There's nothing wrong with purchasing a rug on ebay, but why are some of those rugs SO inexpensive?
1: Painted, Chalked, Tea Washed and Markered Rugs This is perhaps the "best" sign of a bad rug. Many sellers avoid costly repairs by augmenting the rug with quick fixes with dyes and paints and sometimes tea washing (although tea washing is generally well accepted for unused rugs because dyes are absorbed more consistently.) While not uncommon in certain types of rugs, "augmenting" a rug post consumer use is highly frowned upon, and often washes out once a rug is cleaned exposing the true condition of the piece. One thing to remember: if a rug has been painted, chalked, tea washed or markered to cover up worn areas, the necessary repairs were probably never warranted from the beginning!
2: Heavily Worn Areas The most sought after carpets in the rug community are those in perfect condition with no wear. Next best? a rug with even wear. Ask the seller if their rug has any low spots or "knot heads" visible. It is not unusual for a used rug to show signs of traffic around areas which had been covered with furniture or heavy fixed items. What to look for? Keep an eye out for lighter areas in the rug, this usually means one of three things if the rug is used: 1 the carpet has a low pile, 2 the rug may be sun-faded, or 3, the carpet has oxidized.
3: Poor Item Descriptions The word "antique" is thrown around way too casually on eBay. Feel free to contact us to verify age of a rug you're interested in. Many sellers sales rely heavily on exaggerated age estimates... Others may capitalize on the perceived value of a "Persian rug." The truth is, just because a rug is "Persian" does not mean it is of greater value!
4: Color Run It's not uncommon for rugs to have a little color run - it can sometimes be fixed, but may be an expensive proposition. Colors which may show obvious - Reds, blues, greens... Where? They tend to bleed into the lighter areas such as ivories, beige's, light blues, and pastel colors.
5: Symmetry! Two things to look out for. Design symmetry and shape symmetry. Make sure the medallion is not off center due to the angle of photograph. Ask the seller if the rug is equal length on either end, and same for width. Unless the rug is obviously square, request the seller to take a photo of the rug folded in half vertically, and then another picture horizontally. This will help to determine if the pattern lands centered and the rug has right angle corners. Also, be especially wary of rugs which have been significantly reduced on either end and sometimes even sides too!
6: Bear in mind, many of the "No Reserve" items are often used rugs and or seconds goods. This means they may have been subject to the sun (make sure to ask seller if lighter areas in the rug are from the lighting and not sun fade) traffic, moth damage, repairs, stains and even dry rot.
7: Pictures, Pictures, Pictures... A Close-up picture says a thousand words.