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Thursday, May 25, 2017

How Old Is an "Antique?"

by Pamela Wiggins, TheSpruce.com

Defining an Overused and Misunderstood Term

Elizabeth Belkina / EyeEm / Getty Images
Elizabeth Belkina / EyeEm / Getty Images
The term antique is used rather loosely among the masses, and often ends up reflecting the age of the person using it more than a hard and fast definition. To a teenager, for example, a kitchen gadget from the 1960s seems “antique," while a senior adult might see antiques as the many objects they used or saw in the homes of their parents and grandparents as a child.

In purist terms, however, and according to the "official" definition issued by the United States Customs Service, antiques have traditionally been considered items with at least 100 years of age under their belts.

That means the scale slides every year as more objects grow older and fit into that time frame.

Even so, this can still be a controversial topic, even among antiques dealers, authors, and appraisers.

Differing Opinions Among "Experts"

Of course, you can ask a dozen different antiques "experts" what an antique is and you'll get a number of different answers. There have actually been heated debates on this topic when groups of antiques experts have gathered together and were asked the question: what is an antique?

Some experts look more at high style and uppercrust design when deeming an object to be antique. They see antiques as "masterpieces" of design and of only the highest quality. With this assessment, everything from primitive furniture of all ages to faceless Amish rag dolls from the late 1900s would not be considered antique regardless of the rarity of the item. Many other experts disagree with these folks, including the author of this article.

One way to look at this conundrum is the dividing line drawn where styles dramatically changed from a old-fashioned look toward the modern. Hemlines were shortened and simplified, and angular Art Deco design was the all the rage during the 1920s moving into the 1930s. These fashion and design developments with a forward-thinking bend, among others during this transitional period, provide a stark contrast to the elaborate styles seen during the Edwardian, Victorian, and Colonial periods witnessed in previous decades to centuries.

With this in mind, one viewpoint is to see items made prior to 1920 as antiques and newer pieces as "collectibles." The antique scale continues to slide in terms of the actual age of these objects as we move forward through the calendar, however. As soon as we ring in 2020, all of these objects will be considered antiques by the U.S. Customs Service definition so widely followed in the field.

more at TheSpruce.com

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