Collector's Corner: A magic carpet ride to riches

With antique rugs at bargain prices, now could be the time to buy, says Gwyn Jones

Tourists who have fought off rug salesmen in Turkey or the Middle East may have made a mistake. Now could be the time to buy an antique rug, with bargain prices available, particularly away from the top end of the carpet market, where pieces can sell for £100,000 or more.

The key is to consider them in the same ways a paintings, says Iain Stewart of the specialist rug auctioneers Rippon Boswell. "Rugs are closer to an art form and it's just like buying a painting," he says. "You buy with passion and knowledge and taste - those are the three ingredients which go to make something that has value."

The carpet market is effectively split between serious collectors, who tend to buy the older and smaller pieces, and the decorative side, which is where fashion dictates trends. While the top end of the market is steadily rising in value, there are some areas that have been struggling, as Jackie Coulter, the head of the carpet department at Sothebys, explains. "The middle of the market, pieces with decorative aspects but not true collectables, is quite weak at the moment," she says. "At the moment, people want the modern look so they haven't been focusing on the decorative aspects of the middle market - that means there are now great bargains to be had."

Coulter says exceptional traditional Persian rugs - typically around six feet by four feet and dating from the early 20th or late 19th century - are incredibly good value. Rugs that cost £1,000 to £1,500 in 1984 are at the same price today. Fashion can, however, work the other way round. If you'd bought a late 19th century Oushak carpet back in the Eighties for £3,000 to £4,000, you would now have a piece worth up to £40,000. Interior designers picked up on this particular type for its simple patterns. "Rugs don't always fit with the modern look but fashions and tastes change," says Coulter. "There are some extraordinary things that just aren't expensive at present." One area tipped by experts is the market in Isfahan rugs, which are not currently fashionable, even though 30 to 50 years ago they were considered to be the best. Following this fall from grace, collectors believe prices should two or three times higher.

Stewart also thinks investors should consider Persian workshop rugs from the middle of the Twentieth century.

To buy a rug for investment purposes, choose the best piece artistically, the rarest, the oldest, the best condition and, if possible, the most famous piece you can afford. Publication in a specialised carpet book can sometimes double the value, for example.

"A really good rug is a physical thing with wonderful wool that's amazing to touch and is graphically interesting, says Coulter.

Tips for collectors

* Machine made rugs don't have a clear pattern on the back.

* Hand-made rugs have the threads tied with knots, while machine productions are looped on.

* The most valuable rugs are not Oriental. The most expensive are the 18th century French Savonnerie, which were made for the French Royal family; you won't get much change from £5m. Even 18th century Axminsters are in six figures but the bulk of carpets on offer are Islamic.

* Most rugs are categorised by their place of origin or the tribe that made them.

* Rugs that were mass produced for export after 1920 are not so likely to hold their values.

* Mansour: 020 7499 5602,; Rippon Boswell: 020 7091 7474,, Sotheby's: 020 7293 5000,

Independent Partners; Do you need financial advice on your investments, pension or insurance? Book a free consultation with an independent Financial Adviser at

Ed Miliband received a warm welcome in Chester
election 2015
Life and Style
Apple CEO Tim Cook announces the Apple Watch during an Apple special even
fashionIs the iWatch for you? Well, it depends if you want for the fitness tech, or the style
Astronauts could be kept asleep for days or even weeks
scienceScientists are looking for a way to keep astronauts in a sleeplike state for days or weeks
Finacial products from our partners
Property search
  • Get to the point
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

ES Rentals

    iJobs Job Widget
    iJobs Money & Business

    SThree: Trainee Recruitment Consultant

    £20000 - £25000 per annum + OTE £45,000: SThree: SThree Group have been well e...

    Ashdown Group: IT Manager / Development Manager - NW London - £58k + 15% bonus

    £50000 - £667000 per annum + excellent benefits : Ashdown Group: IT Manager / ...

    Recruitment Genius: Sales Consultant / Telemarketer - OTE £20,000

    £13000 - £20000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Scotland's leading life insuran...

    Ashdown Group: Training Programme Manager - City, London

    £40000 - £45000 per annum + benefits : Ashdown Group: Training Programme Manag...

    Day In a Page

    NHS struggling to monitor the safety and efficacy of its services outsourced to private providers

    Who's monitoring the outsourced NHS services?

    A report finds that private firms are not being properly assessed for their quality of care
    Zac Goldsmith: 'I'll trigger a by-election over Heathrow'

    Zac Goldsmith: 'I'll trigger a by-election over Heathrow'

    The Tory MP said he did not want to stand again unless his party's manifesto ruled out a third runway. But he's doing so. Watch this space
    How do Greek voters feel about Syriza's backtracking on its anti-austerity pledge?

    How do Greeks feel about Syriza?

    Five voters from different backgrounds tell us what they expect from Syriza's charismatic leader Alexis Tsipras
    From Iraq to Libya and Syria: The wars that come back to haunt us

    The wars that come back to haunt us

    David Cameron should not escape blame for his role in conflicts that are still raging, argues Patrick Cockburn
    Sam Baker and Lauren Laverne: Too busy to surf? Head to The Pool

    Too busy to surf? Head to The Pool

    A new website is trying to declutter the internet to help busy women. Holly Williams meets the founders
    Heston Blumenthal to cook up a spice odyssey for British astronaut manning the International Space Station

    UK's Major Tum to blast off on a spice odyssey

    Nothing but the best for British astronaut as chef Heston Blumenthal cooks up his rations
    John Harrison's 'longitude' clock sets new record - 300 years on

    ‘Longitude’ clock sets new record - 300 years on

    Greenwich horologists celebrate as it keeps to within a second of real time over a 100-day test
    Fears in the US of being outgunned in the vital propaganda wars by Russia, China - and even Isis - have prompted a rethink on overseas broadcasters

    Let the propaganda wars begin - again

    'Accurate, objective, comprehensive': that was Voice of America's creed, but now its masters want it to promote US policy, reports Rupert Cornwell
    Why Japan's incredible long-distance runners will never win the London Marathon

    Japan's incredible long-distance runners

    Every year, Japanese long-distance runners post some of the world's fastest times – yet, come next weekend, not a single elite competitor from the country will be at the London Marathon
    Why does Tom Drury remain the greatest writer you've never heard of?

    Tom Drury: The quiet American

    His debut was considered one of the finest novels of the past 50 years, and he is every bit the equal of his contemporaries, Jonathan Franzen, Dave Eggers and David Foster Wallace
    You should judge a person by how they peel a potato

    You should judge a person by how they peel a potato

    Dave Hax's domestic tips are reminiscent of George Orwell's tea routine. The world might need revolution, but we like to sweat the small stuff, says DJ Taylor
    Beige is back: The drab car colours of the 1970s are proving popular again

    Beige to the future

    Flares and flounce are back on catwalks but a revival in ’70s car paintjobs was a stack-heeled step too far – until now
    Bill Granger recipes: Our chef's dishes highlight the delicate essence of fresh cheeses

    Bill Granger cooks with fresh cheeses

    More delicate on the palate, milder, fresh cheeses can also be kinder to the waistline
    Aston Villa vs Liverpool: 'This FA Cup run has been wonderful,' says veteran Shay Given

    Shay Given: 'This FA Cup run has been wonderful'

    The Villa keeper has been overlooked for a long time and has unhappy memories of the national stadium – but he is savouring his chance to play at Wembley
    Timeless drama of Championship race in league of its own - Michael Calvin

    Michael Calvin's Last Word

    Timeless drama of Championship race in league of its own