Ever since we moved to California eight years ago, by way of Texas, New Mexico, Arizona and Nevada I have had a weakness for good old Navajo rugs. I remember picking up my first Ganado style rug at the Hubbell Trading Post and I've been picking them up ever since. A couple of weeks ago, I saw a tiny ad in the Los Angeles Times about an American Indian Auction being held in Pasadena - and I knew I had to go. I walked into the room and I instantly felt I had found my people and my rugs. Ganado, Klagatoh, Crystal, Two Gray Hills - all were represented by an old auctioneer and his family of traders.
I set my sights on a couple of beauties and picked up a paddle thinking I would dabble in the auction if the prices were reasonable. The auction started out with some sterling and turquoise jewelry from the twenties - "Who'll give me a hundred, a hundred, a hundred, ok - seventy five, seventy five, seventy five - no? Ok - fifty, fifty, fifty" - and finally someone would raise their paddle and the auctioneer would yell "SOLD!"
So, when it came time for the rugs - I half expected a similar pattern - but what I heard was "Who'll give me three fifty, three fifty, three fifty - no? Ok - move it out" Move it out? - but I thought there was going to be more of a game - what about 300 or 250 or 200? Sadly, no. What I learned at the American Indian Auction that day is that Navajo rugs are not given away - they are prized for their craft, beauty and history and there is a buyer who will always pay for a good rug.
When the next rug came up for auction, I was ready. The auctioneer said, "Who'll give me three fifty, three fifty, three fifty?" I slowly raised my paddle. SOLD! No bargaining, no bidding war, just me and the auctioneer. The result.... I am now the proud owner of a 1900 handwoven, wool, Crystal style rug (gulp). I guess I'll have to hit the road and see if I can find a bargain the next time. I'm thinking about a rug tour - a van, a tent and the open road, headed towards Taos. Anyone? Anyone?