How Old Antique and Vintage Is? Experts Explain

Have you ever been confused by the terms ‘vintage’ and ‘antique’? How old antique and vintage is and what is the difference between the two terms? Let us dig deeper into the difference between antique and vintage.

The word ‘old’ has various meanings and it is essential to understand the precise meaning of these words. There are several terms that old things are called, that are used interchangeably: “antique,” “vintage,” “collectible,” “retro,” and “classic”.

It is important to note a significant difference between antiques and vintage. To buy and sell items more competently, it is necessary to better understand these terms.

What is Considered ‘Antique’

How Old is Vintage and Antique?
How Old Antique and Vintage Is?

We can discuss our understanding of the word as much as we want but the best way of handling it would be using the dictionary. Mirriam-Webster interprets antique as something “existing since or belonging to earlier times”, later referring to antique as a synonym of the word “ancient”.

On the other hand, there is another definition of this noun: “a work of art, piece of furniture, or decorative object made at an earlier period and according to various customs laws at least 100 years ago”. This is a broader and narrower definition at the same time – the time period required for a piece to be known as antique is way bigger but at the same time it limits the number of objects that could be considered.

It’s no secret to knowledgeable buyers that “something old” does not always equal “special”. For example, a seller who calls a thing made in the 1950s “antiques” is deeply wrong. Therefore, if the seller uses the term “antiques” when the product is too new for this designation, it should cause you doubts.

By common custom laws, an item must be at least 100 years old to be considered antique. For example, a Queen Anne-style couch is considered antique, but a 50s retro-style couch cannot be called an antique. We’ll use another term for this valuable piece of furniture later.

Here’s an interesting fact. Collectors do know that something made in the Edwardian period (roughly 1901 to 1910, but the overall style extended into the teens as well) or older is antique now.

So, are there two meanings to the word? We would say yes. In common talk, most people will use the word in regards to something ancient. In discussions related to the auctions, this word will usually mean something of cultural value made in the XIX century or earlier. Great examples of such are:

  • Music instruments;
  • Elite pieces of furniture and wall decorations;
  • Unique tableware;
  • Scientific equipment.

The list could go on and on but all the items must have been unique or expensive at the time.

What is Considered ‘Vintage’

Vintage stores generally sell items from 20 to 50 years old

In the modern world, the term “vintage” means that a thing represents a specific era or year. For example, an old cell phone can be called vintage.

Vintage is a way less specific word. Referring to Mirriam-Webster, we would call an item vintage if it is “of old, recognized, and enduring interest, importance, or quality”. But vintage items can be made not earlier than yesterday if we consider vintage as a synonym for old-fashioned. For example, if a copy of Dodge Charger ‘66 would be made today most people would likely call it a vintage car, even though it wasn’t made last century. So, would it really be vintage?

Technically, no. That is what we should call retro and this is what differentiates it from vintage stuff. Retro items are made like a tribute to the past. For example, a clock made in the 1950’s in the style that was considered modern at the time fits the word vintage just fine, but the same clock made in the 2010’s in the same style is retro – it is not an old thing, just made look on par. 

Of course, a person who knows a little about these terms can look, for example, at buying vintage clothes as a modern version of “collecting antiques,” but this is not the case. Some online companies that sell old goods and handmade items have determined that everything more senior than 20 years is considered vintage.

Hardcore collectors laugh at such a definition and use the word “collectible” much more often. But we advise you not to worry about it and feel free to call the items “vintage.” Most importantly, do not forget that an item over 100 years old should be called an antique!

What is Considered ‘Collectible’

As stated in the word itself, a “collectible” is often referred to literally anything that may be collected. In this sense, it can be anything from bottle caps to Happy Meal toys and these items don’t have to be old at all.

Conclusion

  • Years

The term “antiques” means things older than 100 years

The term “Vintage” refers to items that are more than 20 years old.

  • Age

Antiques are a centuries-old item.

Vintage can also be called a subject of ten years ago.

  • Year

The year of manufacture of antiques is usually not specified

Vintage items are usually sold by the designation of the year of manufacture

  • Using

The term “antiques” is used to art objects, furniture, decorative items, jewelry, etc.
The term “vintage” is used with clothing, jewelry, vehicles, etc.

Both vintage and antique items are valuable for collectors all around the world, and while some understand the difference, others can mix those terms up. They are indeed similar, but the difference is there and, to be frank, it really is significant. We’ll break it down, but firstly let’s address vintage and antique individually.

What value do antique and vintage items hold?

If you are reading this article, you probably want to buy or sell such an item at some point in the future (if you haven’t done it already). The main rule – every item is priced according to the amount of money someone is willing to pay for it. Other rules are pretty simple:

  • Age is critical for antiques and less critical for vintage;
  • The condition of the item is crucial – a mint book will cost way more than a torn one;
  • The right audience of buyers is important – if you’re selling, find people who will be the most interested in the item;
  • Value is subjective – the more experts will estimate the price the better.

Keep these rules in mind and it would be easier for you to get a more profitable offer, whether you’ll be selling your stuff or buying some new one. 

The last piece of advice: keep in mind, why are you interested in the topic. If you are a collector, study the item thoroughly before buying, you have to be sure to buy something that has a bigger value for your purpose. If you want to earn money, find some smaller auctions or even thrift shops. You could also go find antiques or vintage stuff in other countries – the world is yours, have at it.

Conclusion

In conclusion, we can say that there is a very fine line between antiques and vintage. Still, the main difference is the time. If the item is more than 20 years old, it is a vintage product. If it is more than a hundred years old, it is already an antique. 

Antique Vintage
Antiques refer to the age of over 100 yearsVintage refers to the age of over 20 years
Antiques have a very high price (sometimes not sold at all, priceless)Vintage has a moderately high price.
Most often antiques are objects of art, jewelry, furniture, things used in everyday life in ancient timesMost often, vintage is clothing, transport, household items

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