What Makes Something an Antique?

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"According to U.S. Government Code 19CFR10.53, antiques are defined as “a moveable article of convenience or decoration for use in furnishings a house, apartment, place of business or accommodation…and that article is not less than 100 years old.”

From that dry description there seems to be little that would attract so much attention and affection as does the collection of antiques.

Despite the official description, commercial dealers and dedicated collectors, as well as the popular press, also classify antiques as items from 1900-1960. This era encompasses the Arts & Crafts movement, Art Deco and Nouveau through Mid-Century Modern Design.

However, many items from this era are better defined as “collectibles” rather than antiques, especially if they were originally mass-produced. These items are not considered antiques and usually do not increase dramatically in value. Collectibles are often produced in limited editions, such as collectors’ plates, signed and number prints and other items reflecting popular culture of a certain time period.

But what makes antiques so special and desirable is more than their mere age. Antiques are often valuable because of their materials (gold, ivory or rare elements), but they are equally prized for their craftsmanship. Quality antiques reflect the finest workmanship of their time and increase in value as similar examples disappear because of breakage. When fine antiques are acquired by museums or special collections, their rarity increases because fewer examples are available for purchase or trade.

The most important element to consider when buying or selling antiques is the knowledge and reputation of the specialist dealer handling the items. Anyone interested in knowing more about an antique item should seek out a certified expert in the field and benefit from their experience, understanding and scholarship on these highly desirable objects from the past.

-Scott Nussbaum

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