An Example of the Changed Antique Market

People always ask why their mother’s or grandmother’s handmade antique Persian rug is selling for so little.  After all, it is a work of art, a beautiful creation out of the imagination of an artist who took many months, if not years, to create with talented, nimble hands.  It’s old too, so it must have value.  How can this rug which mom paid $9,000 for in the 1980s be selling for $500 today?

WP_003180Behold the image in the photo; an image you see every day from Target to Walmart, from Costco to Bed Bath and Beyond. (Strolling through Costco was the inspiration and the photo for this blog.)

Machine-made, hand-tufted copies of real, antique Persian rugs.  Rugs recreated with pretty colors and patterns most likely taken from the old beauties.  Some are a wool blend, but most are inexpensive acrylic.  The answer is right there for all to see, if we are paying attention.  Cheap, machine-made copies that look good enough for the majority of people and their style, color theme, and most importantly, their budget.

Why would someone pay $9,000 when they can have a pretty look-alike for under $200?  They don’t have to worry about spilling on the look-alike rug, or the effects of small children and puppy accidents.  This rug can be replaced cheaply in a year or two when people have grown tired of the colors and want a change, or when it wears out.

The reasons are numerous:

  • These rugs are inexpensive, but look good with our furniture,
  • We don’t worry about them as if they were an antique,
  • Very few people care if it is real or not, wool or acrylic, hand-knotted or machine-made.

This is how we’ve changed and manufacturing has figured us out and is meeting our demand.  We don’t necessarily need top quality with a price tag to match.  We just want something attractive, so they make them by the millions.

On the flip-side, there will always be those, myself included, who are enamored with a genuine Persian, or a genuine antique.  Even the feel of a genuine Persian rug lends credence to the love that went into making it, as well as the spirit of the artisan is locked into the weaving.  But, I don’t spend a lot of money on these either.  I recently purchased two antique Persian rugs for $200 each at an auction and they are stunning.  An interesting observation: the new machine-made rug that wasn’t nearly as pretty also sold for about $200.  Go figure.

I have also seen other interesting trends, such as fine antique furniture pieces selling for $100 – $250 and the next item sold was a fairly new, “Made in China” cabinet for $350.  Why?  Because it had the look someone wanted.

One must wonder if we are living in times where quality doesn’t matter as much to the masses.  What they are looking for is simply:

  1. What looks good?
  2. What is in their budget?

This is yet another reason why the antique and collectibles market is soft.  The average person doesn’t think of these things I present here.  It always comes down to supply and demand, and has nothing to do with what someone paid for an item.

©2015 The Estate Lady®

Julie Hall, The Estate Lady®, is the foremost national expert on personal property in estates, including liquidating, advising, and appraising.  She is also the Director of American Society of Estate Liquidators®, the national educational and resource organization for estate liquidation.

No part of The Estate Lady® blogs, whole or partial, may be used without Julie Hall’s written consent.  Email her at

3 thoughts on “An Example of the Changed Antique Market

  1. I just read “They Left Us Everything” by Plum Johnson. It gives a realistic look at the daunting task of clearing out a house after both parents pass away…..and the stories and attitudes about antiques and collectibles. Thank you Julie, I always enjoy reading your articles.

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