Let’s go antiquing

I don’t disagree with David DeCristoforo often, but I certainly have a different perspective on just what constitutes an antique piece of furniture.

I like old furniture, and have no problem applying the antique label to it. In his recent blog (click here), David’s right of course when he says there’s a big difference between valuable antiques and old furniture, but that doesn’t mean that nonvaluable old furniture can’t be antiques.

My dictionary has a number of definitions of an antique: “1. of or belonging to the past; not modern. 2. dating from an early period. 3. in the tradition or style of an earlier period. 4. ancient. 5. any work of art, furniture, or the like, created or produced in a former period, or, according to U.S. customs laws, 100 years before date of purchase.”

That’s quite a range of definitions, most of which apply perfectly to 1920s mass-produced furniture. (For that matter, a couple of them apply perfectly to both David and me…)

What’s missing in those definitions is the word “valuable.” Value is a relative term, especially as it applies to antiques. Some folks deem the Rietveld chair I discussed last time valuable enough to pay hundreds of thousands of dollars for one, whereas I wouldn’t have one if it were free. On the other hand, my wife and I have an old oak claw-foot dining table – one of those 1920s mass-produced pieces – which we dearly love and consider valuable to us.

The key to much of this is the fact that this old furniture is still around. Our old table from the 1920s will hit its 100th birthday in the next decade or so. It’s big, heavy, solid and beautiful, and it certainly has the charm that David spoke of which makes it an antique in my book. As David notes, stuff from the 1920s was of much better quality than the junk you’ll get today. An Ikea piece bought today won’t be charming anyone in 90 years – for one thing, it’ll still be as ugly as it is now; for another, it simply won’t last 90 years.

Our old table (and several other old pieces we have, as well as numerous nonfurniture antiques), perfectly fits my dictionary’s first definition, “…of or belonging to the past.” I like that connection to the past, and enjoy having something like that be part of my contemporary life. You’d better believe it’s worthwhile putting resources into keeping them alive.

The bottom line is that, like most of my disagreements with David, we really don’t disagree at all.

Till next time,

A.J.

COMMENTS

  1. David DeCristoforo wrote:

    AJ

    I don’t think we have much disagreement here. I was trying to make a distinction between “valuable” antiques and those pieces which are “antique” simply by virtue of their age. I was told, many years ago that an object was technically considered an “antique” if it was older than twenty five years. I never actually verified that but even if an object qualifies under that definition, it does not necessarily make it valuable. I also attempted to allow for “sentimental” value which represents a whole different standard.

    DD

  2. David DeCristoforo wrote:

    PS When I said “valuable” I was thinking more like being worth thousands of dollars. Much of the furniture that was made in the twenties is now eighty years old. But most of these pieces can still be had for no more than a few hundred dollars at most…..

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