Retro, vintage, antique??

As we travel to auctions, or private sales, and even in Annie’s, items we are buying or selling are described as vintage, retro, rare, victorian, art deco, nouveau and antique. So to make sure that I don’t mislead people I have been doing quite a bit of research in reference books and on the net to try to determine what it all means.

Something that is only 5 to 10 years old is really too new to give it any description other than perhaps desirable or rare.

Rare is a description that is often mis-used. If something is rare, there should not be many of them and it is really hard to come by.
The term ‘vintage’ is used these days for almost anything that isn’t new. Vintage actually means being from a specified time period (which is meaningless without stating the time period). Also it means the best representation or highest quality of that time. The word is taken directly from winemaking (a winemaker is a vintner) and refers to the year in which a wine was “laid down,” or put in wooden casks and stored for proper aging, “vin being French for wine, and age also a French word, therefore “vintage” means literally the “wine’s age.” The word “vintage” should properly be used with a year attached to it, e.g., “vintage 1949. A lot of people, especially on eBay, use “vintage” to hype up whatever they are selling and to make it seem more valuable. For example items are often referred to as ‘vintage era’ or ‘vintage style’, or “vintage reproduction.” I tend to use the term vintage when an item is less than 100 years old.
Art Nouveau dates items from the period 1890 to 1910 and Art Deco 1918 to 1940. These descriptions are more commonly identified by the style of the item, rather than the date, with Art Nouveau depicting plants and flowers, insects such as dragonflies and butterflies, and women with long flowing gowns. Art Deco is identified by more fashionable women, chevrons, zigzags, sunbursts and abstract geometric figures.
Victorian is self explanatory as dating from the period of Queen Victoria’s reign from 20 June 1837 until her death on 22 January 1901.
I use the term ‘Retro’ usually when referring to a 1960-1970s item, however the word “retro” is Latin and should be used only as a prefix, suggesting the past or looking/going backwards.
Technically, nothing is antique until is ‘of a good old age’ (Oxford Dictionary of the English Language). The general classification for ‘Antique’ items is those that are more than 100 years old, although for cars it is 25 years old. In China antique items are more than 500 years old.

Whatever the age or style, if you like something, then it is desirable or collectible.

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