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 colourful floral china snapped up at a charity shop, to a priceless mid-century design classic – what constitutes as vintage can be confusing. But with the trend for sustainable decorating and eclectic style on the rise, the trend for decorating with vintage is on the rise. So, what exactly is vintage?

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.’ Though the word is often used casually to describe any old or nostalgic man-made object, strictly speaking, an item needs to be of a certain age in order to be categorised 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. If an item is over 100 years old, then it is categorised as an antique. Vintage pieces are often designs which were fashionable in bygone times, and can be made of any material (glass, ceramic, wood, metal, textile etc). An item does not need to be of a high value in order to be classed as vintage.

How to buy antiques on Instagram

What is classified as vintage?


For many vintage and antiques enthusiasts, researching the history and social context of an item is all part of the fun of collecting! However, certain items sometimes feature symbols which can help you to identify its place and date of manufacture. For example: hallmarks on silver, makers marks on ceramics, tags on furniture or labels on textiles. For more specialist information about a vintage piece, we recommend contacting your local auction house or vintage dealer.

What’s the difference between antiques and vintage?


Though the words of often used interchangeably, antiques and vintage are two different things. Whereas antiques are items over 100 years old, vintage pieces are items that are more than 20 years old but less than 100 years old. Pieces do not need to be of a high value in order to be classified as antiques or vintage, it is purely based on age.

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.

Where to buy vintage


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There are plenty of brilliant places to buy vintage furniture, homeware and fashion at a range of price points, though the antiques and vintage shops on your local high street are always a good place to start. To make a day of vintage-hunting,  fairs and flea markets or 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 and antiques shops and vintage dealers on Instagram.