What's an Antique?

by Jim Woods

What is a collectible and what is an antique? Ask a dealer and you'll likely get several different answers. The historical definition of an antique is a crafted or manufactured item that is 100 years or older. I personally feel this is still an adequate definition. Some dealers and collectors feel that an item only need be 50 years or older to qualify. I feel this definition only lowers the standard and aids and allows low-end dealers to qualify as antique dealers when, in fact, for the most part they are only selling collectibles which may be of a more speculative nature.

Collectibles will generally be less than 100 years oldã with the exception of rocks and fossils. Calling an item an antique or collectible has no real bearing on the item's worth. An example of this is an 1840s cobalt cup plate which listed as extremely rare­ being worth $350ã compared to a 1980 Hallmark Frosty Friends Christmas ornament that currently books at $620.

With the advent of the antique malls that are popping up everywhere the competition to buy good antiques and collectibles is fierce. This has caused many items to be priced higher than their value or rarity. The market values are currently being fueled by overzealous dealers who don't have a good handle on the rarity of a particular item or are under such pressure to stock better items that they throw caution to the wind when buying. This makes for a highly speculative market place and the collector or other buyer really needs to do their homework before purchasing items.

Some of the things that quality as collectibles are: Coca-Cola, Hallmark ornaments, metal signs, a great variety of collector series, etc.

Many items bridge the gap between antiques and collectibles. A good example would be a 175-year-old Wedgewood teapotã which would be an antiqueã and a 1925 Wedgewood teapotã which would be a collectible. Both are very desirable but certainly the 1821 version would generally be much rarer and more valuable.

Antiques, for the most part, have stood the test of time and values are fairly solid. Collectibles, on the other hand, may be highly speculative and buyers need to exercise much caution.

In next month's column the discussion will be on researching antiques and collectibles and trying to determine values. If you have questions or comments please send them to: Jim Woods, c/o the Zephyr, P.O. Box 1, Galesburg, IL 61402.

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