Tuesday, August 2, 2016

Complicated Vintage - Terminology in our Changing Times

Complicated Vintage - Terminology in our Changing Times

This post really is complicated.  I want to start with the term "Antique".
Prior to the online takeover into the world of vintage & antiques, vintage was a word that was rarely used...cars come to mind and few other things but basically the word got big when the Internet got big.  Vintage is defined by 20 years old or older, Antiques are defined by 100 years old or older.
Here's where it gets tricky...
Prior to the Internet, antiques were sold in antique shops and at shows.  Antique "style" items were made all the time and labeled as "Antique" although they were not.  The reason for this was that with so few ways to buy true antiques, people knew that the word "Antique" on packaging, meant "antique style".
Now with the packaging long gone, reproductions of "antique style" items (many are of Victorian designs) that were made throughout the 20th Century (and are vintage in their own right) are being sold as genuine antiques.
If you happen to find one of these items in their original packaging (see below), you will notice the word "Antique" which at that time in the mid 20th Century meant antique style...no computers, no need to be exact...people understood the difference.
This particular set of brackets was dug out of my brother in law's basement.  You can see the age on the box (which I cleaned up considerably).  This set was made by the Iron Art Company of Phillipsburg, NJ.  Founded by John Zaranski and Melvin Friedman sometime between the 1930's and the 1950's. There is very little information on the company. Phillipsburg was a railroad town and at that time many of the main lines passed through there on their way to NYC and other cities.
Iron Art produced home decor items as well as model cars, etc..  They are not in business at this time and there is some confusion as to when they ceased operations.
These brackets are not marked, some of the Iron Art pieces are marked and have JM followed by a number or marked Iron Art.  There are many companies old and new, with the name Iron Art, so be sure to look for them using New Jersey in your search.
The thing is that this company reproduced Victorian themed design items in the middle of the 20th Century but the packaging says "Antique"...obviously if it has packaging like this, it's not antique (see above) but they are vintage.
People who come across them without the packaging, may be selling them as antique so they have become known on some sites as "modern" reproductions, making it very difficult to list them as the vintage pieces that they are.

What does all of this mean?  A lot of confusion:)

It's important to know our terminology history, to understand what is and is not antique (and vintage).  Times change, circumstances change and terminology changes...being informed and digging a little deeper can protect a seller from selling an item that is not truly antique and our customers from buying an item that is not truly antique, while allowing us to still sell items that are reproduction "vintage".  Knowing your company timelines will help considerably towards this goal.

Ruby Lane's RealorRepro.com offers some good tips on identifying antique versus vintage or new reproductions or iron trivet pieces at 
While this article shows only trivets, looking for gate marks and certain other characteristics will help you to determine old from newer old and new.

Good luck out there!:)


Look for my next post on "vintage" reproduction Limoges


  1. Love this, and shared on G+ in my stream. Was going to put it into the V&A Community but wasn't sure if it was posted already or not. This is a definite GO TO blog for information on what is now and what was in the business.

    1. Thank you so much Margaret:). I'm trying to do these as I come across them and then do a catch up with the ones that I've come across in the past. ...so it may seem a little scattered for now but eventually I'll categorize everything. Thanks again!

  2. Very well done article. You have truly taken on something very complicated and are making it less so with each post and each resource your provide for readers. I like that a lot. The brackets are beautiful. I think iron architectural elements are really interesting and I'm always grateful when they are salvaged but once they become separated from the structure, without documentation it would be a real challenge to date them!

    1. Thank you so much Ann, that really means the world to me. Sometimes I wonder how many people are actually getting anything from this and I'm trying to be as thorough as I can without over complicating but it's very difficult. To know that I'm making some headway, is truly the highest compliment. Thank you!!

  3. This is a great informative article, Pam. Thanks for sharing. I ran across what I thought was an antique Chinese ginger jar, but once I started researching, I found it wasn't all that easy to nail down. From what I have read here, I'm thinking it's a vintage reproduction. I need to go back to it. Is "vintage reproduction" acceptable terminology?

    1. Thank you so much Betty! I honestly can't think of how else to describe these items other than 'vintage reproduction", whether it's acceptable, I'm not sure...I think we're at the beginning of this road:).
      I guess the most important part is being able to unquestionably determine that it is a vintage reproduction and not a new reproduction...which is really quite difficult unless a piece has a marking or we can track down company/manufacturer/importer info.
      Hopefully as we accumulate these items we can add them to the list.
      Please let me know what you turn up on the ginger jar, that would be great info to have on hand and thanks again!