Within collectibles there are two distinct groups; “village rugs” are products of a cottage industry whose manufacture was an event for an entire village. The men raised and herded sheep, while the women hand-dyed the wool using all-natural dyes and weaved the carpets on giant looms. Elisabeth Parker, the head of Christie’s rugs and carpets department, describes the production of these textiles as a “women’s industry.” She explains, “The men of the villages would sit around watching the sheep and smoking their pipes, while the women would be spinning wool and weaving rugs. These rugs were rarely standardized and always contain motifs reflective of the village and the times for the tribes creating them.  They were most often used to trade for other goods with other tribes that did not weave rugs.

Many “village rug” collectors focus on specific tribes or regions as a matter of personal taste, but certain types of carpets have maintained their popularity over the years.  Rugs from the 85 distinct tribes of the Caucasus, the crossroads between the Black and Caspian seas, are prized among collectors for their variety, bold geometric patterns and bright colors. Peter Poullada recalls a collector who embarked on a still-unfulfilled quest to acquire a rug from each of the 85 regions.  As of June 2010 he’d paid nearly $250,000 for rugs made by 84 of the 85 tribes.