Typically when you place your rug in an auction, you will be provided a reserve price, below which bids will not be accepted, and a low and high estimate for the rug. Antique rugs usually attract only a few bidders in an auction, often mainly dealers who avoid bidding against each other. In these circumstances, the rug sells very close to the reserve price. As a rule of thumb, considering that the rug may not sell at the auction, the net return on an antique rug placed in a reputable auction is roughly the reserve price minus 20-25 percent in commissions and fees.
Currently, there are six major houses in the U.S. that periodically schedule antique rug auctions: Bonhams, Christie's, Freeman's, Grogan, Skinner, and Sotheby's. Christie's and Sotheby's corner the higher-end of the market, and charge more in commissions and fees. At the other extreme, online sites such as ebay are typically swamped by dealers and pieces at the lower end. Our Association, Serur's, provides an alternative marketplace for buying and selling antique rugs directly by owners commission-free.
We are an association of private collectors who purchase antique rugs for their personal use. Because we are the final buyers, our estimates are between 25 and 50 percent higher than the net return from an auction.
Prices at auctions are generally significantly lower than retail prices. In fact the majority of buyers at auctions are dealers themselves. But the risks are considerably higher as well, since the sales are final, and there is little time to inspect the rug carefully. Reputable auction-houses provide condition reports on the rugs, but these reports are often incomplete if not biased by the incentive to sell. And no matter what, about half of the price paid will go into commissions and fees to the auction house.
Contact us if you are considering selling an antique carpet. Our prices beat auctions hands down.