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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.

The Collector-Dealer Relationship

by Steve Price

The popular image of the rug dealer is not much better than the old sterotypes of used car salesmen or the current one of lawyers: anything for a buck, the truth held in such high regard that its use is reserved for special occasions.

The fact is that most dealers are honest, hardworking people with a genuine love and knowledge of the objects they sell, and nearly all those who deal in "collectibles" (and I use the term more or less the way Sotheby's uses it, to refer to things other than decorative carpets) fall into this group. Their clientele is fairly well informed, repeat business is essential to long term success, and the collectors tend to share their impressions and the experiences they've had with dealers.

Nevertheless, there is some tension between dealers and collectors. One fairly prominent dealer created quite a splash at either ACOR or ICOC a few years ago by announcing that the disloyalty of collectors to their mentor-dealers, manifested as increasing participation of collectors as buyers at the major auction houses, and the increasingly opportunistic nature of collectors (as opposed to specialist collectors whose wants are more or less predetermined) had driven him to stop selling collectibles and go into the decorative carpet business. And it certainly isn't difficult to find collectors who are angry at one dealer or another for what they perceive to be dishonesty or, at least, misrepresentations that reflect dealer ignorance.

I think this might be a useful place to hold a dialogue between dealers and collectors at all levels of expertise. I'd like to pose a number of questions that I hope will draw responses from dealers and collectors - I know that our readership includes significant numbers of each.

To the collectors, I'd ask: What are the things that some dealers do that make it more likely that you will become (or continue to be) a customer? What characteristics of a dealer appeal to you? What characteristics repel you? If someone asks you to recommend a dealer, what is likely to be the basis for your recommendation? What obligations do you think a dealer has to his collector clientele, actual or potential? What have you done for a dealer or dealers that you think have not been adequately appreciated? It would probably help others to evaluate yuor opinions if you provide a little information about your own level of expertise (i.e., someone who's been collecting for a very short time, long-term collector but not very knowledgable, serious - that is, fairly knowledgable - collector, expert). Accounts of personal experiences are solicited, although I ask that you not provide information from which a dealer could be identified. We don't want to promote or diminish any individual's business on these boards.

To the dealers, a similar set of questions. What characteristics make a collector a particularly desirable customer? What characteristics make you hope a collector will not become one of your "regulars"? Have you experienced "the collector from hell"? What was it that makes you think of him (or her) that way? What are the differences in the ways you deal with the novice, compared with how you deal with the more advanced collector? What are some of the things you do for collector clients that you suspect are inadequately appreciated by them? As with the responses we solicit from collectors, I invite accounts of personal experiences but ask that you not identify the customer involved in them.

In view of the sensitivity of some of the information that may be offered, if any of you want to post messages without revealing your identity you can send the message to me by e-mail, and I will post it as having come to me from an a person who prefers to have it appear as an anonymous post. I will not reveal the identity of anyone sending me such a message (in fact, the likelihood that I will even remember who it was after a few days is pretty remote).

Regards to all,

Steve Price