Learning the Oriental Rug Market

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When I started in this business, the Oriental rug business, I didn’t know the market. I didn’t know the prices. I knew a lot about rugs, about how they were made, but I didn’t know the value, how to price them. That was something I had to learn. My first few rugs, I didn’t make any money with them, because I didn’t know what I was doing. But over time, in a sense, I started to learn more and eventually I learned enough to make a good price on a rug.

My father was a rug collector and his best friend was in the rug business. Any time his friend got an exquisite piece he wasn’t allowed to show it to anybody until Dad saw it first. That’s how I grew up, with these beautiful things in our house. And also my mother and her two sisters and my grandmother, they were all rug makers. As a child I remember going to the rooftop and taking a bunch of wool and trying to spin it in one shot to make wool thread and make it come all the way to the floor. I did that as a child, and around the age of five, they taught me how to put a knot in a rug.

My mom and my aunt taught me. This was a hobby for them. Whenever they had time, they would make a rug – they never made it to sell it or anything like that. They would make it to give it as a gift to a member of the family for New Year, it was always that way. And I remember I was five years old and they taught me how to do this. So as a kid, growing up with all this, the construction of the rugs, I grew up with it. When I left school, really there were two things that were my favorites. One was Oriental rugs the other thing was the restaurant business. I love to cook, just about any kind of Persian food you can imagine I can cook. Between the two, I chose going into the Oriental rug business

I started this business going to auctions. I didn’t have a storefront. I would buy things because of my skill of repair, that I learned from growing up making rugs. I would fix rugs that needed repair, old ones, and then sell them to New York wholesalers and dealers. That’s how I got this business started. I believe I started with $2,000 in my pocket, and I got burned so many times too, but I learned the prices. Because when I came to the business, I didn’t know the prices. I didn’t understand the Oriental rug market. I knew a little, but not really. I knew somewhat but not really. You know, if I looked at an antique rug, what is it worth? I know how they are made, I know how to fix them, but the price, I didn’t know. So I got burned a lot.

I did not know the rug market in this country. I was looking at it the way I was raised, the way the rugs were made. As time went by, with the first probably 5 years I was only going to auctions and things like that, and making a living at it, buying rugs, fixing them up. Sometimes I would buy a rug, repair it and put the same rug in a different auction and make money on it. So that’s how I did it until I learned about pricing, just with my repair skills. And then later I went into thinking about opening a retail shop, much later.

Once I started to understand a little about the market, I did better. I remember buying a rug at an auction – I think it was about $1,700 I paid. I did minor repair to it using the skills I learned from my mom and grandmother. I sold it to a wholesaler in New York for 25 grand because by then I knew what it was. By then I understood the market better, after getting burned all those times. That kind of rug isn’t something that comes along all the time, but every once in a while it comes along.

If you start to learn a little about the rugs – doesn’t have to be everything – you can find good rugs for good prices. You can learn basics, if you just go and talk to a good rug dealer. Just go into a shop. You ask questions about them and look at them and touch them. Lay a rug out, flip it over, touch it. Walk around it and notice how the colors change as you move around the rug, ask to take it home and live with it for a day, it will tell you things. You will start to see the differences in the rugs. Then buy a rug that you like, that’s handmade. You just have to start. You aren’t going to know everything about rugs just by that, but you will start to know enough to begin seeing value. Like all things in this life it is a process and a journey.

Sam Ramazani is an Oriental carpet educator, appraiser, broker, and skilled repair craftsman. With his daughter Sara, he owns Sara’s Oriental Rugs in Louisville, KY, providing beautiful handmade rugs, as well as expert rug cleaning and repair.

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