While cruising around the Look What I've Got store you may have noticed we use the word antique sparingly. There is a reason for this. Is the item you're considering really "antique," "vintage," "collectible," "retro," or "classic?" The answer, of course, depends on what you are buying. Delving further into what these terms means you can purchase with more confidence.
The Term Antique
People in the know understand that an antique is something quite specific, and not just "anything old." Selling something made in the 1950s as "antique" for example, is wrong. Even we here at Look What I've Got have been learning how to classify our products better so it isn't surprising to come across something like this.
A true antique, as defined by the United States Customs Service and most professionals in the antique field, is an object that is 100 years of age or older. That bare-bones definition keeps things pretty simple but, unfortunately, also creates a sliding scale which we have to try to meet with our products. (ps. if you spot an antique anywhere in our store that is marked as vintage send us an email and get an automatic 10% off your next purchase)
When we don’t know exactly when a piece was produced, there will certainly be a little more guesswork involved. However, we do know something made in the Edwardian period (roughly 1901 to 1910, but the overall style extended into the teens as well) or older is antique. Learning the characteristics of objects made during different periods also helps to identify whether it is antique or vintage. The drawback is reproductions and revivals of old styles, especially Victorian and Art Deco, can also make identification a more onerous task.
There are some antique experts that look upon antiques more in terms of historical significance or design, and they may stretch the rule a bit to include some newer items and exclude others based on their personal preference. We here at Look What I've Got stick to the "100 years or older" rule.
Defining the Term Vintage
For many decades, the term “collectible” represented anything that was not old enough to fall be an antique. The use of the word "vintage" in the 1980s and ‘90s was largely associated with specific collecting genres—such as the clothing, costume jewelry, and postcards—that were not old enough to be called antiques.
Nowadays the term "vintage" covers older items in more of a blanket way. It is the new "going antiqueing” and is understood that this means shopping for older items that have distinctively vintage styles, whether those things date to the 1940s or to the 1970s.
On sites offering a mixture of older wares and handcrafted items—like RubyLane.com or Etsy.com—the term is defined for you. These multi-shop internet businesses have determined that anything 20 years or older falls under the auspice of vintage. So, just like antiques, each year more items fall into the vintage category.
However, some die-hard collectors scoff at the definition since they are reluctant to deem something from the early 1990s as vintage. Often the word "collectible" is used with these newer items. The term "collectible," however, often conjures visions of Beanie Babies, limited edition figurines, and similar mass-produced collectibles that, in most instances, aren’t highly valued by today’s vintage shoppers.
Whether you prefer to use vintage or collectible for newer items, just be sure to use antique to describe objects more than 100 years old and you won’t go wrong.