What is vintage?

Vintage pieces can bring charm and character to your home. Here we explain what constitutes a vintage item and how much they are worth

An eclectic array of vintage china makes a beautiful display on open shelving. Photography: Sussie Bell.

From cheap and cheerful china snapped up at a charity shop, to a priceless mid-century design classic – what constitutes ‘vintage’ can be confusing. We take a look at exactly what vintage means in the world of collectables, and where to find the best vintage items out there.


What is vintage?

The Oxford Dictionary definition of vintage is ‘something from the past of high quality,’ such as a piece of furniture, an artwork or a fashion item, ‘especially something representing the best of its kind.’ The term is often used as a general way of describing something old, however an item has to be of a certain age to be classed as vintage.

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How old is vintage?

To be classified as vintage, an item should be more than 20 years old, but less than 100 years old. ‘Vintage’ has become a buzz word for our industry, attracting the attention of a much younger audience,’ says Antiques Roadshow specialist, Will Farmer. ‘I always think the term ‘vintage’ kicks in after the second world war, but anything that opens our wonderful world to new collectors works for me!’


How to identify vintage?

Due to their age, vintage items are often fairly easy to date and classify, as there is usually plenty of information online. Some items scream ‘vintage’ –  the ‘Shogun’ lamp by Mario Botta has a decidedly ‘80s look, for instance, while the famous ‘Eames chair’ is instantly recognisable as ‘50s design, but others may be trickier to pin down. Look for labels and makers’ marks before doing some online research about a vintage piece, or head to your local auction house or vintage dealer for more specialist information.


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How much is vintage worth?

It varies greatly! For a ballpark figure, you can always search online for similar items for sale with vintage dealers, or for pieces which recently sold at auction. However, for more specific advice, the experts at your local auction house can be a fount of information – and many host free valuation days. You can also take a look at our guide on how to get an antique or vintage piece valued.


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Where to buy vintage

There are plenty of brilliant places to buy vintage furniture, homeware and fashion at a range of price points, though the charity shops and vintage shops on your local high street are always a good place to start. To make a day of it, fairs and flea markets, local auctions and car boot sales can be great spots to pick up bargains. Or, if you prefer to shop online, there are an array of online vintage shops and vintage dealers on Instagram.