Spend a little time around on-line auctions, flea markets, estate auctions or anyplace selling older “stuff” and you are likely to see many items described as “vintage” or “antique”. Look a little further and you will come across “primitive” and “collectible” almost as often. So if you are a little confused about the difference between vintage and antique or primitive and collectible, so are the rest of us! But don’t worry; these overused words are usually simply a marketing gimmick used to increase the perceived value of their items. Check out the following paragraphs for my interpretation of these overused words. I hope I can provide a little clarity.
I recently purchased a Martin model 72 fly reel from an on-line auction. This particular reel was sold originally in 1970 and is very well made but not overly rare. It was advertised as an “antique fly reel”. To tell you the truth, the “antique” description caught my attention. But, is this reel a genuine antique. The Latin definition antique is “old, ancient”. According to Wikipedia, “antique is an old collectible item, collected or desirable because of its age, beauty, rarity, condition, utility, etc.” So by this definition, many, many items can accurately be labeled antique. For what it is worth, many of my friends in the business use 100 years old as the benchmark required to be considered an antique.
You could easily argue that “vintage” is the new most overused word in the English language. If you doubt me, just do a search on any on-line auction for any item preceded by “vintage”. It seems many feel that any item over a few years old can be described as “vintage”. In reality, “vintage” refers to the year something originated or was made. For example, “a bottle of wine could be vintage 2002”. Or, “this fishing reel is vintage 1970”. But, it seems to be a more attractive item if it is simply labeled, “vintage fishing reel”, doesn’t it. Again, for what it is worth, many of my friends and industry experts use 50 – 100 years old as qualifying as vintage.
Collectibles are another issue altogether. It took many miles, many trips, and many dollars searching for “Beany Babies” (my wife’s) passion to come to grips with just what a collectible is or better yet, isn’t. It seems that anything made specifically for collecting is probably not a good collectable. Of course, there are exceptions to any rule but generally speaking; a good collectable is anything old, well made, and desirable. I am sure my wife would make you a good deal on some Beanie Babies!
I love “primitives”. I am not absolutely certain what they are but I am pretty sure my house is full of them. I think primitives make great collectibles before they are cool and are still pretty much readily available. My fairly unsophisticated definition of a primitive is a common, everyday household item that is old or very old. Yep, my house is full of them!