Some Irrational(?) Thoughts

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Posted by Steve Price on April 12, 1999 at 11:32:18:

Dear Folks,

Pat Weiler has pointed out the irrationality of preferring a rag to a good restoration. This can be explored a bit further.

For most of us, a well restored rug is preferable to an unsightly remnant, at least when aesthetics is the paramount consideration. But let's go a step beyond that. Suppose the rug in question is so extensively restored as to essentially be a new rug (perhaps on an old foundation). If the restoration is superbly done (and this is practical, by the way), the finished product will look the way the rug did when nearly new. Obviously, the aesthetics are as good as they can get for this rug. On the other hand, the extensive restoration comes very close to making the rug a counterfeit, and no collector that I know wants fakes. So here we have a little conundrum. Some restoration for aesthetic reasons is desirable, but there is a line it can cross that makes it undesirable no matter how well it is done.

This phenomenon isn't unique to rug collectors, but applies to every kind of collector I know anything about. People who collect art (or coins, postage stamps or barfbags, for that matter) of any kind value originals, and perfect copies have little value even though aesthetically of the highest order. Rarity is a factor in how collectors value things, and if fakes are valued we would quickly be inundated with them, and the rarity would vanish. At least, I know of no other explanation that comes close to making sense.

All of this is predicated on the notion that collecting makes sense at all.

Steve Price

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