What Is an Antique, Exactly?

"How old does a thing have to be to be an antique? What things never get to be antiques?" -- iVillager momtou


The definition of "antique" is complicated. According to U.S. Customs regulations, items more than 100 years old and can be brought into the country duty free. So, anything made before 1901 is now an antique. The dictionary says an antique is one of the oldest of its type. That explains how an antique automobile or computer can be much less than 100 years old. We often say in our writing that an antique is anything that is sold in an antiques shop, including items such as arts and crafts furniture, Tiffany lamps, and art deco bronzes.

Most people use the words "vintage" and "collectible" to describe anything made in the past that is collected. This includes most of the items bought at flea markets, house sales, and shops, such as toys, sheet music, radios, folk art, comic character and TV show memorabilia and almost anything that relates to the years from 1900 to 1999.

By the strictest definition, everything gets to be an antique if it exists for 100 years. But not every antique is collectible.

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