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The Difference Between Vintage, Antique, and Retro


Vintage, antique, or retro?

As an auction house that serves both sellers wanting to liquidate their personal estates and buyers who are looking for deals at online estate sales, we want to do our best to help educate people on the different terms that we use in our item descriptions. Definitions of these terms are relatively universal, however, with some variations depending on the person you talk to.

An item’s age is one of the key determinants of its value, although value can be subjective at times. Whatever price a person is willing to pay for something ultimately determines its value.

Vintage: This term has been loosely used over the years. At one time it was used solely to describe the age of wine, but it is now used to describe any type of item.

When we’re describing an item as “vintage”, this means that it is at least 50 years old or more. Many people will say that vintage can also refer to items that are 25 years old, and you may hear these types of items being referred to as “new vintage”. If you talk to industry professionals, they will say that a vintage item is technically at least 50 years old.

Sometimes it’s hard for us to determine exactly when a particular piece was made. It could be borderline antique, so we will end up describing it as “vintage” just to be on the safe side.

Antique: In the antiques industry, Items that are at least 100 years old are considered “antique”. There are many ways to determine whether a piece of furniture or other item is an antique. This article offers many tips and resources that you can go through for antique identification.

It’s rare for us to come across an antique piece, but usually there is at least one or two items in the bimonthly Father Joe’s Villages Specialty Auction (formerly known as the St. Vincent de Paul Villages Specialty Auction). We’re currently working on the latest auction and the catalog will be up soon.

Retro: This refers to anything that is imitative of a style or fashion from the past. This term has also been used interchangeably with the phrase “vintage inspired”.

Retro can also be defined as something that is outdated or out of style, but nowadays it seems like everything is back in style, right?

And speaking of things that are back in style, we would be remiss not to define the term “mid-century”, which is a design that describes mid-20th century architecture, decor, and graphics from roughly 1933-1965. In a previous post we shared some mid-century design ideas and tips.

What are your thoughts on these definitions of vintage, antique, and retro? Share your thoughts on our Facebook page.

Related Post: The Rise of Vintage: Why It’s a Good Time to Be an Upcycler or Collector