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Salon du Tapis d'Orient

The Salon du Tapis d'Orient is a moderated discussion group in the manner of the 19th century salon devoted to oriental rugs and textiles and all aspects of their appreciation. Please include your full name and e-mail address in your posting.

Advice to the Novice Rug Collector of Limited Means?

by R. John Howe

I am going to assume that it is most useful to talk, in this salon, to a collector of limited means, since I think that includes most of us. Others, more fortunate, will need to look elsewhere for advice about their distinctive problems about which we may not have a full appreciation.

In 1992, Oriental Rug Review published an interview with an older Dutch rug collector, Jan Timmerman. Mr. Timmerman talked about a number of the aspects of his long rug collecting experience. Among other things, he indicated that he rarely bought from dealers and frequented Paris flea markets when he got the chance. He also acknowledged that he never particularly studied the technical side of his rug collecting interest. At the end of this interview, asked what advice he would give about rug collecting, he said, "Only buy the things you really like and never listen to the advice of others."

Now I think, Mr. Timmerman's advice is sound, at bottom, on both points but I would like to suggest that we spend this salon on the presumption that the second of them can validly be interpreted to mean that, while one should ultimately make one's own collecting decisions, it is possible, and perhaps sometimes can be useful, to hear what other collectors might say to someone starting out. To that end, then, let me pose some questions that solicit such advice.

1. I know some collectors who deliberately select and work mostly with high end dealers. I know others, who buy mostly in rug auctions. There are undoubtedly some who still look for opportunities in small antique shops, antique "malls" and even in flea markets and estate sales. Where have you tended to find the rugs in your current collection?

2. How frequently do you tend to buy pieces? For example, how many pieces have you bought each year in the last two years? Is it your practice to determine about the price level at which you want to buy and then to restrict your rug purchases until your rug fund has grown to that level or do you buy more frequently and knowingly give up some order of quality because you find it enjoyable to be looking constantly with the possibility of purchase and/or because you find that you want to have some pieces in your area of collecting interest "in your hands." Or is your strategy in this area different from these two possibilities?

3. What makes a rug "collectible" for you? Do you use some specific standards or criteria and not collect outside them? If so, what are they? What, for you, is the meaning of a sentence like, "It's certainly a beautiful rug but it's definitely not a collectible rug."

4. How important is "condition" to you in your collecting decisions? I ask this because the conventional wisdom one hears seems to suggest that condition is not a very important quality but I notice that a great many rug collectors seem not to give up much ground concerning it. Without having the issues in this next question take over the salon, have you repaired and/or conserved the pieces in your collection? A related question is do you buy/own rug fragments? Why or why not?

5. How do you "keep" the rugs in your collection? Are they, for example, displayed or stored? Do you not buy pieces you would have difficulty displaying?

6. Russell Pickering often exhorts rug collectors to do more than just accumulate material. He urges them to "organize," it, to "examine and analyze" it, perhaps even to "write" about it, not necessarily for publication. Have you undertaken any particular tasks with regard to the pieces in your collection after purchasing them? If so, what are they?

7. Are there particular resources that you found more valuable in your efforts to advance your learning with regard to your collecting interests? (i.e., books, rug clubs, trusted dealers, other collectors, rug conferences, etc.)

8. Have your collecting interests and/or standards changed noticeably since you began to collect? Do you "purge" your collection from time to time? Do you still own the first piece you bought once you decided to collect? Why or why not?

9. (This question is not quite aligned with the others but I want to ask it here anyway.) What is your picture of what eventually will happen to the rugs in your collection in the event that you turn out to be a mere mortal? Mr. Timmerman thinks his survivors will send his very large rug collection (he has several other collections as well) to auction and that that will not be a bad thing. I know of an obscure, older rug collector here in Washington, D.C., who has been collecting for years, who says that his will stipulates that his collection is to go to his undergraduate college and who clearly assumes that they will be grateful, despite the fact that he acknowledges that he has never discussed his plans with them. What do you think will happen in your case?

10. What other advice do you have for the novice collector of limited means?

  • My Answers to My Own Questions (Long) - R. John Howe 18:57:17 6/16/99 (0)
  • Mistakes: Too Few to Mention? - R. John Howe 05:36:31 6/13/99 (16)
  • What are contemporary collectibles? - Stephen Louw 11:47:55 6/12/99 (22)
  • The Answer Is... - Patrick Weiler 09:33:43 6/12/99 (0)
  • Attention: Board Problem - Steve Price 06:09:01 6/12/99 (0)