going to be a rug expert, but are there a few little things they can look for?

Sam: Again, I think, my favorite things that you should always do is you should love the rug. You should really like it. If you’ve got to work around existing furnishings and it’s got to fit a certain place, be sure to measure the maximum and minimum. Don’t be so set in size, because you’ll miss out on some nice things, but think about, “What’s the minimum I can use? What’s the maximum I can use?” Be sure to stick to that range. A lot of people get in trouble. They buy a rug way too small for their area or way too big and it has to roll up the walls to get it in that particular room. If you can bring some swatches of your pillows or whatever you can bring, like paint chips, I think that would be really helpful if you’re trying to work around something existing. Also, I always say, set a limit to yourself. Don’t get caught up into the adrenaline that an auction can provide. I’ve seen people get totally overwhelmed.

John:  You get sort of sucked into that bidding war and somebody ups the price on you and you go, “No, I really want that rug,” and you bid the price and before you know it, you end up paying way more than what the rug is worth.

Sam: Exactly. That happens when you get too attached and you’ve got to have it and you get challenged by another person or a couple other people who want the same thing. It can be not advisable if you’re looking for a value, because a lot of times you will overpay in an auction situation sometimes than you would in a retail environment.

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

Sam: You’re welcome, John.

John:  And for more information about Sam, The Rug Gallery, and Oriental rugs and carpets, visit Or call 513-793-9505. And make sure that 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. See you next time on The Rug Gallery.

Categories: Ask Sam, Rug

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