When does furniture become antique?

When shopping for older items, it pays to know if they can be classed as “antique”.

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How do you know if furniture is antique? 

There are various terms used for older items, the main ones being “vintage”, “retro” and – of course – “antique”.

So how do you tell them apart?

In short, “antique” refers to items that are 100 years old or more. The term applies across all categories, so it encompasses furniture as well as jewellery, silver and works of art.  

The definition means that the dateline is constantly moving, so that in 2023 items from 1923 will be antique, but in 2033 it will be items from 1933. As a result, something in your home or collection now may become antique while they’re in your possession.

Does that mean they are automatically more valuable? Not necessarily. While some items get more valuable year by year, for the most part the value of furniture is defined by its rarity, quality and condition – as well as less tangible considerations such as fashion.

Old items of 20 years but less than 40 are considered retro, while items older than 40 but less than 100 are vintage.

It’s worth noting that the definition of “antique” can more flexible than described above. In some cases, it can describe old works worthy of collection. In others it can simply mean old in an ambiguous way. However, the 100 year rule is a good rule of thumb and ideal if you’re just getting into the world of pre-owned furniture.

Tags: Furniture
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