Antique, vintage, and collectible are the three terms most closely associated with the antiques field. These terms certainly have dictionary meanings but their common usage varies. They can vary from region to region or even from shop to shop.
According to the U. S. Customs Service, an antique is an item that is at least 100 years old when it is imported. There are some “experts” that would argue that a higher standard should be applied. They feel that an item must be of the highest quality design and construction to be considered an antique. The roots of that opinion and the application of that standard seem to be on the East Coast.
In actual practice many items cannot be accurately dated. For many items, the production that began over 100 years ago continued for many more years. As an example, the mass production of oak furniture began in the 1880’s and the production of similar oak pieces continued into the 1930’s. Since the actual manufacturing date cannot be determined and the style didn’t change, all of this oak furniture can be considered to be antique even though some of it may only be 80 years old.
Vintage is a term that probably was borrowed from the wine industry but has also come to be associated with the antique field in the somewhat recent past. Vintage items are generally considered to be at least twenty years old and no longer produced. The word ‘vintage’ used by itself is often associated with clothing, as in ‘I sell Vintage’.
Thematic shows and sales with ‘vintage’ in the name, or description of products, are currently extremely popular. These sales generally showcase: country, farm, garden, painted furniture, galvanized metal and rustic items shown in well-designed displays.
A collectible is a mass produced and marketed item that is designed to encourage individuals to acquire multiples. Examples of collectibles are Avon bottles, Franklin Mint coins and plates, Pepsi drinking glasses with cartoon figures on them, and TY Beanie Babies.
In general, the inventory in shops where all of the merchandise belongs to the owner tends to be similar in terms of age and style. The merchandise in these shops reflects the personality and taste of the owner. You will often find similar items displayed together in interesting vignettes.
Antique Malls have booths that are rented by a large number of individual vendors. The inventory in a given booth may have a coherent inventory selection, but many try to have some of everything. When twenty or more vendors are offering items for sale, you may often find a wider, larger selection of antique, vintage, and collectible items on display.
With the terms antique, vintage, and collectible in mind, what type of items would you expect to find in Walla Walla? The answer is that you will find all of them.
Whether you are looking for an antique, vintage, or collectible item, it is said that the hunt is half of the fun. Get out and look, there are so many great antique shops in Walla Walla that you just might have twice the fun!
Dave Emigh is the owner of Shady Lawn Antiques and is a fifth generation Walla Wallan. He writes about antiques and life in the “Valley of the Two Wallas” on his blog: www.wallawallalocal.wordpress.com.