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How Much is My Antique Rug Worth?

The best way to obtain the value of an antique rug


Antique Tabriz Persian Area Rug by Haji Jalili

Antique Persian Tabriz area rug by master weaver Haji Jalili, ca. late 19th century, valued at $12,000 (8/10)

Photo courtesy of Nazmiyal.com
Valuing antique rugs is a slippery slope, according to Omri Schwartz of Nazmiyal.com, a business specializing in fine antique rugs in New York City. Since antique rugs vary so much in quality, and tastes are always changing in terms of interior design, which also impacts demand, it's almost impossible for the average individual to research the true value of an antique rug on their own.

"Say you inherit a 12' x 18' rug and you were told that it is a Persian Tabriz over 80 years old - it's not an exaggeration to say that it could be worth anywhere from $1,000 to $1 million. Opening up an auction catalog or trying to compare it with other rugs you think are comparable online will get you nowhere and fast," Schwartz added.

Unrealistic Expectations

Reputable rug dealers get calls every day from people with unrealistic expectations about what their grandmother's antique rug is worth. They know their grandmother purchased the rug years ago, and think it's worth a certain amount since they saw what seemed like a similar rug offered for sale at that price. But the size, dyes used in manufacture, and design all play a part in determining value, and similar-looking rugs may actually turn out to be very different when examined closely.

Additionally, as with all antiques offered for sale, the selling price is often very different than a dealer's asking price. That's why appraisers use comparables, actual selling prices, as often as possible when assessing values. If you don't have access to information about what an antique rug actually sold for, it's difficult to pinpoint a value even if you know the exact origin and age of the piece. Furthermore, you really have to understand not only the makeup of the rug, but the current rug market as well in order to get to the bottom line value at any given time. This an instance in valuing antiques when it's best to consult a professional.

Having an Antique Rug Appraised

To have your antique rug appraised contact a reputable dealer, send them photos of your rug, and let them know the purpose of your appraisal:

  • Are you looking to sell it, and want to know how much the dealer would pay for it? If the dealer is making an offer, it's not really an appraisal but rather an offer to purchase at the price set by the dealer.
  • Are you interested in an auction house reserve price estimate? This is the least you would be willing to sell it for at auction - a safety net to protect your interests, so to speak.
  • Do you want an assessment of what a fair market retail value would be? In other words, how much would a dealer expect to get for it if sold to a retail client.
  • Are you wondering what a fair trade in value would be? In this case you're likely looking to upgrade your rug to a better one or change the look of your room.
  • Do you want to insure it, and require a fair market retail value appraisal? These appraisals will always be full written appraisals as required by insurance companies.
After you define the purpose, the appraiser will help you determine the type of appraisal needed:
  • Full written appraisal - These appraisals will usually cost a minimum of $500, if not more, depending on the dealer so be sure to ask what the fee is before having them look at your rug. A full written appraisal costs more since once the document is signed and delivered it is considered to be a legal document. It also takes considerable time to research comparable values and prepare the documentation. In addition, should a legal situation arise relating to the value of the rug, the person who issued the appraisal might get called into court to testify and lay his credibility on the line.
  • Verbal estimation of value - These less formal estimates will usually cost around $100, unless you're asking the dealer to make an offer on the rug. Dealers may do some research on sales of comparable pieces if needed to help them determine values, but no written documentation is provided with a verbal estimation of value.

    Note: It is generally accepted practice in the antiques marketplace that a dealer providing an appraisal should not also make an offer on an antique being appraised. A dealer who does this is behaving unethically, and you should steer clear of doing business with them. Reputable dealers will either act as a buyer making an offer or an appraiser helping you determine value, not both.

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