Many Americans don’t know the true difference between “antique” and “vintage” home accessories and decor. Whether it’s furniture, wall art or a random knick-knack, not all home accessories can be classified as an “antique,” even if it’s at an antique store, nor is everything vintage, or even retro, for that matter. Here’s the low down on the differences between “antique,” “vintage,” “retro,” or “collectible” home decor.
What is Antique, Anyway?
Any item that is a minimum of 100 years of age is considered an “antique.” This applies to furniture, clothing, home accessories, paintings, old farm equipment-you name it. If it’s at least 100 (but no, you great great aunt does not count,) then it’s an antique.
So, Then What is “Vintage,” “Retro” or even “Collectible” Mean?
The actual definition of what’s classified as vintage, retro or collectible can vary from person to person, from dealer to dealer. Fortunately, there are a large group who feel the terms apply as follows:
The term collectible can refer to an item of any age between 0 and 99 years, as once it reaches 100 years of age, it is an antique for an intents and purposes. A variety of items can be deemed collectible from mid century modern styled furniture to a movie figurine produced in the 1980s.
Meanwhile, the term vintage refers to items that are typically less than 25 years of age. However, in some circles, vintage can also refer to items that have circled back into fashion, including those that are more or less than 25 years of age. The term can also be used to describe items from the 1960s into the late 1970s, making an official, wide-spread definition of the term a bit difficult. A number of home accessories from the 1960s to the 1970s are re-surging in popularity, including wall art such as Andy Warhol prints.
Finally, the word retro has also been thrown into the mix. Retro is a bit more easy to define, as the vast majority of people believe and accept that this particular term applies to items made during the 1950s. Though some believe that it refers to items that are between 50 and 99 years old, for example: it may also apply to items that are Art Deco in style, (which was during the 1930s). Examples of retro furniture include mid century modern furniture and home decor.
So How Do I Determine The Difference?
The truth is, unless there are papers or some other form of verification such as personal knowledge and a maker’s mark, it can be difficult to know exactly when an item was manufactured unless you are looking for a specific item that you have thoroughly researched. Even still, it’s easy to be fooled.
Look for reputable dealers, especially when looking for furniture or legitimate artwork and other wall decor pieces, as you don’t want to pay big bucks for a big fake. If you’re ever unsure, get in touch with a professional to come and evaluate the validity of the piece before you purchase.