Buying antique oriental rugs has been touted by various sources over the past 100 years as a good "investment".
Recently, over the past twenty or so, RK can remember reading glowing reports from pundits, figures and all, reciting how putting money into these weavings beats the stock market, the bond market, and even the precious metal markets.
And while this might be true in certain RARE cases, it surely is not true across the board. Not even close.
Nor is it true for the average buyer, even those with so-called experts as guide and guardian.
We can cite enumerable examples where such an 'investment' plan has failed to achieve anything but a loss for the investor.
In yesterday's rather weak line up of lots at Christie's London fall carpet sale, lot 23 a so-called "Karapinar" rug estimated for 20,000 - 30,000 ($31,960 - $47,940) sold for 32,500 ($52,293). Its a text-book case and perfect example.
By the way, RK has convincingly disproved ideas lot 23, or others bearing this moniker, was made in Karapinar. We have destroyed the myth and laid it securely to rest, see here.
Frankly we are ever surprised anyone would still use this provenance.
We can appreciate calling them "rugs with the 'karapinar style medallion", and Christie's carpet department would be wise to adopt this terminology and forget any other. So should all others who consider themselves knowledgeable and au courant.
But our mention is not meant to teach colleagues the right or wrong way to call a spade a spade.
Rather our intent is to show making an "investment" in an antique oriental rug is not a slam-dunk, even when done with the 'help' of an expert.
Lot 23 was formerly sold at rippon-boswell's May 2003 sale as lot 71, as the screen shot below shows.
Here, for comparison, is a screen shot from yesterday's Christie sale.
It's the same rug, regardless of the somewhat different coloration, a variable all types of photography can't help but create.
On this go-round, eleven years later, the price achieved was basically half. Good investment, huh?
So did the market speak, was there some hidden agenda in play, or is it just like the weather report you never know what a rug will sell for until after the fact?
We do not know who the 2003 purchaser was the "European dealer" cited in that rag hali (issue 130 page 124) -- nor the client on whose behalf he is said to have purchased it.
But we do know this rug is far from what that review cracks it up to be, and this client's expectations after relying on that dealer now look rather disappointing, even if the dealer charged no commission on top which is likely not what happened.
"An intriguing rug, the dark brown field with a beautifully articulated ornate yellow oval enclosing a cruciform medallion." is the description that rag hali published. Who knows what the European dealers was.
Unfortunately, there is nothing intriguing about this rug except who was foolish enough to have been the under-bidder circa 70,000 euro. A fact it seems todays buyers well recognized hence the price haircut Lot 23 returned to the consignor.
The review was, however, cogent enough to mention "...the design's spirit seems more European...".
Too bad the meaning of this obvious as the nose of your face fact -- one that implies a date well into the 18th century and not the ridiculous over-dating to the 17th century both boswell and that rag hali published - went unnoticed by all, especially the under-bidder, that European dealer and his trusting client.
This rug is nothing but a rich mans furnishing carpet, and not a 17th century collector rug, regardless of the hype boswell, Christies and surely that European dealer extolled.
Nor are both sale catalogs allusions to other earlier examples of the type any more factual.
Here, for the record, is the prototype for this very specific Karapinar group.
There are a number of reasons why this is the prototype, not the least the distinct lack of the European appearance all the other later renditions display; published in Ein Samlung Orientalishe Teppiche, Heinrich Jacoby
So much for tapitology, lets get back to investment.
Profit is the real and only means to judge any investment, and on that basis the European dealers client lost, and lost large.
Forgetting the decade of time and lost interest on the 90,000 usd plus paid the ROI (return on investment) was zero and the return of investment well less than half considering Christie sellers premium and other expenses.
Now dont go and get RK wrong, or misunderstand exactly where we are coming from, and think we are saying buying antique oriental rugs is a bad idea investment-wise.
Done with expertise of a far higher level than said nameless European dealers, its a great idea.
But, and its a big one, finding the right ones to buy is hard, very hard.
If one is patient and expert they do come along, even at Christies or rippon-boswell.
Though after all is said and done, the buyer must be judicious and the wait will be long