In today’s capitalist markets, sellers are using various strategies to entice the usually naïve buyers. Marketplaces around the world are dominated by labels and classifications that are meant to put certain products in a class of their own. The same trend applies to the ‘aged’ products’ market. Traders always try to convince prospective customers that their products are vintage, retro, or antique with the aim of raising these products’ value.
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It is quite difficult for an ordinary consumer to differentiate between a genuine antique dealer and an unscrupulous trader who is just trying to make a profit. Most buyers consider antiques to be ‘one-of-a-kind’ or ‘very old’ items. Moreover, antiques are often confused with rare, vintage, retro, or used items. For instance, some people consider things that were made before 1950 to be antiques.
According to popular English language definitions, ‘an antique is a collectible item such as a piece of furniture or work of art that has a high value because of its considerable age’. Other definitions associate antiques with valuable but old objects or objects that belong to ancient times. Due to the confusion surrounding the accuracy of what objects fit the antique-description, the definition of the term antique should be changed to explicitly refer to objects that are more than a hundred years old.
Most forums relating to antique items are misleading or lack sufficient research to back up their claims. Whenever one visits online forums and antique shows, he/she witnesses frequent usage of the terms ‘rare’ and ‘one-of-a-kind’. However, the usage of these terms cannot be justified by any other reason except the fact that the holder of the item is trying to convince his/her audience how valuable the item under scrutiny is.
For an item to be described using these terms, other factors have to be put into consideration. For instance, one has to consider what decade or era the item is from and how many of these items were in circulation during its manufacture. For example, an ancient coin might be rare but it cannot be one-of-a-kind. Most antique dealers tend to be ignorant about the factors that make a certain item vintage and they also lack the necessary tools to conduct comprehensive research on their items.
On the other hand, prospective antique buyers face the same challenges when they are perusing through antiques. Therefore, if the definition of antiques was changed to mean items of more than one hundred years, it would be easier to conduct research on the said items.
The timeline of the said antique would be easy to establish and in extreme circumstances, carbon dating methods can be used to certify the ‘antiqueness’ of an item. Antique buyers are mostly forced to rely on untrustworthy appraisers. Independent research on a product would help prospective buyers to establish the antiqueness of a certain product beyond doubt.
As early as 1930, the legal system defined antiques as items of a hundred years or more. In 1930, the United States’ government passed the Tariff Act. The Act was sponsored by the Customs Department and it limited the definition of antiques to those items that were made before 1830. The Tariff Act was reaffirmed in 1966 and it maintained the one hundred years’ threshold as the defining factor for antiques.
The Tariff Act was instituted to help the customs department deal with the confusion arising from definition of antiques. For example, antique-items do not incur Custom tax and individuals were referring to items of less than 100years old as antiques to avoid paying these taxes. The English language did not take the cue from the legal system but it maintained the existing state of confusion by not including the age limit of items to its definition.
The Tariff Act was later neutralized by the Mod Act, which included restored items to the definition of antiques. This amendment was made in 1993 and it has since contributed to the misuse of the word antique. Using the 1993 definition, antiques can refer to restored, repaired, or any items bearing the characteristics of the original article.
According to Mod Act of 1993, items can qualify to be termed as antiques even if in reality they are only fifty percent antique. These subsequent amendments to the legal definition of antique have undermined the quality and institution of antique business. If the definition was reverted to refer to antiques as century-old items, the integrity of antiquing would be maintained and the government would not lose money through avoided taxes.
Antiques are valued possessions whose integrity has stood the test of time. This integrity was previously recognized by the legal system through the 1930 and 1966 legislations, but it has since been neglected. Without an explicit definition, individuals will continue to pass of modern items as antiques with the intention of making a quick profit.
There is a lot of confusion surrounding the definition of the word antique with other similar terminologies such as rare, vintage, and retro. The confusion behind these terms stems from lack of a solid definition for the word antique. Some individuals including antique dealers themselves confuse between vintage and antique items.
The definition of the word vintage is mostly associated with wine. However, any item defined as vintage should be accompanied with its year of manufacture. For example, 1960s vintage Mercedes or 1930s vintage wine, are both correct usages of the word vintage. Therefore, vintage is a description about an era and not necessarily old age.
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Consequently, an antique can only be described as vintage if its era is more than a century old while vintage can be used to describe items that are less than a decade old. Redefining antiques to refer to century-old items can help eliminate the misuse of the term vintage. The current description of the word antique does not emphasize on age limit of antiques and hence the confusion between the two terms. Retro is another term whose usage is often confused with vintage.
Retro is associated with the past, revival, and nostalgia. Therefore, individuals usually use the term antique to refer to retro items. For instance, not all retro items are antique because the latter does not necessarily have the element of nostalgia. The current definition of antiques has terminologies that touch on retro elements. For instance, Webster includes the words ‘relic’ and ‘ancient object’ in his definition of antique. Therefore, without a time-limited description both the terms antique and retro can be easily confused.
The confusion surrounding the use of the word antique could be eliminated by simply changing the current definition of the word. The most logical and effective approach is to include an age limit of one hundred years to any object that is described as antique. This approach would also make the term antique stand out from similar terms such as vintage and retro.