The difference between antiquity and vintage (and why it matters)

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With some exceptions, buying second-hand stuff is better to buy new. There’s just one problem: Sifting through page after page of nearly identical listings on Ebay, Craigslist, Etsy, and Facebook Marketplace takes time. And meIf you don’t know what you’re looking for, you’ll close your tabs feeling more confused than ever.

It isnot’t to say that you have to spend years of your life studying antiques to buy used furniture or cool vintage jackets — bBut it helps to know the absolute basics, starting with what the words “antique” and “vintage” actually mean, both on paper and in real life.

Antiques are much older and more expensive than vintage

As a general rule, an object must be at least 100 years old to be considered “antique”. It really brings it down: even though a new crop of things earns the label every year, genuine antiques are still scarce. Unsurprisingly, this also means that they are quite expensive.

Pinning down a definition of “vintage” is much more difficult. The word itself comes from winemaking and refers to when and where something – usually wine – was produced, but it doesn’t say anything about its age. Some dealers consider anything between 20 and 99 years old to be “vintage”; others are a bit more stringent. The important thing to remember is that no one agrees, so “vintage” can mean almost anything.

Get rid of the marketing jargon

Unfortunately, learning the basic definitions only complicates matters. In a world where typing “antique” or “vintage” in a Wayfair or Amazon search yields thousands of results, have those terms totally lost their meaning? If not, how are you supposed to use them in real life?

The simple (and obvious) answer is, of course, those words always mean something, but since they’re buzzy marketing terms now, context is everything. Obviously, all of the “vintage” desks on Wayfair are brand new. In this case, you can safely assume that “vintage” refers to an aesthetic style, not the date and place where the desk was made.

If you see something listed as “vintage” or “antique” on a massive consumer goods site that only sells new products, it is just marketing. Ignore it and focus on the actual specifications of the product.

If you want the real deal, get really specific

Things that see vintage are extremely popular, which makes it hard to find the real stuff. (We all know people on Facebook Marketplace and Craigslist put a “vintage” label on anything to get people to click on it.) Your best bet is to look for vintage sellers that include eras (or years). specific in their ads: “Vintage Major League Soccer Hat” could mean almost anything, but “Vintage 1996-97 Major League Soccer Baseball Cap” focuses on the specific origins of the hat – its old, If you want.

Whether you are looking for vintage pieces, genuine antiques, or just second-hand items that look cool, keep in mind that the larger Old Stuff market is large and complex. You’ll definitely have to stumble upon a few rabbit holes on the internet to find what you want, but when you do, it’s worth it.


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