Posted by Bob Kent on 01-08-2005 02:32 PM:

Age Before Beauty?

I know it's a tangent, but I am new to rugs and find the amount of emphasis collectors place on age to be surprising. As with attributions of commercial/noncommercial intent, age attributions (beyond some synthetic dye issues) often seem to be at once speculative and highly influential. Seems like collectors might have been overly influenced by curatorial values -- why not as a collector just focus more on personal asthetic reactions and not worry so much about age? I also sometimes get the feeling that people take the examples with designs they like (narrow borders, spacious designs) and these become, conventionally speaking, the older ones, and not just the ones people tend to like better? I don't really mind the way things are, since weavings that clearly were commercial and/or are not old (e.g., herizes or jafs with great colors) are made affordable by "fifth quarter" sniffers! I know that different collectors pursue different things, but placememnt of such much emphasis on age without the strongest evidence seems odd... for example, given their beauty, imagine what a really good jaf or heriz would cost if they were all beleived to be old, "ethnographic," and rare!

Posted by Steve Price on 01-08-2005 08:08 PM:

Hi Bob

It's easier to understand if you abandon the myth that rug collectors are motivated mostly or entirely by aesthetic considerations. They are (at least, those in the collecting mainstream) a subset of the broader category, antique collectors.

There is rarely compelling evidence that age attributions are correct. Much of what passes for evidence is usually little more than marketplace myth that has gained credence by repetition.

In another thread I mentioned a rant going on about the dating of a Turkish village rug recently purchased by a major museum. The seller, very well known and considered highly knowledgable, represented it as 17th century. Two other well known figures, with academic credentials in related areas, confirmed this opinion. Their antagonist generated a list of characteristics that he claims are universal in Turkish village rugs of that age, that are absent from this rug. If these really were universal in 17th century Turkish village rugs, his argument would be powerful. But he cites no evidence that his claim is true. An even bigger problem is that there are very few Turkish village rugs that can be proven to be of such age, so a sample size large enough to be significant doesn't even exist. Bottom line: the rug's actual age is a matter of opinion, not a matter of fact.


Steve Price

Posted by R. John Howe on 01-08-2005 10:01 PM:

Dear Bob -

You wrote in part:

"...why not as a collector just focus more on personal asthetic reactions and not worry so much about age?"


I think that would be a perfectly legitimate way to collect should one choose to.

There are those who claim that generally "older is better (aesthetically) but this is not entirely agreed.

Steve makes the point that estimating age is problematic. So, is evaluating aesthetic quality. There's lots of disagreement about whether many rugs are "beautiful."

Some say "buy what you like" and you should certainly "like what you buy," but it may not be that simple. Critiques of your collecting decisions might be made if you simply "bought what you like" without ever comparing your choices with those of other collectors or with museum materials.

There probably is no easy out of the uncertainties associated with collecting.


R. John Howe

Posted by Steve Price on 01-08-2005 10:53 PM:

Originally posted by R. John Howe

Steve makes the point that estimating age is problematic. So, is evaluating aesthetic quality.

Hi John

You're right, but aesthetics is subjective by its nature. Nobody can pretend to know the precise degree of aesthetic quality of any rug.

Not so for date of weaving. Every rug was woven at some specific time. We hardly ever really know what that time was, but estimating it to the nearest quarter century is common - sometimes with assertions that there is no doubt about the correctness of those estimates - despite the absence of primary standards on which to base them.


Steve Price

Posted by Patrick Weiler on 01-09-2005 03:55 AM:

Lucky Guess?


You said:

"estimating it to the nearest quarter century is common - sometimes with assertions that there is no doubt about the correctness of those estimates - despite the absence of primary standards on which to base them."

Which reminds me of a visit I made to a rug store a few years ago. The dealer brought out a Baluch balisht and, holding it out to me asked when I thought it was made. I deliberated on his question, comparing the colors and condition. He said again "how old do you think it is?"
I was deliberating between the early 20th century and 1950, a span of about 50 years. The design and condition indicated late 19th century, and most people would have sold it as such, but the colors seemed just a bit later. I finally said 1925, because I felt that 1930 was a bit too late for the particular green color in some of the details.
He then showed me the inwoven date. 1925.
So, it is not always just a guess about when a rug was woven. Enough experience and a large enough "sample" base from which to draw can allow a fairly precise estimate of the age of a weaving.
This is one reason we pay knowledgeable dealers a premium. The"primary standards" are a breadth and depth of experience that cannot be mastered in a short period.
Can "experts" be fooled? Certainly. Can we know exactly when a rug was made? No. But with enough knowledge, it is possible to be fairly precise.

Precisely yours,

Patrick Weiler

Posted by Jerry Silverman on 01-09-2005 05:45 AM:

Well, that's just the thing Steve's been talking about, Patrick.

"But with enough knowledge, it is possible to be fairly precise."

Without getting deeper into epistemology than Philosophy 101 qualified me for, the issue is "how do we know what we know?" Lots of pretty serious philosophers have wrestled with this one, folks - with damn little agreement. But basically it comes down to either rational fact or emotional belief. What middle ground there is is occupied by the spin-meisters of political parties or the public relations spokespeople of corporations.

Patrick's quote above is both absolutely correct and darn near useless in the context of assessment of age of oriental rugs. Why?

"Enough knowledge" of the rational, factual kind just isn't available to us. Reliable field reporters didn't exist before about 1875. Earlier evidence is almost always second hand and inferred from only marginally related sources (household inventories, importers' records, records of rugs given as gifts to Churchs or Mosques, even paintings). But where is the name and address of the weaver and the date a specific rug was woven? Lost in history, that's where. (Except for a few inscribed Armenian rugs, that is....)

So we're left with these fragmentary bits of evidence. Not nearly enough to form a database from which conclusions may be drawn that are reproducible. (Objective knowledge is inherently "democratic" in that all may possess it and test it with the tools of reason.)

That leaves us with subjective belief - an inherently authoritarian form of knowledge with its reliance on opinions, revealed knowledge, oracular wisdom, personal insight, and dogma. While we are all entitled to our opinions, some opinions are clearly better than others. But unless they are testable and able to be independently arrived at by others, untestable opinions - no matter how good - are all of little help with our problems of assessing age or attribution of rugs.

So, Patrick, while it's true that with enough knowledge we could be very precise, I fear that the knowledge we need is not currently available to us.

Will it be some day? Will we one day be able to determine exactly where wool in an old rug comes from using genomics or proteomics? Will we be able to refine carbon testing to the point where it will have a range of only ±25 years? Hell, will we be able to travel back in time and find the rug we have on our wall being woven?

Sure would be nice. But what would we have to argue/debate?



Posted by Steve Price on 01-09-2005 08:39 AM:

Re: Lucky Guess?

Originally posted by Patrick Weiler
I finally said 1925, because I felt that 1930 was a bit too late for the particular green color in some of the details.
He then showed me the inwoven date. 1925.
So, it is not always just a guess about when a rug was woven.

Hi Patrick

Unless you are able to correlate that particular green with an approximate date range consistently and accurately, your guess being spot on that time doesn't change the fact that it was a guess. It's basis, I assume, is that you've seen that color a number of times on Belouch rugs that were attributed to the 20th century, but not on specimens with earlier attributed dates.

Those attributions ultimately originated in some unknown source of information and became part of Rugdom's oral tradition through repetition. I don't doubt that some of the information in that tradition is correct. But which is correct and which isn't is, at the moment, mostly terra incognita.

As a point in passing, if you look at the terms in the major auction house catalogs, you'll note that some information is guaranteed to be accurate, other information is simply a representation of their experts' opinions. They use different fonts to distinguish the two. Age attributions are never included in the "guaranteed accurate" category.


Steve Price

Posted by Raoul Tschebull on 01-09-2005 11:58 AM:

Cliff notes

Jerry's, of course, right. You can chase your tail all day, wear a hole in that rug, and never be able to fix a date of production. In fact, the very level of concentration on the absolute date is a certain measure of the lack of knowledge. The last question a collector should ask is "How old is it, exactly?" Learn other things first - become a taxonomist, an economist, a cultural historian and an anthropologist. You can do a lot of this from your armchair, but it's hard work.

Posted by Steve Price on 01-09-2005 07:28 PM:

Hi Mike (Raoul)

I think most ruggies understand that fixing an exact date of production of a rug is (with very rare exceptions) impossible. I don't think the quarter or half century spans usually given are very reliable, either, and I'm not even convinced that relative ages can be attributed with a firm basis. This doesn't stop me from doing it, of course.

Do you know of significant numbers of rugs of well documented ages (even approximate ages) and region from which anyone could tabulate characteristics that would allow ages of other rugs from the same region to be estimated with confidence?


Steve Price

Posted by Raoul_Tschebull on 01-09-2005 09:13 PM:

You're probably missing my point. I don't think it's true that ages of ethnographic textiles cannot be ascertained. As said, it's just hard work, requires research skills, access to data, ability to travel to obscure places, knowledge of non-European languages or access to translators - and must be approached with great care. It's just a bore for collectors to jump on the date issue first thing.

For starters in figuring out the ages of "significant numbers of rugs", I suggest a read of the painstakingly assembled corpus of material by John Mills concerning early Turkish rugs.

For 19th century rugs, a read of my article on the subject of the ages of a certain group of Kazaks, "What's in a date?", Forum, Hali 135, page 73, might be helpful.

Posted by Steve Price on 01-09-2005 09:28 PM:

Hi Mike

I am familiar with your piece in HALI, (it was one of the things that prompted me to raise this subject of this little Salonette). It demonstrates very nicely how misleading conventional criteria can be in estimating dates of Caucasian rugs.

It's all well and good to advise the novice collector not to concern himself (or herself) too much with date attribution, but it's a fact of life that estimated age and monetary value are pretty deeply intertwined in the world of rugs. For most collectors, there's significant amounts of money riding on the estimated date of every piece he buys (or sells, for that matter). Hence, the main question I raised: how reliable are those attributions, and how accurate are they likely to be?

Basically, they can be no more accurate or reliable than the standard curves relating age to some set of characteristics for particular types of rugs. Those curves (if they were to be constructed) would have error bars corresponding to the variability in each characteristic at any particular age point, of course. But more important, the age points themselves are very uncertain most of the time. Therein lies the problem. Unless there is a corpus of rugs of known (not guessed at) ages, the standard curves can't be constructed, even in principle


Steve Price

Posted by Patrick Weiler on 01-10-2005 02:07 AM:

Relative age


I do not know how long the dealer had the Baluch rug, or how many people had tried to guess the age, but he did say I was the first person to guess the actual age. So, everybody else could not. And my estimate was "aproximate" to within plus or minus 10 years. So, the quarter-century guess is probably the best one can do with enough experience.

Take another example. Automobiles. Unless you are really into cars, you could probably not guess the actual age of any given car, unless you either owned one or it is an unusual vehicle. And this is true even though every car made can be dated with near exact certitude. But most of us can guess "it looks like it is from the "60's" or "20's" or within a decade or two by the style. And that is probably what most of us do for rugs, too. Designs changed little by little, colors changed and construction changed.

I think Raoul used this same "It kind of looks like 3rd quarter 19th century rather than 18th century" technique to discern the relative age of the McMullan Kazak. Unless they are willing to have the dyes tested, there may not be a conclusive determination.
I think it is probably universally accepted that most of the "antique" rugs that are on the market today are from the 100 year period between 1850 and 1950. Proving that one is older than that is difficult, as Raoul has pointed out.
This is why the expertise of trained and experienced dealers is worth so much to the value of a rug. I would certainly be more likely to believe the age of a rug if Raoul declared it than I would just seeing a rug on e-bay with a date assigned by the seller. And would be willing to invest more in it.

Bob, take Baluch rugs for example. They have become much more collectible over the last decade or two. They actually are "old, "ethnographic," and rare". The marketplace is just now acknowledging it. Even Hamadan rugs are gaining a measure of respectability. Your job is to collect the rugs that will be the next big thing, before they become expensive!

Patrick Weiler

Posted by Steve Price on 01-10-2005 07:33 AM:

Hi Patrick

I like your automobile analogy very much. The reason many people can attribute the age of an automobile with considerable accuracy is that there is a well-documented database of automobiles of various ages and most of us are familiar with it. The auto buff has committed it to memory.

That just isn't the case with rugs. We have a database of rugs to which various ages are attributed, and it is usually not difficult to place any rug into it's proper place in that database. What we don't have (with some exceptions, but not in great numbers) is a way to know the reliability of the date attributions in the database.

An additional wrinkle is that cars have been mass produced for many decades, and every one that came off an assembly line is one of a number of clones. Not so for rugs, at least not for the ones in which mainstream collectors are interested.

Your guess of the age of that Belouch is suggestive of an ability to recognize the green color and use it correctly in attributing age of such rugs. But a single instance of doing so is only suggestive. Doing it routinely would be compelling. Here's a problem with which to wrestle: are there enough Belouch rugs with ages that can be independently determined (for instance, with inscribed dates) to allow someone to test the hypothesis that this green is diagnostic?


Steve Price

Posted by Bob Kent on 01-10-2005 08:07 AM:

trust me!

Patrick once I own something its value rises without exception! I think I am as likely to make money collecting rugs as I would be drinking wine or travelling, and worrying too much about the $$ just distracts one from the joys...

but you guys are not discouraging me from the idea that rugs that have properties collectors like - spacious designs, narrow brorders in some cases - are called _older_ when the might just be _better._

Posted by James Blanchard on 01-12-2005 12:20 AM:

Beauty, age and unusual

Hi all,

I think I get rugs for somewhat different reasons than serious collectors, though I am sure that collectors have rugs from different categories. Personally, I have never bought a rug that was not attractive visually, or in some cases more from a tactile sense (how the rug feels).

In terms of age, I think beyond the issue of beauty (many find older rugs more beautiful), there is the element of being "unusual". I recently picked up a rug because I liked its look, but also because to me it seemed unusual. It is an ersari with a somewhat typical octaganal gul. What is unusual for me is the size of the rug and all of the elements, including the guls. The entire rug is 3'6" by 4'5", and the guls are only 6.5" wide by 5.5" tall. Most rugs with this design that I have seen are large. In terms of appeal, I liked the spaciousness of design (on such a small rug) and the fantastic colours.

Naturally (at least for us novices), I couldn't resist asking the approx. age of the dealer. He thought about 80-90 years old. His basis.... colours, ivory warps, etc. In addition, he pointed out a stencilled label on the back in white paint, and said that this "feature" made it at least 70 years old. When pressed, he said that up to 70-75 years ago but not since, a number of rugs that were originally marked for export had been labelled in this way. Go figure.....


Posted by Steve Price on 01-12-2005 08:15 AM:

Hi James

The sort of information your dealer had about stencilled numbers being done during a particular time span is one of the reasons why it's easier to attribute younger than very old rugs. Dealers who learned from people still active in the trade 100 years ago know such things, but similar information is probably long lost for anything woven more than, say, 125 or 150 years ago.


Steve Price

Posted by Vincent Keers on 01-12-2005 09:07 PM:


But the info is wrong. It's hear say.

The S in the number is the first letter of the name, that I will not mention, of the appointed German Herr Director that controled a Dutch oriental carpet dealer. (Think Hitler needed the cash). A company with status in the old pre W.O.2 days. The S is only used during the war.

So the rug must be imported in the Netherlands between 1940/1945. The white warps make it less Afghan, more workshop and maybe Iranian (Turkman) production on demand.
It funny that within 50 years a rug gets 75 years older

Best regards,

Posted by James Blanchard on 01-12-2005 11:03 PM:

Dear Vincent,

Thanks for the feedback.

Now that is specific. It seems that now I know more about this rug than about any others.

But this age and source attribution gets trickier all the time, even for newer rugs with additional clues (like the stencilled marking).

If what you say is correct, then this is a well-traveled little rug. I purchased the rug in Pakistan from an individual who says he purchased it from Afghanis. So from Iran to Netherlands to Afghanistan to Pakistan....

That is an interesting comment about the light (ivory) warps being "less Afghan and more workshop". I have another Ersari (ensi) with the same colour wool warps, that I bought from Afghans in Pakistan shortly after the Soviet invasion (1985). Although I don't think it is very old, it seems "informal" for a workshop production, but now I am way beyond my depth.

Do others agree with the "white = workshop" guideline for ersari warps?

It's a good thing I buy rugs that I like and can afford!


Posted by Vincent Keers on 01-13-2005 07:37 AM:

Hi James,

What I say is correct. I've worked for the company.
About the warps.
Turkmenian production before 1918 had ivory woolen warps.
After 1918 it gets more and more dark brown woolen warps so Aghan. Karakul sheep.
After 1960 we see ivory again but this is from Iran. Wool and cotton.
Now it's all white warps from Pakistan production. Beloudch sheep.
This is what I think happend with the warps.

Best regards,

Posted by James Blanchard on 01-13-2005 03:43 PM:

Thanks for this interesting information Vincent.

The guidelines regarding warps is particularly enlightening for me.

So does that imply that the ensi with ivory wool warps is more likely early 20th century? Although I kind of thought it was a bit more recent than that, it seems unlikely to me that it is from Iran post-1960.

Although I don't consider myself a collector, and purchase for beauty more than age (which I know I can rarely judge reliably anyway), I am always happy to learn more about my rugs. Since my wife is Dutch, we now are the happy owners of an attractive little Dutch Ersari.



Posted by Vincent Keers on 01-13-2005 09:19 PM:

Hi James,

Difficult to judge looking at the images only.
It can be Iranian/Turkman production. Nothing wrong with that. The Ensi is ok. It seems to me that it's in a good condition. Think 1890/1920 production should show wear, some reshuffled piles and reshuffled warps and wefts in a plain weave ending. But this is only what I've seen in my world. Others see different things in other worlds.
Maybe John, our Ensi specialist pops in. He's seen them all. And, like you, I'm waiting for someone to my warp story.

Best regards,

Posted by Marvin Amstey on 01-15-2005 06:45 PM:

Thanks for the interesting info on the "S" stencil. I present here a rug that I strongly believe is mid 19th c. Tekke based on 30+ years experience and consistent with the literature. Even Sotheby's (not the last word in dating) cataloqued it as so!

So the stencilling indicates the date of import (1940-45) but not the age.

Posted by James Blanchard on 01-16-2005 04:43 AM:

Stencils, places, warps and dates

Dear Marvin and Vincent,

First, Marvin that is a beautiful Tekke piece.

Vincent, I had another question. Was the stencilling done at point of origin, receiving or retailing? If the stencilling was done at point of origin, I suppose that some were stencilled but not shipped.

I suppose that some older pieces were imported during 1940-5 for resale as Marvin's piece indicates.

Which again raises the question about age for the little Ersari with ivory wool (no cotton) warps... .

Beyond the warps, are there any other suggestions for more specific attribution and age estimates for such rugs?


Posted by Steve Price on 01-16-2005 09:07 AM:

Hi James

The Ersari rug looks typical of those generally attributed to the period right around 1900-1925. They were made and exported to the west in rather substantial numbers, and I suspect that the date attributions are ultimately traceable to people who actually knew about them (just a the ages of modern "Pak-Bokharas" can be acurately estimated by people who have been in the business of importing and selling them for the past 25 years or more).

It seems very likely to me that your Ersari was made in the early 20th century and imported to the Netherlands during World War II.


Steve Price

Posted by Bob Kent on 01-16-2005 01:51 PM:

tekke rugs for example

Hi, I like the tekke, and have no reason to doubt that it's mid-19th. But I am not sure of the reasons the literature or auction houses, etc. give me to accept any particular age attribution either? If a Tekke whatever has all natural dyes, that just rules out one indictator that could suggest that it's not that old. My real thought is while Tekke whatever is course central asian, Helfgott's Ties That Bind makes the point that the V&A was a pioneer in collecting and catalogueing "islamic art" from iRan in the 1870s. (Of course some court carpets were catalogued but not so much the sort of tribal things rug collectors often collect). I assume that central asian rugs and bags were not collected and catalogued in the mid-19th C and before and after in a way that clarifies age and ethno-attribution (perhaps they were by Russians?). If not, then falling back on (in the case of tekke main carpets) "the early ones have simpler borders and rounder guls" I don't know about. Maybe these better looking (to many of us) "early" pieces were made at the same time by some people, at the same time in isolated areas?

Posted by Steve Price on 01-16-2005 02:20 PM:

Hi Bob

The Turkmen situation is a little easier than many others. There is ample documentation that merchants encouraged the Turkmen to weave with more detail (hence, more borders and less open space) beginning around the middle of the 19th century. The "flatter" motifs that resulted come from packing down the weft more tightly, one way of achieving greater detail.

Now, given all that, a common mistake (at least, I see it as a mistake) is the presumption that there is a nearly perfect correlation between "flattening" of guls and age, and that we can determine approximate dates by looking at the ratio of height to width in the guls (which assumes that we could construct a graph relating that ratio to age and have accurate numbers on both axes). We do not have anything like enough samples of known age to construct that graph, and it would take a very large number to do it right - with error bars on it.


Steve Price

Posted by Bob Kent on 01-16-2005 02:45 PM:

"Now, given all that, a common mistake (at least, I see it as a mistake) is the presumption that there is a nearly perfect correlation between "flattening" of guls and age, and that we can determine approximate dates by looking at the ratio of height to width in the guls (which assumes that we could construct a graph relating that ratio to age and have accurate numbers on both axes)." Right, for that to be true, the message about changing the weaving would have to be recieved and responded to very consistently, hard to imagine.

Posted by Steve Price on 01-16-2005 03:05 PM:

Hi Bob

Exactly. This error, that weavers changed what they were doing in a lockstep that progressed monotonically with time, is extremely common.

I mentioned elsewhere (maybe in this thread - I've kind of lost track and the location really doesn't matter) that there is an ongoing rant on another site in which a dealer has been accused of fraud on the basis of the fact that his accuser's opinion of the age of a Turkish village rug differs from his own. The dealer estimates that it dates to the 16th/17th century, the accuser is certain that it was not made before the 18th century. The accuser's certainty does not appear to be based on characteristics of a substantial number of rugs with documented ages, and clearly relies on the underlying assumptions that certain characteristics appeared (or disappeared) at certain times, and that these events occurred more or less synchronously throughout the region. That is, that there cannot be early rugs with the characteristics that he believes are restricted to later ones


Steve Price

Posted by Vincent Keers on 01-16-2005 08:51 PM:

Dear Marvin and James,

The rugs got numbers in the warehouse.
So, maybe some were older pieces. Marvin's tekke has an extra dot. Don't know why.
Think if old, I expect something written about origine, age in the books and...the price it made. I'll check it out.

Best regards,

Posted by Marvin Amstey on 01-17-2005 03:42 PM:

I'd be very grateful for any info from the 40's. Very few rugs have any provinence at all. I'd really like to know what price this was sold for in the 40's!

Posted by Stephen Louw on 01-17-2005 04:54 PM:


You noted that "The Turkmen situation is a little easier than many other ...", before referring to literature detailing merchant-induced pressures for design change.

Surely the literature on nineteenth century Turkmen rugs is comparatively weak, certainly when compared to early Indian rugs -- where there is a wealth of information (and anchor pieces) about the Mogul trade and court-induced pressures for design changes -- as well as a variety of Turkish rugs documented in European paintings and Mosque inventories.


Stephen Louw

Posted by Steve Price on 01-17-2005 05:09 PM:

Hi Stephen

I'll try to hunt down the sources, but there are things like merchant correspondence and order information showing some of the things western merchants specified to Turkmen weavers (and, I presume, middle men) in the 19th century. I'm sure there's nothing as extensive as records from the courts, but some documents are around.

The rugs shown in old paintings are very useful in establishing that certain designs existed and were in European hands at various times, but not very useful for documenting the nature of the changes those designs went through over time. It takes a lot of pieces of known ages to do that, and I don't think you can get it from paintings.


Steve Price

Posted by Vincent Keers on 01-19-2005 04:10 PM:

Dear James and Marvin,

James number: S 17202
Bought from Haranoff in Londen
Date: 13-10-1936 Size 100x120 cm.
Price paid: Dutch Guilders 20 = Euro 9,08
Price sold: Guilders 56 = Euro 25,40
Date: 30-07-1940

Marvin's number: S 6752
Bought from Amir Suleiman Zadé in London
Date: 06-01-1936 Size 48x119 cm.
Price paid: Guilders 5,75 = Euro 2,60
Price sold: Guilders 16 = Euro 7,26
Date: Same year

That's all that can be found.
Had another talk with the guys about the S numbers. First I heard the story about the German carekeeper again. But then the books showed up and we saw the years. In this case 1936. So nothing to do with the German Herr Director S. Now the real story came out...They didn't know why.
So the first time the guy told me the story, he was.........well ok, those things happen.

Nothing special can be found about old or new. The prices were in the same range as all the other Turkman rugs. Chimney runners

If we look at the numbers we can see that between 06-01-'36 and 13-10-'36 the shop bought 10.450 pieces. Those were the days.

That's all for now.
Best regards,

Posted by Jerry Silverman on 01-19-2005 05:58 PM:



Marvin's piece was bought for (Euro) 2.60? And sold for (Euro) 7.26?

Granted that 1936 was just about the bottom of the Great Depression, but - jeezlouise! - $10 for Marvin's piece is pretty amazing - even if that would have bought food for a couple weeks.

And James' piece sold for more than 3x as much.

Yup, Vincent, those were the days...if you had cash.


P.S. Business ledgers can be such a wonderful find. But like so many other primary sources most rug dealers' don't pre-date 1900.

Posted by Marvin Amstey on 01-19-2005 08:31 PM:

Thanks, Vincent. I also find it as fascinating as Jerry does! From 1936 to 1990 is 64 years. The price gain over that time was 250X. That's about 9% per year; a little better than the stock market, but not much. Moral: rugs are not for investment; only for pleasure.

Posted by Marvin Amstey on 01-19-2005 08:37 PM:

That's 54 years and about a 10-11% gain; need to change the moral: rugs may be a good investment, but buying them for pleasure results in no one getting hurt

Posted by James Blanchard on 01-19-2005 11:03 PM:

Vincent.... thanks for your research on this! It is fascinating information, and now I know more about this rug than most others that I own. Interesting how it made its way back to Afghanistan and then to Pakistan, where I picked it up. Also interesting that the fellow I bought it from said that it was "at least 75 years old, because they were using those stencilled labels back then".

It seems that my rug hasn't "appreciated" nearly as much as Marvin's!

Hey Marvin, now that we can see the relative market value of our rugs from those savvy European dealers in 1936, my wife and I would like to know if you would consider a trade: Tekke for Ersari. I might even throw in a pre-1985 Pakistani Bokhara ("with New Zealand wool!"), or perhaps a post-WW2 Joshagan.

I agree wholeheartedly with Marvin, it's hard to be disappointed if you buy rugs that you like at a price that suits you.


Posted by Marvin Amstey on 01-20-2005 11:02 AM:

That trade would have worked for me in 1936 (if I was smart enough to know the relative values then); not now, however!.

Posted by Patrick Weiler on 01-21-2005 01:29 AM:

Another Number


Here is a Baluch khorjin face:

The design is a tile pattern with columns of "S" cartouche guls in a sort of optical illusion. The guls in the center column of the bag are made of "S" cartouches that each make up the sides of what could be called the "minor" guls - which have animal head trident-devices at their centers.
There appears to be a sort of "internal elem" where the columns of guls abruptly stop and restart again.
There is a nice light blue and a blue-green that make this a rather bright Baluch. I think this feature is from older Baluch pieces. (certainly pre-1936!)

From the back, you can see the stenciled number at the "bottom", near the closure tabs:

A close-up shows that this number is probably A 1 3 1 8 A

I have seen a few weavings with stenciled numbers, but had no clue what the numbers meant, other than a warehouse number of some sort. I suppose they would use a bar code now?

Was the "A" series of numbers from a different distributor than the "S" series?
Or does this mean that I have an "A" piece??

Patrick Weiler

Posted by R. John Howe on 01-21-2005 08:38 PM:

Hi Vincent -

You said there are some restrictions on what you are free to say about this numbering system and the associated records.

Is there more you can tell us about them?

For example, can you indicate the source that let's you "decode" them as you did on these two rugs? And for what period of time do such records exist?

It is interesting to find marks and notations on rugs and to discover what they indicate.

I own a large fragment of a reasonable Turkmen Yomut chuval (no elem) that has a tag sewn on the back which reads:

December 3, 1910
Unca. 15 -

The dealer from whom I bought this piece told me that he had it from an older couple who had owned it since this date. The wife had written and sewn on this tag. The couple is now deceased.

He/we believe that it indicates in part that this piece was bought in 1910 for $15 USD. I think that was not an insignificant price then. It is something interesting to compare with the prices on these two pieces apparently sold in 1936.

It is remarkable what records exist. I wrote a short "review" of a book written by a now-retired member of the World Bank, who lives here in the DC area (we have had tea here in my apartment). Willem Floor, with a command of a number of languages, has and is studying trade records of various sorts and has written several books in this area. The one I have and have read is "The Persian Textile Industry: In Historical Perspective: 1500-1925."

The detail of the descriptions in some of these records is striking.


R. John Howe

Posted by Vincent Keers on 01-21-2005 10:20 PM:


I'm sorry, but I can't trace everything that has been stamped or sewed on rugs. (I wish I could, I think, or maybe not.....hmm)
Patrick's A number could be from The Netherlands, but maybe others out there stamped rugs in the same manner. I know two shops did it in The Netherlands. One used only numbers in bold, the other used P, S, PZ and numbers. So my source are two nice gentle men that dig up old stuffy books and help us out whenever an old number shows up.
I've an old, beautiful rag that I put outside my Cave on the steps. It has an H and a number. (I got it from a German Shepperd that crossed the river..German Shepperd?...Aah.... Hund!) Nobody knows where it comes from. One thaught is that it was a rug on consignment.

About money. In The Netherlands, in the '30ties a monthly wage for a houskeeper was 1 euro per month. So Patricks Tekke was 3 months hard work 60 hours per week. So one could say, rugs are very cheap these days.

Best regards,

Posted by R. John Howe on 01-21-2005 10:32 PM:

Hi Vincent -

Yes, I went looking for what the median wage might have been in 1910 in the USA. (The date on my chuval fragment.)

It's out there somewhere, but I did find that Henry Ford's automobile workers in 1913 were paid about $2.50 a day. So a $15. rug was not a small expenditure, even for them. Almost a week's paycheck.

And Ford's workers were relatively well-paid (that year he raised their wage to $5. a day and they became customers for the cars they were making). I saw some indications that agricultural workers in this period were paid about 12 cents an hour, just short of $1/day.


R. John Howe

Posted by Vincent Keers on 01-21-2005 10:36 PM:


This one is related?

Hope my site will not crash.
I'll take a better picture tomorrow.
Think yours has more graph power.
But mine has an original back.

Good night,

Yep, It crashed again.

Posted by Vincent Keers on 01-21-2005 10:42 PM:

Hi John,

So that's why they all went to the New World.

Best regards,

Posted by Robert Emry on 01-22-2005 07:21 PM:

Another "S" Rug

I don’t want to make the stenciled number research into a full-time job for you, but here is another piece with an “S” number. Please don’t feel obligated, but if you do have an opportunity to check, I would be interested in what the records indicate for this one. This one actually came to me from your country. Links below should get the pictures.

Thanks, Bob Emry

Posted by Vincent Keers on 01-22-2005 08:55 PM:

Hi Robert,

I'll check it out coming wensday.
The number must be from the 1936 year.

Best regards,

If they close the door the moment they see me coming, I can't help it.

ps2 Talking about colours. Wow!

Posted by Vincent Keers on 01-22-2005 09:45 PM:

Dear Patrick,

Just to show you yours is better.
But mine has more blue.

And to show that if items are found beautiful in the old days, they seem to loose there beauty because of the beauty

Best regards,

Posted by Vincent Keers on 01-22-2005 09:53 PM:


A spectacular Beloudch.
No pile left because it was beautiful.

Best regards,

Posted by Vincent Keers on 01-22-2005 09:57 PM:

1 more

But this one's huge.
160x75 cm
Was it made before or after Ganzhorn!
I think he must have seen this one and got all h.... . ganz h....

Best regards,

Posted by Patrick Weiler on 01-24-2005 11:34 PM:

Optical Illusion


Your Baluch Gul bag gives me a headache! My eyes keep trying to go from the center column of guls to the two outer columns. Vertigo. Vincent Vertigo.
Those pesky Baluch weavers!
I like your Timuri Baluch with the dark blue field. Is it a balisht, or is it a rug?
As for Bob's Kurdish piece, not only are the colors superb, but the repair to the closure panels with what appears to be goat hair is very curious. Was it done in the field to allow further utilization of the piece? And the tuning fork minor border is quite unusual.

Patrick Weiler

Posted by Vincent Keers on 01-25-2005 03:04 PM:

Hi Patrick,

Think, once upon a time, it was a balisht. But the back is gone elsewhere, so now it's a rug.
Think this was made for a marriage a trois. One groom and two brides. The brides seem to have fun because they are waving their arms at us.
Must have been quite a guy.

Best regards,

Posted by Robert Emry on 01-25-2005 09:56 PM:

closure repairs

Yes, the repairs to the closure holes are interesting, and do appear to be done with some kind of spun coarse hair (goat, or maybe horse), and were surely made while the bag was in use to reinforce fraying closure holes. The repair goes around and around the hole in a spiral, but isn't a simple buttonhole stitch,--reminds me of crochet, possibly done with a hook.

Two other closure slots in addition to these are repaired similarly, and others appear to have been ready for repair before the bag was retired.

Posted by Vincent Keers on 01-26-2005 08:12 PM:

Dear Robert,

All uneven numbers are missing.
When they relocated (in the seventies) the owner gave the order to dump the books with uneven numbers.

I've never met the guy, but I like the way he managed his business. Dump it!

Best regards,

PS The repair looks like Beloudch selvedge in goathair.

Posted by Robert Emry on 01-26-2005 11:33 PM:

Vincent: Thanks anyway for checking--too bad it was an odd number. It seems strange that they would dump just the books with odd numbers. But what seems even more strange is that they HAD separate books for add and even numbers. I'm trying to think of a rationale for that, and I'm coming up empty. Any insights into this curious procedure?

Bob Emry

Posted by Vincent Keers on 01-31-2005 08:36 PM:



Years. So missing are: 1933,1935,1936 etc.

Sorry for this mixup mix


Posted by Robert Emry on 01-31-2005 11:06 PM:

Vincent: Thanks! Now it makes sense.
Bob Emry

Posted by Patrick Weiler on 01-31-2005 11:24 PM:

Very Odd...


1936 is an odd year???

Oddly yours,

Patrick Weiler

Posted by Vincent Keers on 02-01-2005 12:02 PM:


Where am I?
Who am I?

A very odd year 1936.

Thanks Patrick for staying sober.
Best regards,