If you're new to shopping for antiques and vintage, you might be confused by some of the terms used. One of the most common confusion points is understanding the difference between what's antique and what's vintage.
In the strictest sense, the difference between an antique and a vintage item is its age.
Antiques are items which must be at least 100 years old. That means, as of the date of this posting, an antique item was made on or before April of 1918.
The 100-years-or-older rule applies to any of these items no matter what they are made of. So even though it may seem less likely for a book or glassware to survive 100 years than a piece of furniture, therefore making the fragile stuff seem like it should become an antique earlier; but it doesn't work that way. *wink*
Items over 300 years of age generally fall into one of two categories depending upon whether they are manmade creations or natural finds. If they are not manmade, if they are the remains or impressions of formerly living things, they are fossils. If the items are manmade, they are called antiquities or artifacts (also spelled artefacts).
Typically, items over 300 years are dug up either in the process of modern land development and construction, or by archaeological work. And they are also unearthed in attics, basements, and private collections too.
Given the relatively short history of writing systems in the United States of America, the word prehistoric is often attached to any unearthed items older than 300 years. Naturally, in our Fargo-Moorhead area, this includes a number of Native American artifacts. Though it should be noted that not all Native American artifacts are so old.
Vintage items are not as old as antiques. However, unlike the definition of an antique, labeling something vintage is far more subjective. The word vintage literally means "of age." With such an open meaning, there are many interpretations. Most antique dealers consider an item to be vintage if it is at least 40 years old. So, in the context of this blog date, a vintage item would be made between 1918 and 1978.
Even though many vintage items are nostalgic, they are sought after for many reasons besides their age. This includes decorating and collecting. And, because so many of these objects are still useable, they are often practical pieces with a unique flair.
In order to cover additional time periods, perhaps, many of those who buy and sell antique and vintage objects also use other words. Among them, the word "retro."
Retro is an affectionate shortening of the French word "retrograde." Like the word "retroactive," the original meaning references the past -- but is not from the past. Instead, retro goodies imitate the styles of the recent past. They are not copies or fakes; but items which give a nod to the past. Think of classics such as bowling shirts and letterman jackets.
However, over time, the definition of retro has also come to encompass things from the recent past -- things not old enough to be authentically vintage, but not merely "just used things" either. They are just old enough to be nostalgic. Many of these things still can be used -- or in the case of records, tapes, and CDs, played.
Typically, the term retro is given to items which are at least 20 years old (but not yet 40 years old). Again using today's posting date, retro items would be those made between 1979 and 1998.
Also found in antique malls like Fargo's F.A.R.M. are items which are not necessarily old at all, but still collectible. Among these things are what are called reproductions (sometimes called "repros" or "repops" in the antiques business). Reproductions are copies of older items. They are not "fakes" as they are not trying to pass themselves off as older or anything other than what they are: copies of, usually, much older things.
Some of these things, such as reproduction drawer pulls and hardware, allow for folks to more readily and affordably restore their old houses. And, in fact, many reproductions, including reproductions of antique Coke A Cola trays and old cast iron toys, have real value unto themselves.
Additionally, many antique malls -- the Fargo Antique & Repurposed Market included -- sell collectibles and curios. Collectibles and curios need not be old at all. They just have to be desired. Think of things like Breyer horses
Of course, often collecting new items leads to collecting the older variations... That's often how that collecting bug starts! You've been warned!