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What is the Difference Between Vintage and Antique?

Michael Pollick
By
Updated May 16, 2024
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Distinguishing between vintage and antique is not always as easy as one might hope, at least when it comes to collectibles. Some sources insist that an antique must be at least 100 years old, while a vintage item can be from virtually any decade or era. A 100 year old couch, for example, could be described as antique furniture, but an Art Deco couch from the 1930s would be considered vintage. Even if it survives for 100 years, the Art Deco couch could still be described as vintage because of its specific design.

One difference between vintage and antique appears to be the perceived relevance of the item. A horse-drawn wagon from the 1880s would be considered an antique, since it exists primarily as a relic of a bygone era. A restored 1957 Chevrolet convertible, on the other hand, would most likely be described as a "vintage" car, since it is evocative of a specific era and still has a considerable number of collectors today. Some collectors may even deem certain vintage items classic as an even more honorable distinction.

The distinction between antique and vintage can be even more apparent in collectible markets such as clothing. A dressing gown from the turn of the century might be considered an antique, but designer gowns from the 1960s through the 1980s would all be considered vintage. Even a gown from two or three seasons ago might be described as a "vintage Halston." The term vintage often suggest a specific year of creation, such as a 1968 Bob Mackie vintage gown.

Sometimes sellers will use the terms interchangeably, which can lead to some confusion for potential buyers. The 100 year rule for antique designation is not always in effect, and the term "vintage" may be applied to almost any item past a certain age, whether it is considered valuable or not. A vintage toy robot from the 1960s is not the same as an incomplete board game from the 1980s, although the seller may describe both as vintage. Others may use the terms retro or classic to describe reproductions made to resemble actual vintage items.

Overall the difference between vintage and antique appears to be one of age and marketability. Antique furniture and other collectibles over 100 years old are generally handled by professional antiques dealers or history buffs, while vintage items are often bought and sold by private collectors or amateur enthusiasts.

WiseGeek is dedicated to providing accurate and trustworthy information. We carefully select reputable sources and employ a rigorous fact-checking process to maintain the highest standards. To learn more about our commitment to accuracy, read our editorial process.
Michael Pollick
By Michael Pollick
As a frequent contributor to WiseGeek, Michael Pollick uses his passion for research and writing to cover a wide range of topics. His curiosity drives him to study subjects in-depth, resulting in informative and engaging articles. Prior to becoming a professional writer, Michael honed his skills as an English tutor, poet, voice-over artist, and DJ.
Discussion Comments
By whiteplane — On Dec 19, 2012
I think this is mostly a marketing distinction. Antiques appeals to one demographic while vintage appeals to another. Clever sellers of used goods will use one or the other depending on what they are selling and who they want to sell it to. But I can't imagine there is any real difference between a vintage piano and an antique piano.
By JackWhack — On Dec 12, 2012

My cousin owns a wood reclaiming business. He and his crew take antique and vintage wood from old homes that are being torn down and from old furniture and make the wood into something new. There is great demand for reclaimed wood like this.

By lighth0se33 — On Dec 11, 2012

There is a store in my town that sells both antique and vintage clothing. I love the fact that they make a clear distinction between the two, because it shows that they really know their stuff.

The vintage items are near the front of the store, while the antiques are all in a separate section near the back. The antiques are also priced higher than most of the vintage items because of their rarity.

I like to wear vintage clothing, but antique clothing is so unusual that I rarely buy it. The only exception is for Halloween costumes. Actual antique outfits make the best costumes!

By healthy4life — On Dec 11, 2012

I buy vintage and antique jewelry online, but I always make sure that the sellers know what era the pieces are from. I've had people try to sell me “antique” rings that were only forty years old.

If I'm in the market for buying vintage, I will search for vintage items. If I want a true antique, I make certain that it is at least a century old.

By giddion — On Dec 10, 2012
I highly doubt that all the items in places that call themselves “antique stores” are really a hundred years old. In fact, I've seen items that I know are vintage 1960s collectibles in some antique stores.

Maybe even the dealers themselves don't know the difference. Then again, maybe calling a place an “antique” store doesn't necessarily limit the owner to only the sale of true antiques. After all, grocery stores sell things like magazines, so there you go.

By upnorth31 — On Feb 20, 2011

I find that it just depends on who you are talking to. Some people will call an item vintage, while others may refer to the same thing as antique.

All in all, it probably doesn't really matter which term you use unless you are actually in the business of selling antique or vintage clothing, jewelry, furniture, etc. If it's just an item you have in your home, I think you should call it whatever you want.

By heath925 — On Feb 19, 2011

I thought that vintage just referred to clothing! I had no idea that there is all sorts of vintage memorabilia.

I love to shop at a few vintage clothing shops, and I know a couple of people who are antique collectors. They are always looking for things like old pieces of furniture or dishes. I guess this just separated the two terms in this way for me.

By rosoph — On Feb 18, 2011

I had no idea there even was a difference between vintage and antique! I always thought it was two different ways to say the same thing -- that something is old. I guess I was wrong!

I have a few pieces of furniture in my house that I have always described as vintage, but it sounds like they are really antiques.

Michael Pollick
Michael Pollick
As a frequent contributor to WiseGeek, Michael Pollick uses his passion for research and writing to cover a wide range...
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