On the second Friday of every month, weavers from across the Navajo nation
bring their rugs to the Crownpoint Navajo Rug Auction in Crownpoint, New Mexico,
to be sold. I went to the auction in June 1999, regrettably without my checkbook,
and have been wanting to go back ever since. Since Ethel is always up for a shopping trip,
she and I made the long drive to last Friday's auction.
This time, I made sure to take my checkbook.
The rugs are on display for a few hours prior to the bidding.
Each one is tagged with a number and the name and location of the weaver.
Prospective buyers can inspect them and try to decide which ones to bid on.
They were all uniquely beautiful, and I wanted to bid on almost all of them.
The atmosphere was very friendly, and I joked with every person who picked up this one,
#4051, that it already had my name on it and please move along.
The auction started promptly at 7 p.m. when the auctioneers –
or, as the auction lady called them, "the boys who make the noise" –
began the bidding for this rug, which I believe was made by a weaver from Two Grey Hills.
The rugs from this area seemed to be among the most popular, and this one sold for $1,350.
At the Crownpoint auction, you are buying rugs directly from the weavers,
without a middleman's markup, so the prices are much less expensive
than buying from a gallery. (This gallery shows a very large collection of Navajo rugs
and has a lot of background information, if you're interested.)
The weaver sets the minimum price she will accept,
and the auctioneer starts the bidding a little bit higher than that.
This rug sold for $1,100. A lot of things factor into the price of the rug, but generally,
the price increases with size, the number of colors, the intricacy of the pattern,
the quality of the weaving, and the renown of the weaver.
Amazingly to me, this rug was a "no sale." No one wanted to pay the $900 minimum bid.
The rugs go through the auction only once, and any rug that does not sell is set aside.
At the end of the auction, buyers can negotiate directly with the weavers
to purchase a rug that hasn't sold.
It broke my heart every time there was a "no sale" – and there were many –
knowing that the weaver had worked long and hard and likely traveled
very far from the corners of the reservation, only to go home without any money,
which would likely have been used to provide for her family.
This rug did sell, for $550.
I loved this one but didn't bid on it because the size
and pattern intricacy would push it beyond my budget.
It sold for $900.
There seemed to be more "no sales" among the larger rugs.
Most of the very small rugs sold quickly and in the range of $50 - $150.
When this rug came up for bid, I was immediately discouraged.
I thought it might be from the same region (Teec Nos Pos) as the one I'd had my heart set on,
and it sold for $1,600. It was larger than "mine," though, so I still held out hope.
Finally, #4051, came up for bid. The auctioneer started the bidding at $450.
Crap...my arbitrary limit was $500. I raised my number and jumped into the fray.
Then the lady two seats away from me bid against me! The nerve.
The bidding went back and forth for a few rounds, but I was determined.
The other bidder finally dropped out and I got it for $600.
I was ecstatic and did a happy dance right there in my chair.
After I paid for it and picked it up, I walked over to the line
where the weavers were waiting for their checks, hoping to meet the artist
who created my rug. I think she must have been watching the buyer's line,
hoping to see who had bought her rug, because our eyes connected at the same time.
Happy buyer, happy weaver (Stella Rockbridge), beautiful rug.
Ethel helped me hang the rug in the living room,
where I can see it from my favorite chair.
Something tells me I'll be spending
more time looking at the rug than the TV.