What Antique, Vintage, and Retro Really Mean

I like old stuff. I don’t know why. I just know it makes me happy.

While looking for well found treasures or fun old finds online, I found that the terms antique, vintage, and retro were almost always used interchangeably, and more often than not, incorrectly. So I did some digging to cut through the clutter to find out what ‘antique,’ ‘vintage,’ ‘retro,’ really mean.

Antique – The “fancy pants” matriarch of the old stuff family

matriarchAccording to Wikipedia, something that is antique applies to objects that are at least 100 years old (except for cars which are considered antiques after 25 years). These are typically old collectible items, desirable because of its age, beauty, rarity and condition.

Since most antiques have a high value due their considerable age and condition, antique furniture and other collectibles are generally handled by professional antique dealers, many of which belong to CINOA, a worldwide confederation of art and antique associations, which requires members to adhere to strict quality and expertise standards.

Want to add some truly antique items to your collection? Check out their membership directory or do an art and antiques search of over 40,000 items.

 Vintage – The hip aunt wearing the most amazing 70’s disco dress

DiscoGoogle the term vintage and you’ll find there’s a lot of confusion around its many different uses. However, as a general rule, the term ‘vintage’ is applicable to a wide variety of objects that are between 20+ to 100 years old, and recognizable as belonging to the era in which it was made. While the math doesn’t exactly add up, most articles I found categorized items from the early 1900s to the 1980s as “vintage.”

Vintage items are more often bought and sold by private collectors or amateur enthusiasts, which can be found on websites such as Etsy.   Want the best of both worlds? Check out Ruby Lane, the largest curated marketplace for vintage and antiques.

Retro – The little sister who is always trying to dress like you

RetroRetro, short for retrospective, simply refers to anything whose style or design is imitates or is or is reminiscent of a previous era.  So technically, it’s not really anything that is actually from the past, just something that imitates it. This word is interchangeable with many other terms such as ‘vintage inspired’, ‘old fashioned,’ ‘classic,’etc.

Looking for some new items with a vintage feel? Check out Mod Cloth where you can shop by color, occasion and decade.

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