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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.

Bazaar Adventures

By Yon Bard

The thrill of the chase is undoubtedly part of the pleasure of collecting. It is the rare collector who cannot regale (or bore) his or her co-enthusiasts with interesting and perhaps even instructive stories about how they came to acquire (or just missed acquiring) their favorite pieces. Won't you please share these stories with us?

To start the ball rolling, here is a story of my own: In my early days of collecting I attended my first rug auction. A Daghestan-type prayer rug caught my eye and I was determined to get it. It was estimated at $4000-5000, and I was willing to go to $6500. Come the auction and I found myself bidding against a telephone. As the price climbed I got cold feet and I let the phone have it for $4750 (=$5225 with premium). For several days thereafter I felt disconsolate, and finally called the auction house to ask whether the buyer was a dealer and how I could get in touch. Of course they refused to tell me, but offered to relay my interest to the buyer. The next day I received a call from a famous (as I found out later) New York dealer asking me to make an offer. I suggested $6000. He said he could do much better selling it in Europe. I tried to persuade him of the financial benefits of a quick turnover. He finally agreed on $6250, I think in the hope of acquiring a grateful new customer rather than because of my arguments. I eventually learned that this type of rug is quite common and I needn't have acted as though this was the chance of a lifetime. Still, it's one of the nicest in its class and I still love it.

A similar thing happened to me several years later: I let a phone bidder have a piece for less than I was willing to pay. Subsequently, I spotted it at a dealer whom I was visiting, and he offered it to me for more than twice the auction price! I had to nag him for two years before he gave up and sold it to me for 25% above his cost. It's a rare and lovely thing, which for some reason the rest of the world had ignored, even after it had been advertised in HALI.

If there is a moral in these stories it's that if you let a dealer get a piece cheaply, you can often buy it from him for less than you would have paid had you contested it at the auction.