As Time Goes By: The Definition of an Antique


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A common question among new collectors or those starting an antique dealer business is why are some old items called antiques while others are just called vintage? Good question. A question that makes me think of vinegar. Huh? There is everyday newly produced vinegar that costs pennies then there is aged vinegar that can cost as much as a bottle of fine aged wine or liquor. The same is also true for ?stuff?. Technically, anything be it a hair pin to a piece of paper is anointed with antique status on its century old birthday, and antiques are so desired because they simply get better with age. It is this aging process that gives an item, be it food or furniture, a quality that cannot be reproduced.

The set standard for antiques in the industry is when an item is 100 years old. Normally antique dealers (the honest ones) stick to this timeline so customers can rely on a consistent standard, but the inexperienced ebayer or unscrupulous seller may list an item that is only 75, 50, even 30 years old as an antique, when it is really vintage. So always ask the seller how old it is. If they claim not to know ask how they determined it was an antique. That is certainly a fair question. As the buyer you must educate yourself on how to spot a fake, or you may end up paying hundreds, maybe thousands of dollars for a reproduction. (Reproductions have been made for centuries, so even the old fakes look authentic!)

Exception to the Rule
Firearms must actually be older than 100 years in order to be an antique. Hold it, don?t get locked up. It?s not that bad, but guns must have been manufactured before 1898 to be an antique.

Have and Eye for the Old
New collectors tend to overlook the fact that it is not difficult to manufacture an item in the same style as a period piece, and with aging techniques it can be very difficult to spot a fake. So, how can you tell if your ?antique? is hot off the assembly line or the genuine article? The only proven method is to read every resource about the items you wish to buy. Subscribe to specialty magazines, read collecting books, analyze pictures readily available online that are common fakes, and attend auction previews were you can freely examine items. This becomes your education and how you will acquire an eye for what is old. Remember, you can abstain from acquiring antiques at an auction, and simply go to learn. Look over the items. Hold them. Feel the fabrics. Compare old pieces of glass, porcelain and pottery to newer ones. The more you see it, feel it, and study it, the more of an expert you become.

For example, an experienced person may see old tin pea cans that were pitched by workers under a bridge over a hundred years ago and think they were trash. But the experienced collector knows that if those labels are in pretty good shape, that trash is actually a treasure. This doesn?t apply to all antiques, however. Just because something is an antique doesn?t mean it will bring big daddy the big bucks.
Old Fakes
Unfortunately, people have been making and selling rip-off items for centuries, so age does not always equal authenticity. Older reproductions require more research to identify, so do your homework.

Doh! I Bought a Fake
Breathe. Breathe. It?s okay. There is actually an entire market just for reproductions. Some people feel it is a crime against humanity and all that is sacred to spend a lot of money for an item they will only stare at through a glass barricade and never actually use.

For this market segment, reproductions make all the sense in the world. They can be used, abused, but just don?t be confused-it is not the real thing. So, if you have a reproduction, don?t try to sell it to someone as the real deal. Sell it as a reproduction?you?ll be surprised how many interested buyers pop up.

by Christina Bultinck


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