A brief collection of answers to those burning questions you may, or may not, have.
- Why do you use vintage things? Shouldn’t they be preserved as-is?
It’s my personal belief that the only difference between the laundry detergent jug on my washing machine and the vintage tin washing powder I might buy is that someone never got around to tossing the old tin. After it sat around as trash and/or clutter in someone’s basement long enough, it eventually transitioned from a mundane thing into some kind of historical novelty. But, at the end of the day, antiques are just a thing made for humans to use, same as anything else in a house or a supermarket in modern days– they were just manufactured further back in time. The reason I prefer to use vintage things over many modern items is that I’m going to use these products and objects anyway, so I personally prefer the design aesthetic or appreciate the greater construction quality in vintage items over their modern counterparts. That also means that if there’s old product in an item, I’m going to dump it and refill it so I can incorporate it into my daily life. If it’s got solid construction but I don’t like the finish, I might repaint it. I’m generally going to use it how I like rather than preserve it exactly as I found it.
If you disagree, then please feel free to not use and not modify your own vintage items.
- What if you use an antique or vintage item and it gets broken?
I always try to treat my things (new and vintage alike) with care and maintain them for the long run– but if an item gets broken from reasonable use and can’t be repaired, it doesn’t really bother me. I propose that it’s better the item was loved and lost than kept intact, but never having brought any joy or used for its intended purpose. And, were I really to miss a particular item, honestly, a little eBay-ing will often turn up an exact replacement anyway! You see, although it seems like vintage items would be rare, many are actually pretty common. (Visit your local antiques store some time and you’ll see we’re not in any danger of running out of old tchotchkes soon!) The historical items most likely to have survived all of this time and find their way into the hands of casual collectors like me are those which were made in the greatest quantity– essentially, commonplace middle-of-the-line and mass-produced household goods (think the historical version of Target, not Tiffany & Co.!) And any items or products considered to be of historical value generally already have mint versions being well cared for in museums or collections to preserve for posterity so generally, the items we come across are not likely to be very rare treasures and will really only be as valuable as we feel they are. This leads me to personally take the stance that I’d like to enjoy them for as long as they’re around and not to mourn too hard once they’re not.
That said, I always recommend doing initial research on an item to verify it’s not particularly rare and making sure you know how to care for the item before attempting to use or repair it.
- Where can I find vintage things for myself?
Garage sales and thrift stores: Great places to look for hidden gems at low prices, because sometimes people don’t realise what they have or they’ve ended up there because the original owner doesn’t find value in antiques/vintage, so they just want them gone without pulling a big profit.
Antique stores: Often very fair in pricing, you’ll find a mixture of inexpensive common goods and real treasures and are a great place to shop if you’re just getting started.
Etsy and eBay: Anything from carefully curated quality items that will be priced to reflect the effort involved in finding them to quickly flipped objects listed by hustlers. Not to say that’s bad- respect the hustle, man- but maybe compare prices to make sure you’re getting a fair deal and not being taken for a ride by someone trying to make a quick buck on the unsuspecting customer.
Estate sales and antique/collectible shows: I’ve heard estate sales can be cutthroat, but have only been to very chill ones, myself where families are just looking to clean out mementos and furniture nobody in the family wants anymore. A lot of estate sales, and particularly shows or conventions, are going to be places where people know what they’re selling, however. That may mean higher prices, but also selections for the more discerning. This is where you’ll want to go if you want really quality or rarer items, rather than just the fun and quirky.
- How do you know if something’s good or worth buying or not?
I think if you like it, and balancing the price and your desire to have that item can be consoled, then it’s worth buying. There’s no such thing as “good” or “bad” antiques or vintage items, just your preferences. Even if the item is broken or missing parts, even if someone else would call it ugly, they can mind their own business. If you like it, that’s what makes it good or worthy.
- What’s the difference between vintage and antique?
Antique refers to something that’s 100+ years old, while vintage is generally defined as being a minimum of 20+ years old (though some say 50+.) Bonus fact: ‘Retro’ refers to something giving the same vibe or feel as a vintage or antique item, without actually being that old!
- Aren’t some of these things potentially dangerous?
For sure! I’ve heard of asbestos in hair dryers and early forms of plastic-like materials, (thinkin’ of celluloid here), are actually flammable to the point where they can burst into flames. While some things are obvious, like you wouldn’t open up a 70 year old makeup compact and throw that stuff all over our eyelids, it’s worth remembering that certain plastics or even metals might have some business going on in their construction that we now know aren’t good for us.
Research is always recommended to verify the materials are safe to use, and when in doubt, play it safe and don’t use it in a way that might cause you to be exposed to stuff you don’t want to be exposed to.
- What is the main purpose of this blog?
Although there are published books that really dig into the advanced knowledge of antiques and vintage items as well as that catalog all kinds of manufacturing information for researchers, there are also tons of blogs and forum posts whose authors generously share tidbits and findings to curious parties on the internet. I’ve used many of these internet sources in doing my own background digging, and thought if I was going to do that work anyway, why not share my accumulated results in case it is helpful or interesting to anyone else.
It also occurred to me that other people in my millennial generation haven’t always had the opportunity to learn skills related to caring for and repairing their possessions, because we’ve been raised in a very disposable culture. So, as I learn more about caring for and restoring my antiques and vintage items, I thought that could be useful to share as well.
I also wanted a place I could share other things that interest me that might potentially interest others like art and other fancy crap.