What is an “antique” anyway?

That word brings to mind all sorts of images.


Unfortunately, for a vast majority of Americans, the images that come to mind are not exactly all that positive. They start thinking about their grandmother, old people collecting stuff or stuff that simply looks old, worn and outdated.

As you probably already know, if you are in any way, shape or form familiar with American culture, Americans are not exactly fond of age. America seems to be a culture based around youth. If you are young, you have the world at your hands. If you’re old, you’re essentially worthless.

I know that sounds harsh and judgmental, but it’s absolutely true. There’s a reason why a lot of older Americans are traveling all over the world and part of this is because they want to feel useful. They want to feel that they’re living out their lives as vibrant, valid and worthy people.

Unfortunately, you don’t get that kind of encouragement back home. It’s easy to see why Americans think this way because for the longest time, the American economy was built on a vibrancy, risk taking and quick learning that are often equated with youth. Whether this is accurate or not doesn’t really matter. Whether we like it or not is besides the point. This is just the reality.

Accordingly, anything that’s old is suspect or often easily dismissed. This really is too bad because if we weren’t so eager to get on with the new, bold and experimental, we might actually be a more successful society because like it or not, there are lots of great lessons to learn from the past.

A lot of antiques actually can teach modern manufacturers a thing or two. This is quite rich given the fact that most products in our contemporary society are, of course, manufactured in China. But believe it or not, there are lots of classic manufacturing principles that can benefit China’s manufacturers tremendously.

Sadly, a lot of this is lost in translation that’s why a lot of people are grappling with basic issues like what is an antique anyway. Why should people focus on antiques? Why is there a market in the first place? Why buy something old when you can buy something cheap and new easily?

An antique really boils down to history. If you buy something that is of a specific historical period and functions in a way that is reminiscent of a long gone era, that is an antique. It also depends on the kind of item. If you are looking for comic books, an antique would probably be something from the 1950’s or earlier periods. If you are looking for chairs on the other hand, an antique would probably be something made in the earl 1800’s or earlier. You see how this works?

It’s contextual. It depends on the product, item and also the model of the item. There’s really no one size fits all indicator or rule that neatly delineates what is an antique and what isn’t. There are no hard and fast rules that you can hang your hat on and never risk being wrong. That just doesn’t exist.