Nov 6, 2012

Antiques are items that were manufactured over 100 years ago. Used items which are less than 100 years are considered vintage.

This very simple definition can create much controversy among antique dealers, collectors and even wine drinkers! There is only one official definition of antiques in the United-States from US Customs in the Smoot-Hawley act of 1930. It basically says that an antique must be over 100 years old to be called an antique. In Europe and indeed in many other countries around the world there are many more laws governing antiques which help to define the subject. The US lacks such a base and this explains why there are such a variety in quality of "Antique" stores and malls around the country.

An antique store in France (Antiquites) will have to be operated by a state approved professional that has undergone appropriate studies in art, history and valuation. Those that do not have this training sell in stores or fairs called "Brocantes" which must hold a "Livre de Police" or Police Book in which items that are bought and sold are listed to fight against theft. All others can sell at the "puces" or flea markets where no legal mention of authenticity can be maintained.

Such safeguards do not generally exist in the US so the market for antiques is a wild place where dealers can use the word antique to describe items from the 1940s or even sell reproductions under dubious terminology such as Antique Chest circa 1940s. Such terms help increase the value in the eye of the buyer but nonetheless it is only a used chest (unless it was made from a desired designer or manufacturer).

Using the word "Antique" can up the price on a very simple object. Keep this argument in mind, it will offer you more perspective on price and value.

Now vintage is even trickier as there is no institution such as the US customs to define it. Vintage is the term commonly used by people in the antique world to define objects that have some age and are as one says "of a particular vintage". We would define a chest of drawers from the 1930s as being vintage.

Now wine drinkers are not very happy with the use of the word vintage for anything else than defining the age of wines. However common usage has applied the word to the world of antiques and collectibles for over a century now in the US. Quite respectable really.

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