Posted by R. John Howe on March 04, 1999 at 04:57:22:
In Reply to: Would you buy a rug on the Internet? posted by Jerry Silverman on March 03, 1999 at 23:26:33:
Dear folks -
It depends on what you call "real" money. I have bought rugs on the Internet (eBay only, so far) and have risked as much as $1,000 in a single purchase. I was acquainted with the dealer and thought I had fair info about what I was buying and it turned out reasonably well. The color of the piece turned out to be noticably darker than the images on my computer but otherwise I got what I thought I was buying.
Another time I bought a low-end Balouch which I could see had low pile but which had an unsual design (partly a seemingly exceptionally well-drawn "bird on a pole" Turkoman style border). On this one the drawing "in the wool" did not match the precision indicated by the screen image but I paid so little for it that I was not dissatisfied. It's just not as good an example of Balouch drawing of that border as I thought it was.
How to explain the success of rug sales on eBay? Well, I don't have the numbers but it seems to me that the lower priced pieces do best. Here, I think you have a market of an increased size, many not knowledgeable, the American dream of getting a real bargain, and the fact that pieces often look better on the screen (even with bad photos) than they are. I think, even someone like Jim Allen, who's sometimes putting up higher priced pieces is doing best on the low end. It think the current situation on eBay presents an excellent opportunity for a dealer who wants to clear low end pieces and even some "dogs." It also provides collectors for an excellent vehicle for pruning their collections and for correcting the purchasing mistakes we all make.
One last thing. I have bought pieces repeatedly now as a result of seeing them initially in mailed photos. If I like what I see, I ask to have the piece sent on approval. The Internet provides a way to make such images available at a much lower cost to a great many more people and dealers still could decide to send pieces on approval. That's what Jacobsen in Syracuse did for years (and, I think, still does). The old man's deal used to be that he would send on approval (to anyone) twice as many rugs as they thought they'd be interested in purchasing. So Intenet can just take the place of mailed photos and the send-on-approval process can still go on, overcoming the objections about not being able to see the real colors or have the piece in hand for tactile assessment.
R. John Howe
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