Antique vs Vintage vs Retro

There are lots of different words used to describe old stuff, but what do they mean, I often get asked what is the difference between antique and vintage, and what makes something retro. The meaning of all three can be confusing and that is mainly because over the last few years the words are used interchangeably. However each of them do have different definitions, lets take a look.


Definition Collins dictionary

An antique is an old object such as a piece of china or furniture which is valuable because of its beauty or rarity.  A decorative object, piece of furniture, or other work of art created in an earlier period, that is collected and valued for its beauty, workmanship, and age.

So how old does stuff have to be to define it as an antique, most authorities and customs laws consider the actual definition of the term ‘antique’ to mean an age of at least 100 years. If an item is not definitively datable to 100 or more years in age, it should not be directly referred to as an antique.

Where does the word antique come from? Word origin of ‘antique’  is from the Latin word Antīquus meaning ancient.

So when you are looking for antiques you should ask the age of the piece, that may be told in terms of a date for example 1918 or in terms of a period such as Victorian.

At Mr G Loves Miss B I don’t specialise in Antiques, but I do have some of my finds which fall into the antique bracket. If any of my finds are described as antique then they are at least a 100 years old.

Example of an Antique Mackintosh Tin that is from 1918


The term vintage is originally linked to wine or cars and most of the definitions are related to this. Definitions Collins dictionary

The vintage of a good quality wine is the year and place that it was made before being stored to improve it. You can also use vintage to refer to the wine that was made in a certain year. Vintage cars or aeroplanes are old but are admired because they are considered to be the best of their kind.

The two important points in the above definitions are certain year and best of their kind. The following is a helpful definition of vintage finds from Ruby Lane

An item described as ‘vintage’ should speak of the era in which it was produced. Vintage can mean an item is of a certain period of time, as in “vintage 1950’s” but it can also mean (and probably always should) that the item exhibits the best of a certain quality, or qualities, associated with or belonging to that specific era. In other words, for the term vintage to accurately apply to it, an item should be somewhat representational and recognisable as belonging to the era in which it was made.

What is a little confusing is how old does something have to be to correctly term it vintage. Ruby Lane suggests that ‘vintage’ should not be used in reference to objects less than 20 years old, Esty also make the same suggestion. However in some quarters and for dedicated vintage sellers and buyers it is suggested that the correct age for true vintage is 50 years old.

I specialise in vintage homeware and decorative vintage. When I am describing my items as vintage they are 30-50 years old. I will also where possible state the specific era.

Vintage Wooden Tea Chest

1930s Vintage Wooden Tea Chest


Out of the three words used to decribe old stuff this is the hardest to define. Definitions Collins dictionary

Retro clothes, music, and objects are based on the styles of the past. Denoting something associated with or revived from the past. Relating to, reviving, or being the styles and especially the fashions of the past : fashionably nostalgic or old-fashioned

The origins of the word retro are from the Latin prefix retro, meaning “backwards, or in past times.

So how old is retro, it is generally implied to be at least fifteen or twenty years. For example, clothing from the 1980s or 1990s could be retro. Think of Retro as an outdated style or fashion that has become fashionable again.

Retro Tower Kitchen Scales

Retro Tower Kitchen Scales

Other words to look out for

There are other words used to decribe old stuff here are a few that are frequently used.

Mid century modern – this term is used to decribe interiors, product, graphic design, architecture, and urban development from roughly 1933 to 1965 so if an item is decribe as mid century it is of a certain style but is also considered vintage.

Pre-loved – is a relatively new term that is mainly used to decribe fashions, this means second hand and usually means the item is neither antique, vintage or retro.

Style – you will often find the description vintage style, this usually means it is a new product that has been made to look vintage.

Here at Mr G Loves Miss B I use the terms antique, vintage and retro as they should be used. All my items are genuine and the descriptions will state the era and where possible the year. That said when writing this post I have noticed that even I could improve on my descriptions to make each item clearer. So there’s a job for my to do list.

When your buying that special something read the descriptions closely, if no year or era is stated ask the seller for more information.

Enjoy discovering your antique, vintage and retro finds. Take a peek at my latest finds to discover your own special piece

Antique and Vintage display

Antique and Vintage finds displayed on a shelf