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What is the Difference between Vintage and Antique?

Antique wooden camera from the 19th century.
Vintage camera from the 20th century.
The difference between vintage and antique is age and marketability.
Books are one item that might be either vintage or antique.
Many dealers and sellers classify an antique as an item created at least 100 years ago.
Antique shop owners can help distinguish between vintage and antique.
Professional dealers often handle antiques rather than vintage items.
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  • Written By: Michael Pollick
  • Edited By: Bronwyn Harris
  • Last Modified Date: 19 November 2014
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Distinguishing between vintage and antique is not always as easy as one might hope, at least when it comes to collectibles. Some sources insist that an antique must be at least 100 years old, while a vintage item can be from virtually any decade or era. A 100 year old couch, for example, could be described as antique furniture, but an Art Deco couch from the 1930s would be considered vintage. Even if it survives for 100 years, the Art Deco couch could still be described as vintage because of its specific design.

One difference between vintage and antique appears to be the perceived relevance of the item. A horse-drawn wagon from the 1880s would be considered an antique, since it exists primarily as a relic of a bygone era. A restored 1957 Chevrolet convertible, on the other hand, would most likely be described as a "vintage" car, since it is evocative of a specific era and still has a considerable number of collectors today. Some collectors may even deem certain vintage items classic as an even more honorable distinction.

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The distinction between antique and vintage can be even more apparent in collectible markets such as clothing. A dressing gown from the turn of the century might be considered an antique, but designer gowns from the 1960s through the 1980s would all be considered vintage. Even a gown from two or three seasons ago might be described as a "vintage Halston." The term vintage often suggest a specific year of creation, such as a 1968 Bob Mackie vintage gown.

Sometimes sellers will use the terms interchangeably, which can lead to some confusion for potential buyers. The 100 year rule for antique designation is not always in effect, and the term "vintage" may be applied to almost any item past a certain age, whether it is considered valuable or not. A vintage toy robot from the 1960s is not the same as an incomplete board game from the 1980s, although the seller may describe both as vintage. Others may use the terms retro or classic to describe reproductions made to resemble actual vintage items.

Overall the difference between vintage and antique appears to be one of age and marketability. Antique furniture and other collectibles over 100 years old are generally handled by professional antiques dealers or history buffs, while vintage items are often bought and sold by private collectors or amateur enthusiasts.

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whiteplane
Post 8
I think this is mostly a marketing distinction. Antiques appeals to one demographic while vintage appeals to another. Clever sellers of used goods will use one or the other depending on what they are selling and who they want to sell it to. But I can't imagine there is any real difference between a vintage piano and an antique piano.
JackWhack
Post 7

My cousin owns a wood reclaiming business. He and his crew take antique and vintage wood from old homes that are being torn down and from old furniture and make the wood into something new. There is great demand for reclaimed wood like this.

lighth0se33
Post 6

There is a store in my town that sells both antique and vintage clothing. I love the fact that they make a clear distinction between the two, because it shows that they really know their stuff.

The vintage items are near the front of the store, while the antiques are all in a separate section near the back. The antiques are also priced higher than most of the vintage items because of their rarity.

I like to wear vintage clothing, but antique clothing is so unusual that I rarely buy it. The only exception is for Halloween costumes. Actual antique outfits make the best costumes!

healthy4life
Post 5

I buy vintage and antique jewelry online, but I always make sure that the sellers know what era the pieces are from. I've had people try to sell me “antique” rings that were only forty years old.

If I'm in the market for buying vintage, I will search for vintage items. If I want a true antique, I make certain that it is at least a century old.

giddion
Post 4
I highly doubt that all the items in places that call themselves “antique stores” are really a hundred years old. In fact, I've seen items that I know are vintage 1960s collectibles in some antique stores.

Maybe even the dealers themselves don't know the difference. Then again, maybe calling a place an “antique” store doesn't necessarily limit the owner to only the sale of true antiques. After all, grocery stores sell things like magazines, so there you go.

upnorth31
Post 3

I find that it just depends on who you are talking to. Some people will call an item vintage, while others may refer to the same thing as antique.

All in all, it probably doesn't really matter which term you use unless you are actually in the business of selling antique or vintage clothing, jewelry, furniture, etc. If it's just an item you have in your home, I think you should call it whatever you want.

heath925
Post 2

I thought that vintage just referred to clothing! I had no idea that there is all sorts of vintage memorabilia.

I love to shop at a few vintage clothing shops, and I know a couple of people who are antique collectors. They are always looking for things like old pieces of furniture or dishes. I guess this just separated the two terms in this way for me.

rosoph
Post 1

I had no idea there even was a difference between vintage and antique! I always thought it was two different ways to say the same thing -- that something is old. I guess I was wrong!

I have a few pieces of furniture in my house that I have always described as vintage, but it sounds like they are really antiques.

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