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What Is An Antique?

Antique and used furnitureMany people have asked us what officially qualifies as an antique. First let’s start with the official definition of an antique.




a collectible object such as a piece of furniture or work of art that has a high value because of its considerable age.
“Pauline loves collecting antiques”
Synonyms: Collector’s item, period piece, antiquity, heirloom


(of a collectible object) having a high value because of considerable age.
“statues of antique gods”

 “an antique clock” belonging to ancient time


  • make (something) resemble an antique by artificial means. “an antiqued door”
  • shop in stores where antiques are sold. “we would often go antiquing in search of furnishings”

what is an antique - best antique store in fayetteville, north carolina

Today, everything seems to be an antique. The 1980s bag or brick cell phone and a craftsman-style table, handcrafted during the depression are each given the same “antique” label that a 1800’s era family heirloom cedar trunk justly deserves. For those in the trade, however, this word does not just mean “old,” but signifies a minimum specific age and should not be applied to the ‘80s brick cell phone and, perhaps, not even to the depression-era handcrafted table.

An “antique” is an object of considerable age valued for its aesthetic or historical significance. In the antiques trade, the term refers to objects that are more than 100-years old.

Thus, when buying or selling an item labeled “antique,” standards suggest that the term should be reserved only for items greater than 100 years old. Outside of the practice of buying and selling items, however, use of the word “antique” can be understood to attach no specific age to an item.

Even inside the trade, though, there is some variability as to the exact age that signifies an antique. Generally speaking, it is safe to stick with the 100 year definition, but some hold to an 80 year marker. The 80 year marker considers the heritage of the item in that it reflects the span of two generations, with one generation traditionally considered to be the length of 40 years.

These are all simply trade standards, but it should also be noted that U.S. Customs has set their own legal definition of an antique, and it is in agreement with the 100 year guideline. U.S. Customs also adds a quality standard to their definition in that, while it is acceptable to repair or restore an antique, the item must retain its original character and be less than 50% restored to be considered an antique.

Learn more about what vintage is here in another blog post.


1 Comment

  1. What Is Vintage? | Back N The Day Antiques on October 19, 2016 at 9:16 pm

    […] or surfing listings for just the right item, understanding what is meant by terms such as “antique” or “vintage” will improve the buying and selling […]

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