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Traveler's Reports Our readers are invited to report on their interesting rug-related voyages here. No Marco Polo tall tales, please.

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Old January 6th, 2013, 03:06 AM   #1
Jeff Sun
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Default Observations: Recent Trip to Istanbul

Got back from a shopping foray to Istanbul a few weeks ago. Here are my observations and comparisons from when I last visited in 2006.

1. Fewer carpets in general. Seriously. In Arasta, Grand Bazaar, Ali Baba Cadessi, etc. while there are still many carpets to be had, there seems to be a great influx of other textiles: Suzani, caps, Chirpy, felts, etc. than when I last visited in 2006.

2. Everyone seems to have Caucasian rugs. I was quite shocked at the number of antique caucasians. In fact the supply was so large it seemed out of whack with market pricing. The quoted (not negotiated) pricing for antique pieces seemed in-line with what I would expect to pay in the New York rug district...which also seemed out of whack to me. Maybe it's because there is no "Local" market anymore. Instead anyone from anywhere can sell on the internet and command NY prices. Maybe its a Caucasian bubble. A scan of recent and upcoming auctions also reveals what seems to me to be a disprortionately large amount of Caucasians, further lending support to the bubble theory.

3. Antique Anatolians, however, were scarcer...but not so scarce. However, the prices seemed even more stratospheric. The ones I did see were quoted (not negotiated) at prices probably 20 times actual worth. Which rather insulted me.

4. They have banned smoking in restaurants which leads to a much tastier dining experience.

5. The new trams around Sultanahmet are very convenient.

6. Fewer (as in no) street touts.I guess they have found more profitable business elsewhere.

7. They removed the space shuttle gantry from the middle of Aya Sofia.

8. The municipal street dogs seem to have been replaced by street cats

9. Carpet museum is STILL not open. Apparently the space is "too moist" for carpets which have all been put into storage somewhere else. The folks I spoke to in the Arasta bazaar were rather exasperated that in 7, (or 8, or 10 years...who remembers?) whoever runs the museum has been unable to locate a new venue or install some dehumidifiers.

10. In the end, I surprised myself and didn't end up buying ANY old carpets. instead I bought two new production Caucasian designs from Konya. in this case it was tough to argue with either the price or quality ...and they look great side by side on the floor which is where they are now. I should add that I saw some new production kilims which were of just amazing quality. Better and finer in weave than anything I have seen before. Colors were impressive as well.

Last edited by Jeff Sun; January 6th, 2013 at 04:28 PM.
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Old January 6th, 2013, 05:10 AM   #2
Joel Greifinger
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Quote:
9. Carpet museum is STILL not open. Apparently the space is "too moist" for carpets which have all been put into storage somewhere else. The folks I spoke to in the Arasta bazaar were rather exasperated that in 7, (or 8, or 10 years...who remembers?) whoever runs the museum has been unable to locate a new venue or install some dehumidifiers.
Hi Jeff,

Well, supposedly there is a wonderful, newly renovated venue, but...

In HALI #168, the Director of the Vakiflar Hali Museum in Istanbul wrote that the museum would "re-open in its state-of-the-art permanent quarters before the end of 2011." The new location is supposedly the Ayasofia Imareti, the former charity soup kitchen adjacent to Ayasofia. When I was in Istanbul last summer I spent a good deal of time searching for the building and asking folks who worked in the area and in the cultural and museum sector if and when it was opening. I also tried asking various rug dealers. I consistently got one of two responses. Either I would get sent to the former location by the Blue Mosque that has been closed since 2006, or merely be told that it didn't exist. In the age of the Web, I figured there had to be some information on the internet, but have never managed to find any. The only trace is a sign, hidden by branches at the back wall of the Ayasofia compound that announces the Vakiflar Carpet Museum will open in late 2011. HALI has never followed up on their article to inform the readership that the re-opening that they announced with such fanfare doesn't exist.

Joel Greifinger
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Old January 27th, 2013, 02:58 PM   #3
Steve Price
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Originally Posted by Jeff Sun View Post
Everyone seems to have Caucasian rugs. I was quite shocked at the number of antique caucasians. In fact the supply was so large it seemed out of whack with market pricing. ... A scan of recent and upcoming auctions also reveals what seems to me to be a disprortionately large amount of Caucasians, ...
Hi Jeff

Weaving excellent pseudo-antique Caucasian rugs has boomed, and I'm told many Istanbul dealers have become outlets for them during the past five years or so. This is probably at least a partial explanation for what you are noticing.

Regards

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Old March 19th, 2013, 08:14 AM   #4
Horst Nitz
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Hi all,

there is still more to this. Last weekend at a rug-meeting in Northern Germany, among many others, two rugs were presented for discussion. An “animal skin” Kasak like plate 4 in the Eder / Bennett book, and a small Lotto carpet sic! The Kasak was of a kind that had reached 50.000 German Marks (25.000 € now) at auction 30 years ago according to Doris Eder in her book – about prices for Lotto rugs I am not informed.

Both were extremely well made. The small Lotto was perfect to the degree of unbelievability. The Kasak had partially chafed edges and a few tiny holes in the field that together did not impair on its looks. We were split opinion about the Kasak. I thought, the little damage there was seemed calculated to give it patina. The majority turned down the Lotto and viewed it as a fake in the Theodore Tudic tradition.

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Horst
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Old March 22nd, 2013, 06:20 PM   #5
Jeff Sun
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Guys-

Excellent fakes aside, I'm even more of the mind that there is a Caucasian "bubble" than when I originally posted this.

Almost every auction I have scanned since November reveals caucasians, caucasians and more caucasians....most of them premium priced...and to me they ALL seem extremely over valued.

If you were to check rugrabbit right now you'd find as many caucasians as anatolian carpets. Which again, seems rather odd.
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Old March 26th, 2013, 04:46 AM   #6
Alex Wolfson
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Hello Jeff,

I don't think any of this is particularly surprising. After all, a lot of Caucasian rugs were woven at the end of the 19th and early 20th Century - by all accounts significantly more than Anatolian pieces. After years of service on the world's floors, many of them have now come to Istanbul where there is the expertise to restore them. Worldwide I think it is the largest market for antique rugs.

The prices do not seem over-inflated to me. I don't see why an antique rug should be much cheaper in Istanbul than in New York. There is steady inflation in Turkey, so overheads are not as low as they used to be. And the dealers have to pay the same for the pieces as anyone else. The main difference is that a Turkish dealer will start with a higher price and expect some bargaining, whereas in the Western world you are likely to be given the final price (or close to it) at the outset. It is simply a difference of approach and expectation!
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Old March 26th, 2013, 12:03 PM   #7
Jeff Sun
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After all, a lot of Caucasian rugs were woven at the end of the 19th and early 20th Century - by all accounts significantly more than Anatolian pieces....

The prices do not seem over-inflated to me. I don't see why an antique rug should be much cheaper in Istanbul than in New York. There is steady inflation in Turkey, so overheads are not as low as they used to be. And the dealers have to pay the same for the pieces as anyone else. The main difference is that a Turkish dealer will start with a higher price and expect some bargaining, whereas in the Western world you are likely to be given the final price (or close to it) at the outset. It is simply a difference of approach and expectation!

Hi Alex-
It's not a matter of negotiating style. You'll note that I mentioned that both the NY/Istanbul prices are pre-negotiated.

It's a matter of Pareto efficiency. When a good has a high supply, the price goes down, when it is rare, they go up.

As you observed, Caucasian rugs, both when they were made, and currently, are "common" as far as antique rugs go. More common perhaps than Anatolian rugs and certainly more common than other more exotic types, the latter often commanding lower prices.

Yet the prices of the Caucasian carpets do not seem commensurate with the high supply.
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Old March 26th, 2013, 12:27 PM   #8
Steve Price
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Hi Jeff

Supply isn't the only factor - demand is just as important, and the wild card determining demand in collectibles is fad and fashion. I'm not in the loop, but collector interest in Caucasians may be surging for one reason or another.

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Steve Price
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Old March 26th, 2013, 05:51 PM   #9
Alex Wolfson
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There is also the factor of intrinsic quality and beauty, otherwise I agree the price would fluctuate like that of a simple commodity.

Take the example of countless 'Hamadan' types - runners and rugs from the late 19th and early 20th centuries. They are plentiful, well-made, and sometimes attractive. But by and large they are considered as utilitarian items, of less 'artistic merit'.

As they are not in demand for today's interiors, their values have behaved more like commodity prices. They are now probably cheaper in real terms than they were coming off the loom.

As an aside, one of the tragic consequences of inflation is that it is no longer economically possible to build, weave, or farm food to the same standard that our ancestors did.
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Old March 26th, 2013, 05:51 PM   #10
Jeff Sun
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Hi Jeff

Supply isn't the only factor - demand is just as important, and the wild card determining demand in collectibles is fad and fashion. I'm not in the loop, but collector interest in Caucasians may be surging for one reason or another.

Regards

Steve Price
Perhaps...but as a realtor friend of mine discovered in 2008, demand for existing stock can explain the price...but not the supply.

I'm not saying I have the answers...I just think it was weird.


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Old March 27th, 2013, 04:27 PM   #11
James Blanchard
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Originally Posted by Jeff Sun View Post
Perhaps...but as a realtor friend of mine discovered in 2008, demand for existing stock can explain the price...but not the supply.

I'm not saying I have the answers...I just think it was weird.


I also noticed the relatively large number of Caucasian rugs while in Istanbul.

I know that they are particularly popular because of their bold colours and somewhat "modern" aesthetics, which might explain their popularity. Also, they often conform fairly closely and obviously to published examples, which might attract novice collectors.

I can't comment on the issue of fakes and reproductions, but I could certainly see why someone who was into that would focus on Caucasian rugs. They are popular, and it would seem to be relatively straightforward to create faithful reproductions.

James
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Old August 24th, 2013, 06:41 PM   #12
Marla Mallett
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I've tried to stay out of this discussion, but can do so no longer. There has been a huge flood of fake Caucasian carpets onto the market in the last few years, and they are now appearing everywhere--especially in Istanbul but now also in a few dealers' inventories and auctions in other countries. Fifteen or twenty years ago copies of Kazak types were being sold in Istanbul, but were represented honestly as copies. Guys could be seen sitting on doorsteps in retail areas trimming the black outlines to soften their appearance, and no one suggested that the rugs were old. But now it's a different story and superb copies of popular designs, often lightly "antiqued," are being presented as 19th century rugs. Anyone doubting that these are indeed fakes need only see 8 or 10 Chelaberd (Eagle Kazak) rugs in a single individual's hands at once! Obviously not a likely occurrence with antique pieces.

Rug dealers in Turkey have faced quite difficult economic times over the past few years. With limited cash for inventory, many small dealers, in particular, have succumbed to the temptation to take some of the fakes on consignment. They are an easy sale, an easy profit, with no cash investment. Just about everyone in the business in Turkey knows very well where these are coming from, but rarely will anyone selling pile carpets talk about the matter....Such talk does little to inspire confidence in customers. It's a shame: Not only are the buyers of these fakes getting ripped off, but the constant buzz just below the surface concerning this flood of illicit goods has been severely eroding the market for true antique pieces, as the confidence of collectors has been badly shaken.

Last edited by Marla Mallett; September 6th, 2013 at 06:46 PM.
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Old August 24th, 2013, 06:55 PM   #13
Jeff Sun
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One additional observation: My wife and I call it. "The cousin in Bethesda." phenomena. Many of the Istanbul dealers seem to have a brother, sister, cousin, somewhere in the US....and they're not afraid to drop names and place names of people they know and places they've been.

But it changed a little bit this time around.

One particularly reputable dealer, who I did indeed end up buying from asked: "Do you know Marla Mallett?

After a short chuckle, our answer, of course was. "Yes...but not personally. We know of her by reputation.".
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