Understanding Antique and Vintage Items

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In today’s consumer-centric world where so many items are mass produced with little thought to craftsmanship and longevity, more people are seeking out antiques and vintage items. Many pieces from the past are unique and can add an elegant or eclectic touch to your home. Some are collector’s items that are hard to find. Antiques and vintage pieces can also be great bargains, and some can even increase the value of your estate. Finding high-quality vintage and antique treasures like furniture, jewelry, collectibles, and artworks is easy if you know what you’re looking for and where to look.

What Is the Difference Between Antique and Vintage Items?

For buying and selling old items, there is some confusion over what makes an item an antique and what makes it vintage. While both terms refer to items that are from an earlier time or the past, there is a distinction between the two. 

The official definition of an antique is a work of art, decorative object or piece of furniture that is at least 100 years old. For example, if an item was produced in 1920 and the current year is 2021, that item can be considered an antique. If you want to be sure that an item is actually an antique, you will need proof of when it was produced. Otherwise, it helps to have a good understanding of the design styles and artistic trends of different time periods. 

The term vintage is trickier to define, but most people agree an item could be considered vintage if it is 20 years old or older. This can apply to a wide range of objects including clothing, toys, jewelry, housewares, and even postcards and cassette tapes. The word vintage was first used to describe the ageing of wine and it is still used today to refer to a particular year that the wine was bottled. When using the word to describe objects, it can refer to something that is just old in general (but not old enough to be an antique) or from a particular year or era.

How Do I Find the Value of Antique and Vintage Items?

Whether you’re buying or selling antiques or vintage pieces, you’ll want to know how much the items are worth. There is a big misconception that the older a piece is, the more valuable it will be. This is not always the case. There are several factors that determine how much an item is worth including its condition, whether a reputable and sought-after artist or maker made it and how rare it is. Authenticity is also a big factor. These are some things to look for that can affect the value of an item:

  • Condition 
  • Proof of production/provenance
  • Record of ownership
  • Restoration
  • Rarity
  • Market demand

The easiest way to determine the value of a vintage piece or antique is to do a quick search online. You can Google the item to see what comes up, check out vintage online stores or online antique stores or search online auctions to see what people will pay for that item or similar items. You can also consult an appraiser or someone who specializes in that item, such as an antique furniture expert. 

The best way to value an item is to find records of sale for that exact same item or items that are similar. If you know how much the piece previously sold for, you can take the highest sale price and the lowest sale price and calculate the average between the two to get an estimate of how much the piece might sell for. It is important to remember though that this is just an estimate and not a guarantee for how much you can sell or buy the item for.

Where Can I Find Antique and Vintage Items?

There are many places you can find antique furniture, artworks, household items, vintage collectibles and more. These are some of the best places to second-hand items.

Online Auctions

The easiest and most convenient way to find great deals on antiques and vintage pieces from various eras is on an online auction site. Not only will you have a vast variety of items to choose from, but you can shop from the comfort of your own home. Sites like MaxSold make it easy to find everything from vintage furniture to antique artworks and collectibles with starting bids of $1 on everything. The auctions are localized in your area, making it easy for you to pick up winning items. MaxSold also has a customer support line to protect buyer’s rights.

Live Auctions

If you’re looking to add a bit of excitement to your antique shopping, live auctions can be thrilling events. They usually take place over the course of a day and feature a number of items up for grabs. Arrive a bit early to have a look at the items on offer. Each item is sold individually, so you will need to be there at the time the item you want is being sold. The auctioneer will open the bidding and encourage bidders to make competing bids. When there are no more bids, the sale is closed and the highest bidder wins the item. 

Antique Stores

Antique stores may be harder to find now that more people are shopping online, but the ones that are left can offer great finds. The advantages are that you get to see the items up close and talk to the dealer to get the story behind each item. The downsides are that the inventory may be limited and it may not change very often. In addition, antique dealers have to pay overhead like rent and employee salaries, so those costs are factored into the prices.

Thrift Stores

For deals on second-hand clothing, furniture and household goods, thrift stores can be treasure troves. In general, the items you find in thrift stores are goods that other people decided they didn’t want or need anymore. Instead of throwing the items out, they donated them or sold them to the thrift store to prevent them from ending up in landfills and to give them new homes. Because of this, shopping at thrift stores is a great way to do your part for the environment.

Vintage Shops

In general, vintage shops deal with second-hand clothing and accessories. Some may also sell toys, games and household items. Vintage shops are good options if you’re looking for clothing from a specific era. Some may specialize in clothing from a particular time period, while others will offer a wide range of styles from all different eras. Vintage online stores make it easy to search for and buy items from the comfort of your home or wherever you have access to the internet.

Estate Sales

When people need to liquidate most of their household items because of a long-distance move, they’re downsizing or there is a death in the family, they may hold an estate sale. This can be a good opportunity to find antique furniture, unique artworks, vintage jewelry and other valuable items. Typically, estate sales are open to the public and occur over a number of days. The items may be individually priced and offered on a first-come-first-serve basis or they could be auctioned off to the highest bidder. Estate sales can take place in a home or online.

Yard Sales and Garage Sales

You never know what you might find at a yard sale or garage sale. Amidst the array of second-hand items up for sale, there could be some real treasures. Sometimes people sell valuable antiques and vintage items not even knowing what they’re worth. If that’s the case, you could get a great deal. Yard sales can also be good places to find collectible items like vintage comic books, stamps, and figurines.

Flea Markets

If you’re not looking for anything in particular, flea markets are great for coming across unexpected finds. Most flea markets are free-for-alls where vendors can sell anything from second-hand clothing to vintage china, baseball cards, and antique furniture. One advantage of a flea market is that you can talk to the vendors to find out more about the history and story behind the items. 

Antique Shows

Antique shows bring together dealers from different parts of the country and even from around the world, so they can be excellent places to find interesting items you might not find otherwise. Many antique shows move to different cities and take place for one or two days at each venue. Some specialize in particular items like dolls or baseball cards, while others are more general and invite vendors to sell everything from antique jewelry to vintage firearms. 

Specialty Websites

If you know exactly what types of antiques and vintage items you want, you can visit specialty websites to track them down. This is useful for collectibles because you can find items to add to your collection that you don’t already have. If you can’t find a website dedicated to the items you are looking for, there might be a Facebook page or group dedicated to that genre where you can talk to other enthusiasts and find out where you can buy the items.

Craigslist

Craigslist allows people to sell nearly anything, so you can find some great deals on the site. You can search for a particular item or by categories such as antiques or vintage clothing. Each search is localized to your area, which means you can arrange to meet the seller in person and pick up your items. You have to be careful though because Craigslist does not vet sellers or authenticate items. In addition, there are no protections in place for buyers, so you need to make sure the item is what the seller says it is before you pay any money.

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What Are Some Vintage Items?

Technically, any item that is older than 20 years can be called vintage. Vintage items are often grouped into eras such as the 1960s or World War I. They can also be grouped into categories such as clothing, collectibles and furniture. Many vintage items have more nostalgic or sentimental value than monetary value. However, some vintage items can be worth a fortune. These are a few vintage items that can sell for a lot of money:

  • Jewelry
  • Rare video games
  • Comic books
  • China sets
  • Figurines such as Lladró figurines
  • Advertising signs
  • Lunch boxes
  • Dolls, action figures and other toys
  • Trading cards 
  • Vinyl records
  • Stamps
  • Electronics such as computers and typewriters
  • Guitars
  • First-edition books
  • Sports memorabilia
  • Furniture
  • Sneakers

What Are Popular Collectibles?

Just like the name suggests, collectibles are objects that people collect. They can be anything from stamps to teaspoons, baseball cards, antique coins, action figures and more. Some collectibles are manufactured specifically for people to collect, while others are just items that are of interest to a particular person. Some collectibles end up being worth more than they originally sold for, especially if they are not being produced anymore or are hard to find. The following are some antique and vintage collectibles that can be very valuable:

  • Pokémon cards 
  • Comic books
  • Stamps
  • Action figures
  • Vinyl records
  • Figurines
  • Vintage video games
  • Sealed Lego packs
  • Sports memorabilia
  • Wine
  • Fine art
  • Jewelry

How to Care for Antiques and Vintage Items

The better condition your antique and vintage pieces are in, the more valuable they will be. Even if your items aren’t worth a lot, you still want to keep them in good condition so that you can enjoy them for as long as possible. Older items can be fragile and more susceptible to damage than newer items, so you need to take extra care when storing, cleaning and handling them.

Storing

Environmental factors like sunlight, heat and humidity can affect older items, especially those made of organic materials like wood, fabric and leather. Ideally, you want to keep antique and vintage items out of direct sunlight because UV rays can cause them to fade and crack. Central air and extreme cold can dry out items while too much humidity and heat can cause mold and mildew. If you can, try to keep older items in temperature-controlled rooms where the humidity is about 50 percent. 

If you really want to keep your vintage and antique items in pristine condition, consider buying equipment like humidity readers and humidifiers or dehumidifiers. Airtight boxes are good for keeping silverware and items made from delicate materials such as paper and cloth. Keeping the temperature more or less constant is also a good idea because extreme fluctuations can warp or crack certain materials.

Cleaning

It may seem like common sense to clean your belongings regularly, but with antiques and vintage items, you may actually do them harm by cleaning them too often. Some items like furniture build up a patina over time that can actually add to the aesthetics of the piece. Other items may be delicate and not able to handle cleaners or even water. If you do have to clean your older items, start with a soft brush to remove dust and dirt. Then if necessary, proceed with a soft, damp cloth. 

Some larger items like furniture may require waxing or polishing to keep the surface from drying out and cracking or absorbing too much moisture. Experts suggest applying the wax in the evening and letting it sit overnight so that it can really sink in. Then you can polish the piece the next morning. The key to waxing and polishing is not to do it too often. You really only need to use it once a year or every few months at most.

If you really want to keep your vintage and antique items in pristine condition, consider buying equipment like humidity readers and humidifiers or dehumidifiers. Airtight boxes are good for keeping silverware and items made from delicate materials such as paper and cloth. Keeping the temperature more or less constant is also a good idea because extreme fluctuations can warp or crack certain materials.

Handling

The highest potential for damage comes from moving and handling vintage and antique items. When handling older pieces, you need to take great care not to drag them or bump them into other objects. Lift heavy items from the largest and lowest part of the frame. For example, if you’re moving antique chairs, lift them from the seat instead of the back or arms. Use all the handles provided instead of just one. If the items are delicate or easily discolored, such as artwork or comic books, use gloves when handling them.

If you have to move your antiques or vintage items long distances, for example, if you’re moving to a new house or transporting your items to an antique show, you want to make sure that they are properly packed so that they don’t get damaged while en route. You might also want to consider using a professional company that specializes in moving antiques or fragile items. 

Some larger items like furniture may require waxing or polishing to keep the surface from drying out and cracking or absorbing too much moisture. Experts suggest applying the wax in the evening and letting it sit overnight so that it can really sink in. Then you can polish the piece the next morning. The key to waxing and polishing is not to do it too often. You really only need to use it once a year or every few months at most.

If you really want to keep your vintage and antique items in pristine condition, consider buying equipment like humidity readers and humidifiers or dehumidifiers. Airtight boxes are good for keeping silverware and items made from delicate materials such as paper and cloth. Keeping the temperature more or less constant is also a good idea because extreme fluctuations can warp or crack certain materials.

How to Restore and Repurpose Antiques and Vintage Items

One appeal of buying antique and vintage pieces is that you get to take something old and give it a new life. Instead of going to the landfill, those pieces get reused or upcycled into something different. Using vintage pieces to decorate your home can save you money, as many second-hand items are cheaper than brand-new items. This is especially true if the items are broken or show signs of wear and tear. A little damage doesn’t mean the items are useless, though. Restoring antique and vintage furniture and repurposing objects is easier than you think. DIY methods vary depending on the material you are working with.

Wood
Sometimes all it takes to breathe life back into dull wood is a good polishing with a finishing oil or furniture wax. You can buy oil or wax made specifically for polishing wood or use coconut oil or linseed oil. Simply apply the oil to a soft cloth and gently rub the wood with the cloth until the oil is absorbed. You can also paint wooden objects to give them a completely different look. If you’re planning on using the item in an area where it may get wet such as a patio or the bathroom, it’s best to use an oil-based paint.
Metal
The biggest problem with older metal pieces is rust. Not only is rust unsightly, but it also affects the texture of a piece. Thankfully, there are a number of ways you can remove it. The easiest way is with a rust-removing solvent. Most solvents can be mixed with water and then you soak the metal items for a set period to dissolve the rust. You can make your own solvent at home with white vinegar and water. If the item is too large to soak in a container, you can make a paste of baking soda and water, apply it to the item and let it sit overnight. Wipe it off in the morning and the rust should be gone.
Glass
Over time, residues can build up on glass, making it look cloudy or grimy. To get rid of the film, place the glass in a solution of vinegar and water and let it sit overnight. If the build-up is greasy, you may need a solution of ammonia and water. Just be careful when washing the glasses because ammonia can be harsh on the hands. Use rubber gloves when working with the solution.
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How to Resell Antiques and Vintage Items

If you’re looking to resell vintage pieces or antiques, there are plenty of options available. The easiest way is with an online auction site because all you have to do is upload photos and a description of your item and it will be on display for anyone who searches the site. Online auction sites do all the marketing for you and facilitate the bidding, so you don’t have to do much once the listing is up. Some online auction platforms like MaxSold also have services where they will do everything for you from photographing your items to cataloging and posting the listing.

If you’re planning on using an online auction site, there are a few steps you can take to help your item sell. First, you want to make sure that your pictures are clear and accurately depict the item from a number of different angles. Your description should also be clear and include as much relevant information about the item as possible. Be honest about the age and condition of the item and whether it has any authenticating signatures or papers. Keep in mind that buyers will have to pick up their items, so you want to make that process easy for them.

You can also resell antiques or vintage pieces at live auctions and flea markets. The downside of this is that you will have to transport the items to the venue and that increases the possibility of damage. On the other hand, you may get to meet the people who will give your items a new home. Antique stores and vintage shops often buy second-hand items. You can also try a consignment shop. With consignment stores, you leave your item at the store and the owner pays you if the item sells. 

Whether you’re buying or selling antiques and vintage items, a little knowledge goes a long way. If you know what you’re looking at and how to find out how much an item is potentially worth, you can ensure that you get the best value. It also helps to know what your options are for buying and selling, and which platforms will help you find the best prices.

Visit MaxSold to peruse auctions and estate sales in your area for unique antiques and vintage items. MaxSold also makes it easy for you to resell your vintage and antique goods.

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