Antique? Vintage ? or Just Plain Junk
The generally accepted American definition of an antique is “ an item over 100 years old.” That’s great as long as you use the word as a noun. As an adjective it has a much broader meaning. According Merriam -Webster antique means
1) existing since or belonging to earlier times
2) being in the style or fashion of former times
3) in or representative of the work of an earlier period
Therefore you can buy paint called “antique white” or a brand new shirt labeled “Antique Lace Trimmed Blouse”. Antique doesn’t always mean old and sadly, buying something in an Antique Store is no guarantee of age. The next time you visit your favorite shop, look at their sign - odds are it says something like “ Antiques and Gifts”. Very high end shops may guarantee the age & origin of their wares, but that is the exception not the rule.
This is not to imply that antique dealers are crooks - but rather that these shops, like business everywhere evolved to meet market demands.
There was a time when antique & second hand shops were two very different animals. The craze for vintage blurred those lines.
In the late ’60s, when I first became interested in old things, “new antiques” (i.e. late Victoriana ) were the rage. Today of course all that stuff really is over 100 years old.
Then there was the craze for the bright ,comfy, cheerful colors & lines of the 1930’s & 40’s and the popularity of the sleek sophisticated style of the deco 20’s. Today we are at the tail end of a passion for modern (the streamline space-age inspired designs of the 50’ & 60’s. ) & a resurgence of interest in early primitives , mixed with previously overlooked, heavy farm/industrial machine parts, reworked to serve as furniture & art.
”Vintage” became a buzz word ; antique stores faded and Antique/Vintage Shops sprung up to meet consumer demands; but everyone seemed to have a different opinion about how old something had to be, before it could be called vintage.
According to the dictionary vintage, n. means
1) - season's yield of grapes or wine from a vineyard (2) wine; especially : a usually superior wine all or most of which comes from a single year
It doesn’t mean old - wine made this year has a 2010 vintage
2) period of origin or manufacture
Again it doesn’t imply any specified age - and so you have “1980’s vintage clothes “ - that is clothes made in the 1980’s - a perfectly legitimate use of the word vintage.
As an adjective it means
1) dating from the past : old
Just about anything can be called vintage
Add to this, the ready availability of inexpensive imported reproductions. Dealers found that, if the price was right, many people were happy to buy new “gift” items with an old look. These items could be ordered from a wholesale catalog & were therefore easy to stock & mixed well with the more expensive true (and hard to find) antiques they already carried.
The age of the classic small town /country antique store, with it’s crotchety old keeper, who’s love of old things was wedded to his knowledge of local history & lore ended. The Multi-dealer mish mash mall, with it’s college student clerk replaced it.
On the up side , all sorts of really cool old - but not so old - things were preserved and entered the resale market.
On the downside the general household goods second-hand stores disappeared . Those fantastic furniture graveyards, with their mountains of old wood chairs & dime store china morphed into neat, orderly vintage emporiums.
I don’t know when all those second hand stores disappeared - I just know they used to be everywhere & now they’re almost all gone. So I opened JUNK
JUNK as a second hand store. We sell all sorts of pre-owned stuff - Victorian trunks, 70’s tulip chairs, & good readable non-collectable books. We sell VHS tapes of blockbuster movies & cheap dead-stock cat toys. Most of the items we sell are used and everything we sell has entered the market through resale channels. Nothing is ordered new from catalogs.
Our merchandise has to meet only one criteria. I have to like it - and I have rather wide ranging & often bizarre tastes.
After writing a first draft of this blog, I jumped in the shower & raced up to the Walter Reade Theater to see Kris Kristofferson & a very young Gene Hackman in Cisco Pike. I was totally blown away. Watching the movie all I could think was - if I didn’t know what year this film was made I’d swear every prop in the flick came from my shop - but then it dawned on me - Every prop in this film has, somehow over time, wound up in my shop.
I like to think my taste is the product of some unique inner vision, but clearly it is nothing more than a reflection of the time & place I came of age. If anyone out there wants to know what the 70’s really looked like - not the sanitized Wisconsin cheese spread version of the era - but the real 70’s - I recommend you see this film. It was a time when pot was cheap, love was free & yoga was a prelude to astral projection, not a means to flat abs.