Oriental rugs on Ebay?
August 26, 2008 6:48 PM   Subscribe

What is the deal with Persian rugs on ebay?

I'm looking for some carpets for my house. While I would love to have high quality antique rugs at some point in the future, I have several animals, a child, and another on the way, so I'm not looking for something of heirloom quality. With those factors in mind, I have been browsing Persian rugs on Ebay and I noticed some curious things. Many of them fall into 2 categories: free shipping and no reserve or approximately $180 shipping and no reserve. Upon viewing past auctions, either option seems to amount to $175-225 for a 9x12 rug. The feedback on them looks good with regard to people receiving their carpets and such, in fact a friend of mine just got one and it looks great. I mean, I'm under no illusions about the quality (at least in the abstract), but his looks pretty good. He had no problem with the seller of his rug, in that it didn't seem to be a scam, but I noticed similarities in many of the sellers, including that most are located in Canada. Anyway, I suppose that I was wondering if anyone knew why even poorly made handknotted rugs would sell so cheaply, why so many sellers seem to be in Canada, and generally if anyone has any experience buying these rugs from Ebay. Also, if anyone with knowledge of Oriental carpets would like to give advice on what to look for, it would be greatly appreciated.
posted by horsemuth to Home & Garden (8 answers total) 8 users marked this as a favorite
For little more than $10 at Amazon, you can buy The Root Of Wild Madder: Chasing The History, Mystery, and Lore of the Persian Carpet by Brian Murphy. It's ostensibly about the author's search for a particular dye source, but it's got loads of information about rugs made in "that" part of the world. It's been three or four years since I read it, but I seem to recall that many "hand-knotted" rugs aren't really hand-knotted and there are various means of making these rugs pretty cheaply.

Where I come from (Bosnia), authentic and antique kilim rugs or prayer mats are highly coveted. A well-made antique one with "good" dyes costs a small fortune and holds value. Anything else should be bought solely if the price, aesthetic appeal and function makes the sales price still seem reasonable - knowing that it will wear out. I reckon this is good advice for any rug buyer - if it feels worth the price, it's worth it. If you're looking for an heirloom, learn your stuff beforehand and be prepared to pay.

So in your case, if the seller's feedback seems positive and you like what you see for the price, go for it. With a couple of kids and an animal and some (presumably) heavy use, look and some level of durability are all that should matter. Would it really matter to you if it weren't really hand-knotted or if the coloring fades after a decade?
posted by Dee Xtrovert at 7:10 PM on August 26, 2008

I just bought my first Persian rug from one of these same ebay sellers. The seller not from Canada, but all of the other details you describe were the same. I wrote a post about it on my blog. As you can see from that post, I was worried after I made the deal. What was I thinking? What if it smelled like urine? Much to my total amazement, the rug was lovely and of very good quality and I was extremely pleased.

This does not answer your question, but I wanted you to know that another person noticed the same things you noticed, thought it was strange, went ahead and purchased, and ended up delighted. (I now hope some other poster doesn't reveal that my rug was made by enslaved children.)
posted by kellygreen at 7:20 PM on August 26, 2008

I bought a very large (11'x16') Persian rug from a dealer on ebay a few years ago. I think I paid around $150 for the rug and $100 for shipping. I am satisfied with the rug and it looks great. I needed to cover the floor of a room occupied by small dogs and clumsy people who regularly spill their coffee and wine. I'd say the quality of the rug I got is sort of average. It's wool and colorful and pretty, but now that I know a little more about Persian rugs and have seen nicer rugs in other people's houses, I know that mine is not heirloom quality. Mine has a low knots per inch ratio and is starting to show wear already, but hey, for $250, I am still happy with it. I'd totally buy another rug from the same dealer again. When you buy a rug like this, find out what the number of knots per inch is. Higher is good and will wear better. If the rug has fringe, make sure it is not machine stitched onto the rug (this is the sign of a lower quality rug).
posted by pluckysparrow at 9:20 PM on August 26, 2008

There are many Iranian rug dealers in north Toronto; they may be the ones on eBay.
posted by scruss at 9:52 PM on August 26, 2008

There are also a lot of rug stores in Vancouver (Gastown and the middle Granville area) - so they may also have a presence there (most have signs in their windows advertising worldwide shipping).
posted by birdsquared at 11:35 PM on August 26, 2008

I bought a cheapish persian affair from ebay just to quickly cover a bare bit of floor whilst I worked out what to do with it. I was really surprised by the quality - it was so good I decided to leave the floor as is.

Also, kellygreen - squee! - that wee pup in your rug video is so goddamn adorable I could pop.
posted by freya_lamb at 2:55 AM on August 27, 2008

She really liked the new rug . . . which is exactly why I would only spend $300!
posted by kellygreen at 3:34 AM on August 27, 2008

Well, I ordered one shortly after this and here's the update. It is a 4x10 runner and was approx. $65. (won the auction for $10 and paid $55 shipping). Verdict: arrived immaculately packaged. Colors were excellent, it was clean, the thickness was consistent and the edges were well done. It was not perfectly square, but overall was well done and has held up very well so far. In a sense, it's a great way to learn what you're looking for when you are thinking of buying a more expensive rug one day. I will definitely purchase more rugs this way. Thanks to everyone for their help and advice.
posted by horsemuth at 6:54 PM on April 20, 2009

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