Tuesday, July 24, 2012
The Vintage Trap
ANSWER: Depending on how much you paid, the question is who got taken, the dealer or you. I suspect it was you. While this is a very well-built living room set, it’s really not very old—most likely from the 1940s or 1950s, but could be as old as the 1920s.
Furniture of this sort falls into the category of what used to be known as “period” furniture. Many people in their 60s grew up with such furniture. Their mothers warned them about not putting their feet on the couch or sleeping in the chairs. Generally, manufacturers overstuffed these pieces so they would be more comfortable. They provided thick blocked cushions so that anyone sitting in them would sink into them. Your set happens to be styled after French “Louis” pieces of the Rococo period. But that’s where the similarity ends.
People like yourself often fall into the “vintage” trap. The word vintage originally applied to wine making
and the process of picking grapes and creating the finished wine. A vintage wine is one made from grapes that were all, or primarily, grown and harvested in a single specified year. In certain wines, it can denote quality.
The people who sell on eBay and other auction sites saw that word “quality” and figured why not use the word “vintage” to describe their pieces and make them more attractive to bidders. In this case, vintage means referring to something from the past of high quality. Let’s face it folks, anything from yesterday—the day before today—is from the past and if it’s of good quality, then it technically can be labeled vintage. When the buyers on the auction sites saw the word quality, they perceived vintage to mean something old that has lots of value. Unfortunately, that doesn’t always apply.
Online sellers throw the word vintage around like it’s a catchall word that will instantly add credibility and perceived value to the items they’re selling. You’ll see vintage jewelry instead of estate jewelry, vintage furniture instead of used furniture, and vintage kitchenware instead of used kitchen utensils. It’s all in the wording.
Unfortunately, middle and lower-market antique and flea market dealers have picked up on the use of vintage to describe goods for which they don’t know the age. Since using the word online has become rather successful—you can full a lot of people a lot of the time, to paraphrase an old saying—they figured they might as well try it.
Don’t fall into the vintage trap. Find out about a piece before you buy it. In the end, you’ll make an informed decision and just might get something of real value for a steal.