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Estate sales, garage sales, auctions and similar venues are brimming with fantastic finds. However, it is critical to understand seemingly interchangeable words such as “antique” vs. “vintage” items to understand both what you want and what you should be willing to pay. 

The fact is that if buyers do not understand the nuances of the antique vs. vintage conversation, they are significantly more likely to purchase something at an inappropriate price or pick up something that is relatively worthless.

For instance, if you were looking to purchase antique hardware and are not aware of what makes an antique an antique, then there is a considerable chance that you will merely procure a rusty doorknob or the like.

To help ensure that such an unfortunate situation does not come to pass, today, we will break down the antique vs. vintage juxtaposition and provide some advice for identifying each.

Purchase Genuine Antique Hardware for Your Home Restoration Projects

Antique vs. Vintage: What Is the Difference?

Generally speaking, antiques must be at least 100 years old to fall into the category. Moreover, it does not matter what the item is made of, be it a metal candlestick or decorative wood, the age of the item is what is important.

However, material composition does matter when discussing items that are more than 300 years old as these will either fall into the category of fossil (for natural, organic things) or artifacts (for items that are man-made).

That last bit aside, what defines the antique vs. vintage separation is age. However, there are different interpretations of what exactly constitutes a vintage item.

Some dealers will consider something to be vintage if it is at least 20 years of age, while others demand that an item be at least 40 years old. Therefore, there is a bit of debate when it comes to an item’s minimum age, but there is still a clear dividing line between antique and vintage finds.

While many vintage items are sought after for the sense of nostalgia that they produce, it is worth noting that many folks are after such items due to their collectible nature, their market value or even their usability, depending on the practicality of the item.

With the antique vs. vintage discussion covered, let’s go ahead and turn our attention to establishing tactics for identifying these kinds of items.

How to Identify Antique Items

antique collection

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When it comes to accurately identifying antiques, there are several steps that buyers will want to follow, including:

  • Analyze all sides of the item, checking for labels, markings or signatures.
  • Determine if the product is still in use today. If not, there is a chance that it may be antique.
  •  Attempt to determine if the item is handmade and take note of the quality of the product.
  • Look for signs of age while being careful not to be fooled by reproductions.

Generally speaking, antique items will be handmade, contain some sort of maker’s mark and feature distinct signs of use that cannot be faked or fabricated.

Grab a Floating Shelf to Display Your Antique Finds

How to Pinpoint Vintage Pieces

assorted vintage items

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Comparatively speaking, identifying vintage items is significantly easier than picking out their antique counterparts. This is, in part, because much more reference material tends to exist as the items are much newer than antiques.

Therefore, before buying a vintage product, look for original photographs and research the item to uncover information such as production techniques, designer trademarks and other identifying features. At the same time, it is wise to determine the average market value so that you are sure to pay a fair price.

When analyzing vintage pieces, establish how well (or not) the item conforms to its supposed time period. If there are any noticeable inaccuracies, there is a chance that the item is a reproduction and is not genuine. Signs that would tip off a buyer include poor craftsmanship, incongruent lettering or font selection and inaccurate material usage.

Don’t Be Fooled by Reproductions

For the novice or layman, it can be challenging to recognize genuine antique or vintage items. Therefore, conducting a considerable amount of research and familiarizing yourself with an item’s traits is key to success.

With this handy antique vs. vintage guide, you are well on your way to understanding the nuances involved with effectively discerning which category various items might fall into.