Antique v Vintage v Retro – A Quick Guide

Here at the Scottish Antique and Arts Centre, we frequently get asked what the difference is between common terminology used to describe items offered for sale by our dealers.

While all three terms, “antique” “vintage” and “retro” do muster connotations of “old,” understanding the specific meanings that people knowledgeable about the trade attach to these words will go a long way toward clearer communication.

In fact, for some categories in particular, the word “antique” is very specific, and there are certain laws about the buying and selling of these items based on whether they meet specific qualifications.

Antique

Generally, most people involved with the buying and selling of antiques are in agreement that to be described as thus, the item should be at least 100 years old.

The Oxford English dictionary definition is: A collectable object such as a piece of furniture or work of art that has a high value because of its age and quality. The term is also used as an adjective when describing “ Antique Furniture” Antique Jewellery”

Vintage

This term is generally used to describe an item that has been made or produced in a particular time or era. “Vintage 1950’s dress” or “Vintage 1974 Ford Capri”

The term also denotes something of quality from a particular place or time. “Vintage Claret”

In general use, other than for wines and spirits,  the term should not be used to describe an item that is less than 20 years old.

Retro

Usually used to describe items that evoke a certain style or fashion. Generally, the item or design will be a reproduction specifically made to mimic the feel, look, fashion or style.

“The room was decorated in a 70’s retro style” “Retro 50’s furniture for sale”

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