RK has always been interested in the machinations of those involved at the supposed upper echelons of rugDUMB.
Donít get us wrong, and mis-interpret what we just said: We have always been more interested in the weavings than the machinations that surround them and bring them to market.
The well-known upper echelon auction houses that sell rugs are, perhaps, far more prone to machination than the dealers who operate from shoppes or their bedroom closets.
For instance, RK has often lambasted detlef maltzahn of rip-on bozwell for his stupid and inane catalog entries, besides his sometimes pulling bids off the back wall and ceiling.
However he, like other auctioneers, cannot really do much as German law provides strong and immutable guidelines that must be followed. So do the laws in many other places where leading auction houses are selling rugs.
Likewise, RK has critiqued and poked our finger of ridicule at michael grogan who is, in our opinion, even more a rug-stooge than maltzahn.
There is no doubt grogan is very ambitious and has been successful.
His auction house can be easily described as being rather low key, might we say down market, not the least for being located in a somewhat crumbling downtown center of an affluent suburb of Boston where, we are sure, few locals visit except to buy some cigs or a Sunday paper.
But from this plebian pedestal grogan has been able to score some big hits. That said they have not often been in rugs but in the other decorative goods he auctions.
Frankly, we canít stand pompous, know-little rug clowns (in our opinion grogan is a major one) and our former friendly relations with grogan finally disintegrated some 5 years or so ago when we just could not continue to listen to his sputtering on about what a rug expert he is, or should we say thinks he is.
Anyway, this is not a personality contest but we felt it necessary to put into perspective what follows.
In the state of Massachusetts auctioneers are allowed to auction items that they own, or have an outright interest in, without revealing this in the catalog or any other publicly accessible place.
RK thinks this stinks but it is the law and mr grogan has definitely taken advantage of it.
And yes profited from it nicely.
We are not going to go into the nitty-gritty of discussing why we believe this stinks to high heaven, as even a dim-wit knows it creates a situation that is blatantly unfair to bidders.
OK, then, enough preamble, letís get into the meat of our message.
But first letís also mention another auction issue we also think stinks Ė the purposely placing stupid and absurdly low estimates by auctioneers on items they know will sell for many multiples of those prices.
This is especially obnoxious when the auctioneer, or cataloguer, is experienced enough to know how foolish such an estimate looks but, regardless, does it anyway.
Such is the case with the lead item in groganís May 22 rug sale, a ďSalorĒ engsi, lot 805, at 10-20,000 usd.
RK has seen a number of pictures of it but we still do not know if the knot is asymmetric open right or left.
Obviously neither does grogan as his catalog blurb omits this most pertinent piece of information.
We wonít waste our time critiquing his naÔve and simpleton catalog entry but we do question what consignor would be stupid enough to allow a valuable property like this to be so poorly estimated?
Now then, estimates do not make an auction price but in rugDUMB where active rings of buyers often pool together to buy valuable items it is far more than prudent to place a well-put reserve, and not an absurdly low one, to protect such an item.
Nor will we get into the sticky ball of wax as to why some auctioneers, and mr grogan is definitely in this group, believe it makes them look good when a stupidly estimated item sells for many multiples of that price.
In our eyes this is not a feather in anyoneís cap but rather one in their eye.
Again, since grogan fancies himself a rug-expert his dopey estimate on the engsi is both embarrassingly dumb and clearly foolish. Period, end of discussion.
There is, though, perhaps another reason grogan has done this but first before we venture into hypothesis letís stay on terra firma.
Another lot RK would like to question is this Chinese saddle cover.
While its carries the same estimate, 10-20,000 usd, which is correctly positioned, grogan does not, nor does he have to according the Massachusetts law, reveal he was at one time the owner of it and, according to our feeling, still is.
We know for a fact grogan bought this, through a proxy bidder, at a small auction, Douglass Auctions, in western Massachusetts about 2 years or so ago.
We know this because someone who spoke to us was offered it for at first 50,ooo usd and then the price kept going down until grogan got to 26,000 usd.
Our informant did not buy it and now he has a good chance to get it.
So all you race fans planning on attending grogans May 22 auction listen carefully as grogan auctions it off.
Now, we recognize, it is possible grogan sold it and that buyer placed it back on the block with him, but we will bet dollars to donut-holes this is not the case and grogan still owns it.
By the way, the price it sold for at Douglass was 6,750 usd plus premium, if we remember correctly.
There is also another interesting lot on offer -- this, mistakenly pictured upside down, ďSalorĒ torba fragment.
lot 807, previously sold at the Bradley auction in 2005 for 14,375 usd including premium
RK attended and carefully previewed the sale and this torba as well.
We also wrote about it here on RugKazbah.com and you can read our report at this url
It has an asymmetric knot open right, which in our book makes it far less valuable than were it open left. It also has other connotations.
And while this distinction does not qualify it for the esteemed ďSĒ group provenance, it does however place this torba among the later examples of what we like to call pseudo - ďSĒ group weaving.
Regardless, we donít find it beautiful or important but we are pretty sure it will make more than the high estimate this time around.
By the way, it was purchased at the Bradley sale by beau ryan who swore to us several times he bought it for someone and made a commission for doing so.
Was that person michael grogan?
Again weíd be pretty willing to bet those dollars against anyoneís donut-holes it was, as ryan and grogan are often working together.
So now the facts seem to imply michael grogan is the owner of two of the more interesting pieces in the sale.
So is he also the owner of the ďSalorĒ engsi?
We will be glad to bet at even odds he is, for this explains why the engsi carries such a low estimate Ė grogan knows he can protect it from the auctioneerís podium, which is pretty much as sure a thing as can be it will not sell for the estimated pittance.
It is patently clear the engsi is the most important rug to be offered in the coming sales and RK is already on record in private conversation predicting it will sell for 125,000 usd.
So let us now go on public record and say 125,000 usd will be the bottom and it might even bust the record and sell for more than 175,000 usd.
Let us add that will only happen if:
1. it is asymmetric open left
2. it has brilliant color and enough pile height to capture light and reflect it to create the ďmetallicĒ surface all big money ďSĒ group pieces display.
Making such a prediction is childs-play considering the fact there are several hot-to-trot Turkmen buyers and their penchant to pay high prices, much higher than they would pay in private, at auction is now undoubtedly established.
Witness the price Hamburgís gay blade, Turkomania obsessed bedroom and consignor to his local rug shoppe dealer hans sienknecht paid for the worn out, allegedly early, ďSĒ group torba at rip-on bozwell last year.
Anyway, we have seen almost every other lot grogan is selling and none of them are worth our pen.
That said, we have not seen or heard about everything and should something else of merit appear be sure you will read about it here first.
In closing, if we are correct and grogan does own all these pieces, it changes little but it does in our opinion demonstrate a rather dishonest, but legal, situation where he, as auctioneer, is selling his own goods and not telling any prospective bidder this is the case.
Emptor caveat, Turkmen rug collecting paddle waversÖ.