The reality many, if not almost all collectors, are manipulated by dealers and market forces is a given. Also that often this manipulation has dubious grounds, reasons and merits is equally a given.
This holds true no matter what financial level they are buying at or how long they have been involved.
Naturally, this happens in all collecting areas but because of the lack of any real measures of provenance(like signatures or makers marks, etc) and any real standards (to judge condition or age, etc) in antique and historic oriental rug collecting there are few, if any, realities for collectors to rely upon.
The following story we recount about Kirchheim is surely not meant to denigrate him.
We chose to now air it publicly not only to explain our "manipulation" statement but to demonstrate how absurd believing there actually is a real market for antique and historic oriental rugs.
Let us also add by doing so we will not be surprised if we are showered with a stream of nasty emails from those who were involved or those rug-people in general whose thin-skins and paranoid attitudes might be disturbed by what follows.
Honestly, RK could care less about what these people think and we are prepared to defend not only our right to say what we wish but to prove conclusively what we say is truth and fact.
Some long years ago, we think around sometime around 1985, a former museum director turned dealer by the name of fredrich spuhler began to offer a "collection" of Konya fragments he had bought in Turkey to some “top” collectors.
Most of these pieces had a yellow ground color and dated, in our opinion, from the mid-18th century to the mid-19th century.
It took spuhler several years to collect these fragments and we believe it was sometime around '85 that we heard he was trying to sell the collection for a rather inordinate amount of money -- something in the neighborhood of 250,000+ deutsch marks (around 150,000 dollars).
We were not the only person who believed this price was over-the-top and, even though we had not yet personally viewed spuhler's yellow rug fragments, we were not surprised to hear others, who had, were equally as dubious.
After some time, and the fact no one to whom he offered the "collection" displayed any interest in purchasing them, we heard the price was starting to come down like a zeppelin with a big hole in its side.
We then heard Kirchheim had purchased the "collection" for around 75,000 dollars.
By the way around this time we also heard spuhler had assumed a major role in "helping" Kirchheim in his rug collecting pursuits.
At this point in time RK was spending most of our time in Europe and soon after our learning of this purchase, we arranged to visit Kirchheim and see these pieces.
After viewing them with him and listening to the rap spuhler had laid on him to convince Kirchheim of the "importance" of this collection we "congratulated" Kirchheim on his purchase.
We also mentioned we felt spuhler had over-dated and over-emphasized the "importance" of these pieces.
We also told Kirchheim there was a yellow rug fragment that really was historic and important and that he should consider buying it.
Here is a detail of this piece, which has never been published and is basically known only to very few people:
By the way, this piece, which is about 2 meters by 1.5 meters in size and is a fragment of a larger rug, belongs to RK and has been in our collection since 1981.
There are two large crosses, a detail of the blue one is shown and the other cross below it is red.
At the time we told Kirchheim about this piece, we also told him we owned it but did not have a photo to show him.
Kirchheim was very curious about not only what we said about the "collection" he had purchased from spuhler but also about our piece and he asked us to send him a photo.
Well, long before we learned not to send photos to collectors.
We learned this after sending a photo to someone and then, several weeks later, to have the same piece of ours offered back to us by someone else.
This incident, which we believe we were not unique in experiencing, may not be typical for rugdom but it surely encapsulates what frequently happens when one exposes a weaving on the market.
RK has never been paranoid like other collectors we know and we have always shared our collection both through personal contact and through publication.
By taking such a stance we have often experienced some quite negative results but, in the end, we feel the advantages of having done so will, and have ,rewarded us enough to make up for this.
We explained to Kirchheim our reticence to send photos and promised on our next visit to show a picture of the Konya yellow rug to him.
Several months later we met again and, after showing him a photo of the piece and explaining to him why we believed it to be 16th century and the king of the yellow rug group, he asked us to send him the rug on approval.
Again we explained our policy of not sending photos or rugs on approval and told him "...come to New York and we will gladly show it to you.”.
Kirchheim's travel plans did not include any stops in New York and, over the next several years, we did meet but never in the Big Apple.
In fact, it was not until 1989 that Kirchheim finally got to see the king of the yellow rugs in person when we decided to bring it to Europe and show it to him in November of that year.
As usual, when we were having "serious" discussions about carpets, we arranged to meet in his apartment in Stuttgart.
After telephoning several weeks earlier to tell him he could see the carpet, Kirchheim told us he was very busy meanwhile and we should well beforehand fix a "date" to meet, as his time was very short due to some business matters he was involved in.
We agreed to meet on a Saturday morning, the 25th of November, but he asked us to please call on the Friday before to confirm the time.
When we called again Kirchheim told us "I am very sorry, Jack, but I have an important meeting at 11AM that will take some time and, because my time for the rest of the day is already booked, will one hour be enough time?"
We told him yes that would be fine and arranged to arrive at his apartment at 10AM.
When we arrived Kirchheim and his wonderful wife, Waltrude, greeted us and he and I immediately went into the living room to look at the king of the yellow rugs.
Kirchheim was dutifully impressed and after some hard bargaining we reached an agreement.
This process took more than an hour and at 11AM sharp the bell rang and Kirchheim excused himself for several minutes.
When he returned he told us "Oh, that was Mr. _______ (honestly we don't remember the name) and he is the man I have an appointment with at 11. But don't worry, as he will wait -- he wants to sell me his company, so he has no choice!"
At around 11:45AM, when we had concluded the sale, Kirchheim again excused himself. This time he was gone for about 10 minutes and when he returned he had the man who wanted to sell his company with him.
He then introduced us to this man and how well the memory of the troubled, anxious and worried look on his face comes back to us even today, 17 years later.
The man then went to sit in another room and Kirchheim and I concluded the sale.
Kirchheim then wrote us a check for the full purchase price and, after some goodbyes we left, with the proviso we might come back to Stuttgart in about two weeks to meet again.
Since we were in Germany and had no bank account there, we held the check intending to deposit it when we returned home.
About 10 days later we called Kirchheim to tell him we would, in fact, be returning to Stuttgart.
But as soon as we said hello, Kirchheim quickly cut us off and said "Oh, Mr. Cassin, I am so glad you have called, I have been dreaming about you!"
Well, this augured not quite well with us and after saying "Gee, Heinrich, we surely think you must have better things to dream about than us", he dished out the following:
"Well, you know, Jack, if only one person told me the rug was not what you said it was I would not have been alarmed. But all three people told me that it was not 16th century and nor was the yellow rug rug you sold me 'important' and therefore I do not want to buy it"
We then asked him who these three people were and he told us he had shown it to "...herrmann, Bausback and spuhler."
We then quite politely told him all of them had ulterior motives for dissing the piece and explained the following:
"Doesn't herrmann have a new exhibition opening soon and surely he doesn't want you to spend a sizeable amount of money buying something from me. So his opinion about the rug is surely not honest." And Bausback, who is not an expert of historic pieces, could not possibly give you a correct assessment of the piece. As for spuhler, well, here is what recently happened."
As an aside let us state we had always been impressed by spuhler and had had some quite enjoyable times with him when he was working at the Museum in Berlin, as the carpet curator.
Actually, we had not seen spuhler for a number of years and, in the ensuing time, we had learned he had left the museum and become a rug dealer.
In fact, we had, by chance, met him several weeks earlier, in Milan, Italy. We met on the street and spuhler told us he was holidaying near to Lake Como and would we like to visit him there.
We thought this sounded great and arranged to see him in Como in several days.
During this meeting we had some interesting discussions about rugs and rug dealing and, then, totally out of our respect for him and because we liked him, we showed the king of the yellow rugs to him, thinking after collecting so many of the rugs himself, he would like to see what we thought was the best example of the group.
After looking at it for some time spuhler asked us if it was for sale. We said no but he continued to push us to sell it to him.
Finally, when he realized we would not do so, he became incredibly aggressive and even threatened to beat us up if we did not acquiesce.
You all might imagine our reaction to spuhler's stupidity and bull-headed attitude and after explaining to him in no uncertain terms we were not afraid of him and if he liked we'd be glad to see him carry though with his threat we stood up.
Then, after it was clear he was bluffing, we took the rug and left him sitting there alone.
Since then we have never talked again with spuhler and in that instant he destroyed any respect we had for him as a person or colleague.
Perhaps, in hindsight, we realize Kirchheim might have told spuhler about our king of the yellow rugs and told him to try and get it from us or, at least, to wear us down to make his buying the rug from us easier.
But at the time, this thought was far from our mind.
So after we told Kirchheim the story of what had happened with spuhler and again intimated the "opinions" he received about our rug were, at best, disingenuous if not totally dishonest we reaffirmed our position he had to go through with the purchase.
We also told Kirchheim "You have bought the piece and must pay for it. However, if you don't want it, I will resell it to another client I have in mind. I will even sell it for more than you paid and we can then split the profit.”
Kirchheim then paused and soon said "Alright, come to meet me and I will even pay you in cash for the piece to make up for my mistake I made in believing what they have told me. When will you come?"
We made an arrangement to meet, again on a Saturday and again with the proviso for a confirmation call on the Friday before to fix a time for our meeting"
During that call we arranged to meet in Stuttgart in the later afternoon at around 3 o'clock.
Sorry to leave the story hanging but that's all the time we can devote to this now and will continue this asap.
So stay tuned