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The Ultimate Rug and Carpet Thread

Gus

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How many rugs did you buy before you got to the point where you could spot fakes easily?
...also how many fakes did you buy along the way?
I spent a significant amount of time researching and discussing with long-time collectors before ever buying my first vintage Navajo rug. Maybe a year or so. That was not only educational but enjoyable and the good dealers and collectors are all happy to share information. It made me appreciate what to look for in an authentic rug and to feel comfortable about the price of the rugs I would come across. I also researched how much it would cost to clean and or repair a rug (and who had a good reputation working on vintage Navajos).

I didn't buy my first vintage Navajo rug until I could go to the Alameda Flea Market and see the difference between authentic rugs and those being sold as genuine but were fakes. Once I could discern the difference then I was confident to buy. I have never bought a rug that was later determined to be a fake.There are a few books and some excellent videos on YouTube that discuss fakes and what to look for and avoid. Also, when I was ready to buy I took my time. If it didn't look or feel right, I passed on it.

I've probably bought 25 vintage Navajo weavings over the last 5-6 years. Since moving to Santa Fe and redecorating I've sold or am selling most of them and am slowly replacing them with just a few that fit our specific decor and are of greater appeal to us. (quality not quantity) A few that I sold have ended up with a couple of fashion brands.
 

highplains

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@Gus Is Shiprock your preferred place to buy rugs from? Any other sellers you'd recommend? I own a handful of old Persian carpets, but I'm interested in purchasing a couple Navajo pieces for the living and kitchen areas. I'd be interested to learn more about the pieces you're selling!
 

Gus

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@Gus Is Shiprock your preferred place to buy rugs from? Any other sellers you'd recommend? I own a handful of old Persian carpets, but I'm interested in purchasing a couple Navajo pieces for the living and kitchen areas. I'd be interested to learn more about the pieces you're selling!
Shiprock Santa Fe is an excellent source of vintage Navajo rugs. They are one of the best in the country for several reasons. Jed, the owner, is a third generation trader that grew up on a trading post in Northwestern New Mexico and speaks Navajo. He went to NYC to study fashion in his 20's so he also has a keen eye for style and design. The staff at his gallery are all wonderful and very helpful. When it comes to finding a special vintage rug, I don't know of anyone who has a larger assortment to choose from. They also have many long-time relationships with major collectors around the world so amazing rugs(as well as jewelry, baskets, pottery) come in on consignment all of the time. They get some of the higher prices for rugs, but you get what you pay for - cleaned, repaired (if needed), only better and unique examples. They do offer rugs at more entry level prices and condition however you won't see them on their website. The website only has a fraction of their ever changing inventory.

When I started collecting rugs, after a year or so of study, I began by looking for deals at the Alameda Flea Market. I figured I would learn the ropes here about prices, repairs, cleaning, etc. If you want a deal, that usually means that the seller just wants to sell it at any price or condition might be an issue. Often flea market finds are dirty and need a wash and some repair. To have a smallish rug cleaned and to have the corners repaired might cost $150-$200. I bought a few that needed work at low prices to learn the process and to be confident about what could be done if I came across a larger, more expensive rug that needed work. I highly recommend Enver From Denver or Textival (in Albuquerque). All of the top galleries use them. Both have cleaned and repaired thousands of vintage Navajo rugs as well as vintage Persian rugs. It's an easy process to work with them, even from long distance. I used to mail rugs to Enver from CA. Rufus from Textival now picks them up from my house.

If someone is interested in collecting Navajo rugs, one of the first things is to decide what appeals to you. Do you want a new rug from a contemporary weaver? Perhaps even visiting a show or the reservation to meet the weaver? If so, that makes a unique and special experience. You can also buy new rugs from dealers who are more focused on that category. Because my wife and I collected vintage Persian rugs with more simple, tribal graphic patterns for many years, it was easy for us to become attracted to somewhat similar vintage Navajo pattern weavings from roughly 1900-1940. I don't own any rugs by contemporary weavers. Some collectors only collect even earlier weavings (First Phase, Second Phase, Third Phase) that were originally for wearing. Rugs evolved as they could be traded and then resold beyond the reservation.

Collectors will also specialize in the different regional weavings such as Two Grey Hills, Germantown, Hubel, etc. Each has a distinctive look, patterns and colors. Most books do a good job showing examples of the different patterns and regional names.

The pieces I'm selling are all at Shiprock. Santa Fe and Albuquerque are entering the summer festival season so dealers and collectors from around the world will be here at a series of shows and events through September. If you are looking for something specific, let me know and perhaps I can point you to a few dealers. Very few will have much online over the next few weeks as this is prime selling season and inventory will change quickly for the good pieces.
 

Gus

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@highplains

A few excellent vintage Navajo rug dealers here in Santa Fe where I have bought weavings: (there are many others but just passing on personal, positive experience)

Shiprockssantafe

Maloufontheplaza (go to their vintage Navajo page) My neighbor has one of the foremost museum quality collections of Germantown rugs. This is where she consigns her rugs.

James Compton Gallery

Roadside America Gallery of the West

Any of these should allow you to buy on "approval" to make sure it looks right in your home. They may have some room on price. Many of these are on consignment from collectors so any significant price adjustment might require checking with the owner first. The best way is to just ask,"Do you have any flexibility on this price?" However, July, August, September is kind of the peak season for Native American collectables due to the series of shows and festivals so dealers are inclined to hold firm on pricing until the off-season. But, the best rugs are truly one-of-a-kind works of art. If you fall in love with something and the condition is acceptable, buy it. You won't find another just like it. And, a good rug you can always re-sell.

All of this being said, it is also fun to score rugs at flea markets, Craigs List, EBay and garage sales. But know your stuff. Learn the basics of what makes a genuine Navajo weaving and have a good idea of what it costs to wash and repair any rugs and you can still get great deals and have an enjoyable experience. Don't rely upon others to tell you if it is genuine Navajo unless they are a reliable dealer or collector.

I've never bought from this guy but he has an excellent series on YouTube on Navajo Rugs, how to spot fakes, etc. His Gallery in AZ is very well known.
 

highplains

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@Gus Thank you—all of this is super helpful. I'll browse around and let you know what I bring home! I don't know as much about Navajo rugs as I do about Persian rugs, so I've got some learning to do.
 
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