Vintage items have always been popular, and as the world pivots to a more widespread sustainability and eco-friendly culture, getting more out of old pieces is both smart and trendy. Many times, the appeal of vintage treasures lies in the unique designs, high-quality materials, and timeless aesthetic that can be difficult to find in more mass-produced products.
Filling your life with vintage items is a way to stand out from the crowd and preserve the heritage of the past. Sometimes, though, it's difficult to tell the difference between true vintage items and those that are only vintage-looking. Luckily, there are a few ways you can verify if the piece you're admiring was really made 20 or more years ago.
The materials used to create vintage items are often different from the material used to make modern items. For example, vintage clothing is often made of natural fibers such as silk or wool. Newer, vintage-inspired clothing tends to be made of synthetic fibers.
Likewise, vintage furniture tends to be made with real wood, not particle board. To tell the difference, pay attention to the weight, feel, and texture of the item, or look for a maker's mark or stamp.
Vintage items typically are handmade and often feature unique design elements, such as intricate patterns or detailed carving. Look over the item for attributes such as slight imperfections, unevenness, hand-stitching, or hand-painted details. These are all signs the item was handmade.
Mass-produced vintage-looking pieces, on the other hand, may feature more generic designs and lack the same level of detailed craftsmanship.
Vintage items often have branding and labeling that is different from modern pieces. This may include a company logo, a date of manufacture, or a maker's stamp. Vintage-looking pieces may have similar branding or labeling, but they are often less distinct and less accurate.
Compare the item with a similar vintage item from an antique shop, a website with vintage archives—even eBay—to reference what the true branding of that era should look like.
While it's possible to run into an oblivious garage sale seller, vintage items are usually expensive. Most vintage treasures are highly sought after by collectors. Vintage-looking pieces, on the other hand, are often sold at much lower prices since they're not made with the same level of quality or craftsmanship or they aren't as unique.
If a price seems too good to be true, do some research. A low price can be a good indicator that the item is not a true vintage piece.
Vintage items usually show signs of wear and tear since they've been used for several decades. Look for indicators of aging, such as fading, discoloration, or cracks, to determine if an item is vintage. Some parts of the item will have inconsistent wear, whereas a vintage-looking item would be intentionally distressed, often with a more evenly worn appearance.
Vintage-looking pieces may even be in pristine condition because they have not been used for as long.
Vintage items may come in their original packaging or with original accessories such as dust bags for clothing or instruction manuals. Paperwork tends to become yellow over time, which helps indicate age. Certain typography is common in certain eras, giving another hint if the item is a true vintage piece.
Vintage-looking pieces may come in generic packaging that looks new or have a contemporary font that doesn't match the era of the item.
Buttons, zippers, snaps, and other hardware on vintage items are often made of metal and may show signs of aging, such as a greenish-blue patina. This might not always be aesthetically pleasing, but does indicate a higher-quality material was used. Hardware on vintage-looking items is often made of plastic and lacks the same signs of aging.
If the item has a patent number, you can search the internet for more information. This number may help you discover the production date, which can help you see if the item is a true vintage piece. You may even be able to find more examples of the item to compare and determine its authenticity.
Do your research on the piece and the time period in which it would have originated. Does the item conform to the style of the time? If you can see inaccuracies, then it's probably a vintage-looking reproduction.
For particularly important or expensive items, consider seeking the opinion of an antique dealer, appraiser, or another expert to determine the authenticity of an item. These people can often pinpoint when an item was created.
At the very least, they can be helpful in examining the item and providing a professional assessment of its authenticity and value.