Many rugs that sell at auction, even some for high prices, would not be as easily sold in private. By private, we mean person to person – be that dealer-to-dealer, collector-to-collector, or any other combination.
Why does this happen and why do rugs sell at auction better than in private?
This question, which might seem a strange way to begin an auction preview is, notwithstanding the incongruity, quite pertinent to any auction preview or review. We have discussed it at length here and don’t intend to revisit that now.
However, we have mentioned the almost total invisibility of any real market for historic Oriental Rugs here on RugKazbah.com before and believe it is important to do that again.
The most credible statement about this ‘mythic market’ for Oriental Rugs was uttered to me some years ago in reply to a question posed about a disappointing auction sale result: “That’s what the market valued the piece at on that day.”
Well, we responded “Markets are not measured by what happens on one day but, rather, what happens on many successive ones.”
Sure, markets move up, down and even sideways but unless there is some bottom, i.e. consistency, to those movements there is no real market or anything that could even be so characterized.
Such is the situation for historic Oriental rugs -- there is no real market – and anyone who says different is either a fool or a liar.
What does this have to do with grogan’s sale? Well, frankly, nothing that it doesn’t have to do with any rug sale – it’s a fact we all must face. The reality rugs mostly sell for more at auction is part and parcel of this situation.
OK, then, you might ask yourself why does RK mention it now?
We mention this to, once more, bring attention to the lack of any positive criteria or factors pertaining to historic Oriental rugs that could be used to compare and contrast them, and of course, to value them.
All this is obvious and we are sick and tired of hearing ruggies talk about the rug market as if there really was one– there's not, face the facts boys and girls.
Let’s now take a gander at a few of the pieces grogan is offering but first a word about the estimates.
Auctioneers love putting stupidly low estimates on pieces, often on quite valuable ones. Why, which is what we always ask them when discussing this practice, put a $1000 estimate when the piece will bring many times that price?
The answer is invariably to “interest” buyers – aka to entice them – with low prices to get them to bid.
We have always thought this to be bogus; for if those bottom fishers, who are clearly price oriented could bid high for a piece they would and would not need the enticement of a low estimate to motivate them.
We say this because the estimates on many of the grogan lots are way, way off – mostly to the low side.
Maybe that makes grogan look good to his consigners but, to anyone who knows the material well, it just makes him look disingenuous or plain stupid -- take your pick.
Hopefully, one day there will be positive criteria to judge rugs and, on that basis, a real market for them can be developed – until then we will all have to suffer through the illusionary one that presently exists.
The first lot we will take a look at is lot 3 a so-called “ShahSevan Soumac Bagface” dated in the catalog to 1875.
This bag is surely not a world-beater and is far down the line from the best of this type. The drawing and color are passable and the $2-3000 estimate is one of the few we saw that is well put.
Soumak bags have been for decades very popular and sought after, their prices well reflect that interest.
Recently a far better, but still not best of type, bag of this design sold at bozwell’s for more than 40,000 dollars.
Don’t expect any similar fireworks from this one at grogan’s.
We don’t like it much but at under $3500 it’s a reasonable buy for a collector and that’s about where we see it selling on sale day.
As far as we can tell, lot 87, which appears to be a type of Karabagh, is incorrectly catalogued as a “Talish Rug”, something we are positive it is not.
And grogan, who fancies himself as a rug expert, should have known that as well.
Talish area rugs have very unique wool and dye qualities – both missing here – as well as a certain delicacy in their drawing – missing here as well.
Sure the word Talish adds value but when you estimate a rug for $5-700, why bother trying to add value with a misappropriated provenance?
No, senor gorgan missed the boat here, one he should have made it up the gangplank on.
This Karabagh is not very interesting -- a fate we’d consign most of the lots in not only grogan’s sale to.
By the way, mr grogan, this rug is actually a prayer rug and if you look at it carefully enough, with that in mind, you will see the implied mirhab and reason that large quadruped is positioned where the weaver placed it.
Lot 25, called North-west Persian in the catalog is usually not the type of rug we candle to.
However, the weave of this rug looks superior, as does the coloration and expert drawing. We like it and, once again, think the estimate, $2-3000, is foolishly low for a rug of this age and quality. Look for this one doubling or better that silly estimate of grogan.
The Akstafa prayer rug, lot 27, is dated in the catalog to “late 19th century” because, as we suspect, there are some synthetic dyes present.
If that is the case, why put a $3-5000 estimate on it when, almost everything else in this sale, is under-estimated?
At least we should be able to expect some consistency but, obviously, that is rare in the rug world, now ain’t it?
We don’t like this prayer rug and expect it will be unsold, unless the reserve is much lower than it would appear to be from the estimate.
Since we have been so negative we thought to end this installment of our grogan sale preview with a piece we can say something nice about.
Lot 116, a Turkish yastik, is also foolishly underestimated at $1-1500.
This is a rare type -- often found on a crème-colored white ground --, the best of which always exhibit a far higher level of design articulation, delicacy and far better proportions.
That said we do like its robust provincial quality more than any of the other of the gaggle of yastik grogan is trying to move.
We do, however, find the drawing to be a bit cloddish and exaggerated.
While on the flip-side, we do like the golden colored field, spirited rendering of the main border drawing and the contrasting red ground color used for the elem.
Again, the estimate, $1-1500, is way low and we expect this to outperform that range by much, as well as its outperforming any of the other yastik in the sale, none of which is even close to the level this one achieves.
As time allows, we will add another installment of this preview, so stay tuned for more about the grogan/acor sale here on RugKazbah.com.